Bob Jones column photo

Bob Jones

My brother the naturalist tends to question things. At the beginning of this virus crisis he spent some weeks trying to find the basis for the number of active cases, deaths and recoveries being reported in the news. Everywhere he went he got a different answer, and so he came to the conclusion that the numbers have little to do with what is going on. His sense is that the world-wide count could be many times higher than it is. In the United States, he thinks, we’re off by a large percentage. My brother is often right when everyone else is wrong, but let’s hope he’s wrong this time.

Now he’s gone on to other things. His last email raises the question of whether the energy used by internet servers and all the gadgets they are connected to is more than the energy it would take to put things on paper and send them out through the U. S. Postal Service. In spite of those messages from financial institutions that claim getting our reports from them over the internet saves trees, my brother wonders if the internet and all that goes with it causes more environmental damage than using paper would cause.

My reply to him included encouragement: “Please do more research on your idea that conserving energy by using the internet may be a bogus theory. It’s a theory that needs testing, and I believe you’re the one to test it.”

Then I wrote, “I got the feeling years ago that the greatest waste of time and paper had to do with giving church executives secretaries to type up and send out mostly useless weekly letters to every minister in northern California. I felt they did it because, with someone else doing all the work, it was so easy to do. So now they have secretaries and computers and the mostly useless weekly letters become mostly useless daily emails.

“And then yesterday my email blocker failed me, and an email supposedly from a major American company got through telling me it was a receipt for $2055 for my payment through my credit card that they had on file. I’ve never done any business with this company, and the receipt was printed so small that I couldn’t read it, couldn’t enlarge it, and couldn’t print it.

“My internet company said I shouldn’t have tried to print it because it was probably trying to get me to open up a way for someone to plant a virus or get me to respond so they could scam me somehow. I found out there was no charge against my credit card, and apparently my virus protections stopped any trouble, but that little caper cost me several anxious hours, and I’m still not certain I won’t have a problem. I recall fondly that before the internet I had more time to think about stuff I wanted to think about rather than what someone, friend or foe, wanted me to think about and spend time on.”

Whatever else is true about it, I find the internet as much of a bother as a help. I would hate to go back to typing on paper with white-out and ribbons smudging and keys getting stuck, but my typewriter didn’t let people scam me, and that’s worth a lot.

And I suppose I shouldn’t raise this question, but here it is anyway: Does reading the news on the internet help or hinder the environment? As soon as my brother comes up with the answer, I’ll let you know.

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