Molly Dorozenski, US
Sandro Janke, Germany
Throughout the environmental online forums, we have discussed the many aspects of the environmental problems in our world today and the role of the Internet in the solutions to these problems. To explore this idea, we began by discussing the possiblilities of the Internet and how it could create modern solutions that had not previously been possible. We continued with a discussion of the problems that the world needs to take on globally and contrasted them with more local problems. Finally, we tied them together and discussed applications of technology to solve these problems.
The very nature of the Internet and its organization is environmentally friendly. Whenever someone chooses to read an online paper instead of the printed version of their local newspapers, they are saving paper. The actual connection is nothing more than phone lines. The result is easy, inexpensive, and fast communication that reaches large numbers of people without environmental damage.
The possiblities of the Internet are huge, but they carry a lot of responsibility with them. Like any other form of technology, the Internet is only a method for carrying out human ideas. It’s magic lies in the contributions of its users. One of the most important aspects of world problem solving is to encourage the use of the Internet for intellectual and creative uses. It is important to keep information accessible, well-presented, accurate, relevant, and current.
The issues of environmental concern that we concentrated on in our discussion groups included air land and water pollution, the ozone layer, global warming, The French nuclear tests, oil spills, rainforest destruction, endangered species, animal rights, recycling, waste disposal, and the impact of industrial expansion on our world. We believe that the solution of these problems depends on awareness, research, and political concern.
Because of the wonderful communication possibilities, we targeted awareness as one of the primary environmental uses of the net. We believe that we will be able to reach large numbers of people at a relatively low cost. Through further discussion, we determined that children and adults have different needs and expectations from the Internet.
With this in mind, we concentrated on the development of an environmental page called EDB, or Environmental Databank, that could be accessed by both children and adults and that would focus on their concerns, presenting the ideas in a way that would encourage further Internet use and eventually environmental action in their own lives.
Part I: Children
The environmental page for children would have to be interesting and easy to use while providing enough information to increase awareness. Suggestions in the online forum centered around a multimedia approach. One idea is called Greenart. The homepage would sponsor a monthly creative contest on a specific environmental issue, such as rainforest destruction. During the month, children could research links provided on the page that would lead them directly to information surrounding the problem. At the end of the month, children could send in creative expressions of the problem and its solution using information they found during the month. The submissions could include wave files for the musically inclined, gif files of artwork, poetry, fiction, essays, or any other expression imaginable. The submissions could be posted on the Internet for voting, or winners could be selected by a panel of judges. This idea would encourage the children to be creative and it would offer an incentive for research and earning. The exhibition of the artwork on the Internet would help increase their self-esteem. Hopefully, the children could actually help each other learn and reach each other in ways that adults could not reach them. By focusing on finding solutions to these problems, we are teaching the children of the world that solutions are possible, and the exploration of these solutions helps develop critical thinking and problem solving techniques.
Another aspect of the children’s homepage would be an encyclopedia- style library that would allow access of environmental problems and solutions in the forms of writing, photographs, and film clips. It would be organized by problem, and have an interactive element to it. For example, one could look up air pollution. An age-appropriate description of the problem would follow, including pictures of its affects. Then, children could access links to “solutions”. A series of solutions could be chosen from and accessed, ranging from solutions already being implemented on a local level as well as theoretical solutions of scientists and politicians. The final aspect of the research would be a list of ways children can help solve the problem. Options might be adding a signature to a petition, or suggestions on products to use, transportation that is earth friendly, or ways to increase awareness in their home town. A final important part would be an interactive element that allows children to submit their ideas on the problem, things that they do in their hometown, and questions they have about anything they have read.
At the summit, we also discussed the possibility of of dividing this page by area so kids could look at global or local issues.
Another option for children could be an interactive problem solving game, such as the peacegame develped by the war and peace group. We could also create simpler games with an environmental slant that would have an educational aspect to them. Children often learn best through active games and projects that keep them interested and entertained.
In the forums, we have also discussed the importance of the environment as a subject in school. Environmental science is a practical and interesting application of biology that is unfortunately not included in most school curricululi. Hopefully, this environmental page could be used as a tool for teachers to bring environmental concerns into the classroom. Besides setting up the children’s page for use in the classroom and encouraging the research capablities for projects, their could be a link for teachers to exchange environmental lessons they teach in their schools. The education group has been discussing ways to facilitate learning over the Internet. One suggestion that has a great deal of relevance to the environment is the creation of on-line courses. Children could take a course in pollution, rain forest destruction, the ozone layer, or recycling. These are courses that would most likely not be available in their schools because of limited interest, but it would be extremely practical to tape lessons and send them over the Internet. This would allow children options that would not ordinarily available.
Part II: Adults
Adults who wish to learn more about environmental concerns have different needs from children and are usually looking for a different type of information. Information for adults should be concise, interesting, and current. Again, it should be user-friendly to allow the greatest number of people to learn from it.
The first level of adult awareness should be a page that provides information on specific environmental concerns. While some articles could be written specifically for the page, links could also be provided for online newspaper and magazine articles of environmental concern. In this way, we could expand on the amount of information available and increase the organization of this information. While at the summit, we learned a lot about the disorganization of the Internet. It takes a great deal of time to find the best opportunities on the net, and a really good environmental page could do the work for adults that are not as familiar with computers and the Internet.
A continuation of the adult research page could link environmental concerns with their specific professions and concerns. Most people would like to help the environment, but they don’t see how it relates to their lives. One way this could be structured is through a series of interviews of testimonials by professionals who bring these concerns into the workplace. Some examples could be an artist who reflected environmental concerns in a recent exhibition, a social worker who campaiged to create better city conditions to lessen the problems of the homeless, a writer who wrote a series of articles on rainforest destruction, a meteorologist who has seen the affects of global warming, a teacher who brought awareness into her classroom, a local politician who started a recycling campaign in his town, an economist who wrote a paper on the economic benefits of environmental action, a computer programmer who has developed games for children, a fashion designer whose clothes are made of recycled materials, and a Factory worker who worked on safe waste disposal in his own company. By reading about specific applications of environmentalism, adults will realize that a global issue needs to be solved by global action. By creating a page that would allow users from different countries to interact, we would also be extending the reach of the information creating new reactions of ideas that might not have been previously possible. The communication group discussed the development of online translators, which would of course greatly benefit the effectiveness of the environmental page.
A variation on the above idea would be a page dedicated to the use of parents and families. One way that adults can truly make a difference is through education and awareness in their children. A web page devoted to this would allow adults to exchange ideas on how to help their children and what they can do to set an example as environmentally aware parents.
Another interactive aspect of the adult homepage could be a series of scheduled webchats with politicians, environmental scientists, and other related individuals. The topics of the discussion would be specifically related to modern concerns of adults, such as things they could do in their hometowns, the best way to write to politicians about their concerns, and how to help make their friends and families environmentally aware.
In the online forum, we discussed the possibility of visual representation of air pollution and rainforest destruction. We could create maps that would include colored areas of air pollution, water pollution, ozone layer destruction, rainforest destruction, or other environmental concerns. As these problems changed, adults who use the page could see the results visually. We hope that this representation of the problems could increase awareness.
Again, the emotional impact of art and literature should be considered in the creation of these web pages. Links could be provided to short stories, poetry, and artwork with an environmental slant.
Through these methods, we hope to create a page for adults that is interesting, informative, and current. It would allow practical applications of current concerns and help adults to bring the environment into their life on an every-day basis.
Part III: Research Scientists
While awareness is important, the Internet can also be used as a tool for researchers to exchange data and ideas. Often we find in the field of science that conclusions are reached simultaneously be researchers in different countries without them ever communicating their findings and ideas. The Internet could provide much needed communication in order to facilitate research and solutions. When we searched on the Internet for specific data and research on the Internet, we found mostly addresses to write to for more information. We were especially disappointed that a process that could have been simplified and shortened was lengthened through the use of regualar mail versus home page publication or Internet publication.
The first and most important step in creating a page for researchers is the campaigning for the involvement of scientists in its creation. This would involve impressing upon them the need for this page, and convincing them to allow publication on the Internet of their writings, data and findings on different issues. We also consider this an important step because it is difficult for us to understand the specific needs of researchers. It is also important to create some kind of an orientation program that would allow scientists to learn about how to use the Internet for research so they can work more easily on the Internet.
One application we believed would be particularly helpful is the publication of data and reports of local issues. These might include population and diversity of animals and plant life in a local forest, pollution statistics, affects of a recent oil spill, or a chart that shows temperature change over fifty years due to global warming increases. We believe that many problems in the environment occur over and over with slight variations. By the sharing of data and solutions, scientists can learn about the similarities between issues of concern and the techniques that have been used to deal with them, including the success level of each solution. This would lead over a period of time to an understanding of which solutions work the best under which circumstances.
While we have chosen to make the adult’s page and the children’s page user-friendly, graphical, and multimedia, it seems more practical to create a research page that is faster and less complicated for easy use as a tool in the workplace. We could divide it by issue, and then by area so researchers could quickly find the information they are looking for.
A specific application of this was discussed in detail at the summit. We would like to create a series of surveys that allowed people to answer questions on the amount of waste their household produces, what products they use, what transportation they use and other specific environmentally related questions. By creating a clearer picture of our society, scientists could have a better understanding of the causes of problems, the actual every day steps people are taking, the need for production, what environmentally unfriendly products are still being used and what issues should be concentrated on for research and awareness.
We hope to involve scientists from around the world and universities in the creation of a clearer vision of the applications of this kind of research tool and home page.
Part IV: Governmental Involvement
While many of these issues can be solved through local awareness, there is a need for both governmental and global involvement. Issues like pollution, rainforest destruction, global warming, and the ozone layer all directly impact the entire world. In each section of the Environmental Databank, we could provide petitions and address for users to contact the government about their concerns. We could also create webchats with governmental officials that would increase contact and discussion about issues between the governments and the people.
One issue that we believe should be discussed on a global scale is a tax on natural resources. One of the basic principles of economic thought is that people respond to economic incentives in predicatable ways. By making resources more valuable, there would be less waste. This same principle could be used for pollution control. The more environmentally harmful pollutants a factory produces, the higher the tax. The money from these taxes could go toward fixing the environmental problems already threatening the earth. Some uses for this tax might be research grants, donation of trees to rainforests, or new education programs in schools.
This kind of global idea could only be possible through an intergovernmental environmental regulation group. While we understand that this is difficult to implement, we hope that the Internet could facilitate its creation.
The creation of this series of pages will allow greater awareness, more research, and the creation of a generation of environmentally responsible children. We hope that future summits will continue to discuss the environmental possibilities outilined here, especially awareness for children, the multimedia approach, and research possiblities of scientists. We hope that in some small way, our involvement in the summit will lead to creation of a more responsible, aware world.