Posted by keith on April 21st, 2011
Tomorrow is Earth Day – whoopee doo! It’s that time of year that all the environmental NGOs and countless businesses work towards in order to bring about a sudden upsurge in pointless symbolic actions and purchases of “green” things like (I’ll just have a look in my Deleted Items folder) LED candles, Napa Valley wine (with free trees), halogen light-bulbs, Target ecoboutique products, USB rechargable batteries, wine from Chile, lots of iPhone apps, quick dry towels, foldable speakers, a 100% recycleble shoe and even more wine.
The Earth Day Network have fully embraced this festival of tat and symbolism by introducing a Facebook application called – and this is the very epitomy of hope – A Billion Acts of Green. Basically what you do is type in what you are planning to do for Earth Day.
It’s meant to be inspiring, and has clearly been a runaway success with 100,502,680 “Acts of Green” showing on the counter at the time of writing. But it’s a bit odd because there’s another figure: 385 “Acts of Green on Facebook”. I’m still trying to work out where the hundred million-odd figure comes from, but the hype seems to be exceeding the reality, which is really comforting, sort of.
In 2008 I wrote about the nature of Facebook “actions” that end up sublimating any desire people may have had to do anything of any substance. That is not the biggest problem with the Earth Day Network campaign, though – it is the trivial nature of the pledges that are so galling. Our normal contact with the idea of “green” in industrial civilization is with regards to symbolic or superficial activities: typical examples being to sign petitions, change lightbulbs, recycle, wave banners, pray, use canvas shopping bags and so on. These “actions” play into the teeth of the machine for they simply allow the machine to continue its dominance over our entire way of life without threatening it in any way.
The Facebook app allows one line for your pledge. How much real change can be encapsulated into a single line? Moreover, if you are expressing your desire for change in the form of a Facebook application pledge then it suggests you have fully embraced the myth of “green technology”. Yes, there are situations where technology can be used as a starting point for change – such as with the efforts of Anonymous, Wikileaks and various underground activities that utilise electronic communications for speed – but to imagine that a Facebook application can be a catalyst for change is to succumb to the lies of the industrial system.
If you feel like subverting the app, then go ahead; but make sure you do something else as well. Something real.