Saturday, November 27, 2010

To friend or unfriend

TO be poor used to be unfortunate.

Now to be friendless is the new unfortunate.

That’s the fate threatening Facebook if it does not “unfriend” coal.

The leading social networking site, which drew 500 million members by July 2010, attracts through features that include how to “friend” or “unfriend” contacts.

According to the New York Times’ Kate Ross in its Nov. 4, 2010 issue, environmental advocate Greenpeace International has attracted 600,000 supporters since it launched in February 2010 “The So Coal Network” campaign to get Facebook to “Unfriend Coal”.

Greenpeace targets Facebook for choosing to run its data center in Prineville, Oregon with power generated by PacificCorp, a company whose fuel mix for its generators is derived from 10 percent each of hydro and renewable energy, about 20 percent of natural gas, and 58 percent of coal power.

The Greenpeace campaign includes an animated, two-minute long video uploaded on Youtube.

“Facebook: Unfriend Coal” is narrated by a tart, smart kid whose stick drawings and quirky pronunciation of the name of Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg (“Marrrrk Suckaaabergggg”) thinly disguises the derision and ringing challenge hurled by a seasoned eco-warrior.

According to her, the story begins when a “clever” boy named Marrrrk Suckaaabergggg, who was shut out of Harvard social circles for being a nerd, invented Facebook, which invented “lots of friends”—actually 500 million friends on Facebook “so no one could bully him”.

Portraying Facebook as a computer that copies and pastes the faces of people on a monitor, the child later shows how Marrrk’s creation becomes a jolly blue giant relaxing in a “box where pictures are stored”. The giant relies on “special food called elektrisity”.

Electricity can be created through a “good way,” such as “making cheeky clouds with lips blow windmills round and round”.

Instead of using renewable kinetic wind energy, though, “silly Marrrrk Suckaaabergggg” chose “dirty old coal”.

What’s coal? That’s a loaded question to ask Capitol and Cebu environmental groups, antagonists confronting each other over Baliligate and power issues, not all coal-related.

The preternaturally wise underaged narrator of the Greenpeace video says coal is made from “rotten dinosaur food,” which, when burned, “dirties the air and makes our world hotter (the world becomes an instant desert), meltier (ice cap disappears under a clueless polar bear) and floodier (people in boats fish out other people and pets from the rising waters)”.

The video’s climax has poor Marrrrk Suckaaabergggg, with his pants blown away by wind energy, quivering between the black wiles of coal and the jolly blue giant and the cheeky clouds blowing the winds of change for energy generation and consumption.

Will Marrrk friend or unfriend coal?

More important, will we? The New York Times article quotes Environmental Protection Agency findings that “data centers now account for 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S.".

By 2020, data centers’ carbon emissions will quadruple to 680 million tons per year. That’s more than the consumption of the aviation industry of the U.S. By 2020, Facebook’s electricity consumption will be more than the current electricity consumption of Brazil, Canada, France and Germany combined.

After converting to the New Technology, we comfort ourselves with the thought that by going paperless, we’re greener. “Think before you print!”

Yet, we are also part of an efficiency-mad sector that is “increasingly thirsty for energy”. Will we settle for “dirty fuels” and dream on in our paperless worlds?

In its online campaign, accessible through coalfacebook, the international non-government organization (NGOs) presses a five-point plan for Facebook and other data centers, which includes phasing out coal and choosing entirely clean, renewable energy sources.

“I know which one I would choose,” confidently declares the young storyteller/warrior of the Greenpeace video. ““If you let your friends down, you let yourself down.”

Now leaving “poor Marrrrk Suckaaabergggg” to make up his mind, I wonder how the question will be answered by Capitol and Cebu NGOs: to friend or unfriend coal?

And will their answers tell us who their friends are?

( 09173226131)

* To be published by Sun.Star Cebu’s Nov. 28, 2010 issue of the Sunday column, “Matamata”


Armie said...

Choosing whether to 'friend or unfriend' COAL is not as easy as friending and unfriending someone in Facebook. With Coal, there are indeed plenty of factors to be considered. At least in FB, I can always click "delete" when necessary, but unfriending coal when damages are already prevalent (property/life) is not at all easy. It's not a click away, sadly.

Merry Christmas, Ma'am Mayette! ^_^

Mayette Q. Tabada said...

Hi, Armie

Yes, you are right. To take the step to use coal for our energy needs is to go down the road that leads us away from a sustainable future. In an ideal world, we should prioritize what will preserve and improve this world for future generations.

Difficult, essential decisions needing reflection. Certainly something that's not a click away.

May we enjoy more CO2-free Christmases, though, Armie :-)