New Internationalist

Inside The Heap

Issue 295

THIS MONTH'S THEME

TRASH

FROM THIS MONTH'S EDITOR

'W hen you start to look closely at the issue of waste you find...'
i-share server down
Someone calls the computer buff. He tells us to save our files and stop using our computers. After some fiddling and twiddling he tells us we can open our files again. Photo of NI Editor, Vanessa Baird
I resume typing: '...you find that it has as much to do with...'
Another notice pops up onto my screen: You have no new e-mail.
So what? Do I really need to know this?
I resume: '...you find that it has as much to do with values as...'
Main server down. Save file. Shut down your computer.
Sighs all round. Frustration mounts. The computer buff is called again. A bit more twiddling here, fiddling there, and he does what needs to be done. He says gaily, 'That should be all right now' - not for the first time.
'...it has as much to do with values, with what matters to us, as with the actual stuff of...'
Your print manager is disabled.
And has the postilion been struck by lightning?! That's what I really need to know!
You might have gathered, if you have experienced anything similar, that we're going through the lengthy, apparently technologically complex process of 'networking'. It involves linking our computers so that they can speak to each other - and we don't have to any more.
I'm being facetious. I am assured, on a daily basis, by one of my colleagues that: 'It's going to be wonderful when it works!' He says this with a desperate enthusiasm that immediately arouses my suspicion. Each day he sounds more enthusiastic than the previous, eyes bulging. Not a good sign.
Finally, my sacrilegious request to be 'de-linked' from the network, for the time being, at least until this magazine is done, is granted. I sit in bliss on my computer island while those around me swear at their machines and try not to be too offended when their machines reply with impertinent beeps and assorted gut-churning, bone-grinding noises. I know these are computer versions of threats, farts and raspberries. And I am convinced these machines are in league with wastefulness. The little signs are there: since networking, people tend to leave their computers on overnight. They never used to. And to keep the main server cool in the hot weather we have had to keep an air extractor blowing all night. 'We will use less paper,' I am told. That remains to be seen.
'Do we really need this?' I ask, meekly when I'm in a good mood, crossly when I'm not.
But, maybe it's more subjective than I allow: what's waste, what's not, what's excess, what's need. Maybe it comes down to the individual's own particular bugbears or interests. As I was beginning to research this issue on rubbish, one meditative soul asked me: 'What about waste thought? Are you going to deal with that?' He was talking about all the energy we waste on negative thinking. Like getting annoyed with computers.
Okay, okay.

[image, unknown]







Vanessa Baird
for the New Internationalist Co-operative

[image, unknown]

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Copyright New Internationalist Magazine 1997


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