Two weekends ago, I took part in a women’s retreat at a beautiful farm in rural Connecticut. And I did something unusual—I turned off my cell phone. Instead of glancing at my phone, I soaked in the landscape, embraced time meditating, and laughed with soulful women around me. I took a step away from tech, and I couldn’t have been happier.
It’s long been known that the undersea noise we create with our large machines — oil drilling equipment, ships and submarines — has a detrimental effect on whales, causing hearing damage and changes in feeding, mating and communication. And noise from snowmobiles has often been cited as the reason some species of animals in Yellowstone National Park are being stressed and pushed out of their preferred habitats, impacting their health and increasing mortality.
It turns out that our large machines, though, may not be our only cause for concern when it comes to outdoor noise pollution and its effects on the natural world. Our small, compact mobile phones — and the apps we put on them — have been shown to change the behavior of birds.
Will the noise we individuals are increasingly capable of imposing upon other species outdoors soon also have enough power to affect their ability to survive?
I knew I had a problem with my Facebook addiction when I kept thinking of last weekend’s camping trip as a series of status reports:
Wendy Worrall Redal
… swore she would not camp in a tent in the rain again, and here she is.
… can’t believe she spent the last two hours trying to get flames out of a smoking fire made with wet wood.
… thinks the finest aroma in the world is the scent of alpine firs.
… is amazed at the lush profusion of wildflowers in the meadow next to Long Lake.
Actually, by the time I went hiking to Long Lake, I had been away from digital technology altogether for 24 hours, and I wasn’t thinking in terms of my Facebook status by that point. But all those moments offered a telling realization: My daily life — my very psyche — is tethered to mobile digital technology.
I’m curious when we traded common sense for convenience. I’m guessing it was around the time we stopped trusting ourselves. The same time we started believing all those claims that we could “have it all.” We can. But we pay a price for it.
My son was visiting me during the holidays recently. I accompanied him to a local cell phone store, where he purchased a Droid. On the five-mile drive home, he entertained me by turning on its GPS feature; and we listened and laughed as the automated voice instructed us to turn left here and right there, over a route that we knew like the back of our hands. It did get me wondering, though, if it’s possible — in this information technology age — to get lost anymore.
This is the second project in a series of four year-end recycling projects. Last month’s project was printer cartridges. Next month’s is freecycling; December’s is computers.
Recycling your cell phone is one of those projects where there’s simply no excuse. Cell phone manufactures, wireless carriers, charities, and others have all made the process so easy, it should barely be an afterthought. That’s good news for me. I’ve got three phones—from three different manufacturers and two different carriers—that need to find new homes.
What if you could generate energy simply by walking? Or by boogie-ing on a dance floor? Or by driving your car on any old road?
That’s the premise behind piezoelectricity. Certain crystals or ceramic materials can generate an electric charge simply by having stress applied to them — the stress, for example, of a person walking on or a car driving over them.