Loon balloons & remote internet.

I’ve returned from Vivacation in the beautiful remote north woods of Minnesota where the loons are on the lake, loons can be heard, and Internet connectivity is scarce, sparse, or both. It’s truly lovely. (Well, once you get acclimated.  In my opinion, loons sound like the start of a horror movie; I’m always sure Bigfoot is near.)

In my news feed this morning, the ‘thing to know’ is that Google has a secretive lab working to bring internet connectivity to remote locations.  Google calls it Project Loon.  Some day soon, a Vivacation could include the sound of loons on the lake and floating Google X Loon Balloons overhead. Synchronicity. Beautiful.

Google, Division X, Project Loon brings information to a “… rural schoolhouse that had never been able to receive high-quality Internet signals.” Cassidy was able to help a teacher “supplement that day’s lesson with Google maps and Wikipedia. … Later when Cassidy spoke to the kids, they shared their goals: One wanted to be an engineer; another, a doctor.” (Project Loon. The article is worth the read.))

Engineers and doctors.  Not unlike the kids who currently enjoy full internet access to all the questions and answers anytime all the time. Although Project Loon is developing under the guise of “high-quality Internet signals”, we are not fooled. The curation of the high-quality Internet signals and free-flowing data gives internet access its value.  It is the teacher looking over the shoulder or directing classroom access that shapes all that information into knowledge.

But back to me.  Here is what the sketchy internet connection interrupted on Vivacation:

  • Facebook.
  • Clickbait.  Michael Phelps raced a shark.
  • The New York Times. Although wait, what? Evidently Michael Phelps versus shark was a real thing. Really? Ugh.
  • Access to the Viva blog.

In the absence of continuous connectivity, it became painfully obvious that the Internet is crack for an information junkie. Attention span? In an attention second.

And then I read three books. In hand. Beginning, middle, end. A vacation dream.

So please forgive me for being a cynic about connecting everyone everywhere all the time. People living in remote locations might not need or want an Internet connection. What is the purpose of the Internet? Connectivity?

Most of the time we like to watch who and what we know.  I watched a documentary in the early 1990’s of a small remote French village that was given a free local-access channel by a cable company that wanted to expand.  It turned out that the villagers were most interested in watching the local channel. They liked to watch each other. (A favorite featured two women overcome by a bottle of wine while cooking. Billed as a cooking show, it looked like a drinking game.)

Are we arrogant in thinking that remote peoples benefit from our presence? That they need our inclusion? Are we using technology to promote Western Civilization? And how ethnocentric is technology to Western Civilization? If we consider education, what does a remote villager need to know? What do they want? What could we offer them? An introduction to electronic attention deficit disorder?

Well then! Get your Googles on and welcome to my world!

George Orwell on blogging.

For all of the references to George Orwell’s 1984 predicting the age of Newspeak, government control, war is peace, etc. the pundits forgot to remind us that Orwell captured the essence of blogging:

“It was curious that he seemed to not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say.”

And here we are off on Vivacation! A place of peace at last for a bit of solitude and reflection with the exception of jack-hammering away a concrete pier, the coming and going of trucks taking loads of busted stuff off to where or away, the high-pitched hum of a mosquito landing strip close by …

Aside from all of these things, setting all these things aside …

We set off to make a point …

Which was …

Something something … Orwell …

Ah yes! Blogging and the power of words. Isn’t it wonderful that 33 years past the actual year of 1984, I am reading or rereading, I don’t recall — the plot, the characters, the words seem so familiar and yet so new —  the book 1984?  And that the power of words published in 1949 reach through time and capture this blogger’s lament? Timeless.

The struggle is real.

Hmmm, Part II. Remember the Aerosol!

Ah, aerosol cans.  An early memory of Right Guard was of my father boldly announcing he needed a “trucker’s shower” and then giving himself a spritz of Right Guard from an aerosol can under each arm.

But he was a trucker and this was the early ’70’s and we lived on a non-working farm. We were surrounded by smells bigger than us. But then someone noticed the changing ozone and this is what became of that aerosol can of Right Guard:

In the 1970’s scientists made a link between aerosol cans and depletion of the earth’s ozone layer.  By the time I graduated from college in the 1980’s, aerosol cans filled with chlorofluorocarbon propellants had been (mostly) eliminated. We had found other propellant to compel deodorant to stick under our arms.

And these are links to information I tripped into from internet rabbit holes filled with ozone depletion:

The History of the Ozone Layer ¹

tl;dr? The Ozone Depletion site walks through the discovery of the ozone layer, what it is — a layer of “planetary sunscreen,” and the discovery that the ozone layer was being depleted.  Depleted by the “actions of mankind.”

Bad Hair Day: Are Aerosols Still Bad for the Ozone Layer?²

tl;dr? Scientific American weighs in on whether the chemicals used as a propellant for hygiene products now are any safer than the chlorofluorocarbons used in the ’70’s.   New propellants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog in the down-here-in-the-layer-we-breathe layer.

Why were we able to detach from our beloved aerosols in support of the ozone then, but are now so attached to our greenhouse gas production?

And then a Viva aha! Consider the age old question – which came first –  the chicken or the egg?

1987: The Montreal Protocol

In the ’70s and ’80s “trucker’s showers” spray cans gave way to deodorant sticks, roll-ons, and non-aerosol sprays. At a local, personal level, we affected change, however much, however minimal, by changing our consumption. We heard that aerosols could be bad for the ozone, stopped buying aerosol deodorant, and manufacturers changed their product application. Egg, then chicken.

Or?! Did deodorant manufacturers, smelling the winds of change, take action to comply with the Montreal Protocol without us even realizing our behavior and consumption were evolving? Chicken, and then egg?

Chickens and eggs, eggs and chickens.  Aerosols at the consumer level have been virtually eliminated  as a result of the Montreal Protocol, (1987). “Kofi Annan on the ‘most successful’ Montreal Protocol”, Tom Duck’s Blog.³

2016: The Paris Agreement

By way of contrast to the Montreal Protocol (MP), the Paris Agreement (PA) aims to limit greenhouse gas production. Compliance happens somewhere else, it’s a supply problem. This agreement is a full-blown fight between governments, businesses, scientists, and on and on and the chicken comes first. By the time we get to the egg, i.e. the consumer, the demand, I am left feeling there is not much I can do to affect change complementary to the Paris Agreement.

Where do I start? Where would I start?

Well, as consumers we know that small behavior changes (micro) by a large population (macro) results in sustainable change. The examples of micro-behavior changes gone macro are limitless, but let’s pick on bottled water:

  • Remember when paying for bottled water seemed silly?
  • And then remember then it became the best thing — a soda alternative-and how-did-we-ever-live-without-this convenience-type of thing?
  • And now, when we reach for a water bottle, we are reminded that there are billions of pieces of plastic in the Arctic?  And our water bottle doesn’t look so shiny anymore …
  • But! It looks like changes to delivery in support of portability, sustainability, and carbon-footprint reduction for bottled water will be boxed drinking water and a surgence˜ of drinking fountains outfitted to refill more long-lasting portable sippy cups, yes?

And all this assumes a stable water supply, but that’s another discussion.

An observation on the years between MP and PA:

Between the aerosols of the 1970s and now, I submit that a subtext introduced by the Reagan Administration’s focus on trickle-down economics had a trickle-down affect on social responsibility.  By shifting focus to business and industry to solve problems — a shift to supply — there was an erosion of the importance micro- or individual-actions can make in affecting macro- or large-scale change. We don’t believe our little egg changes make a difference because the solution lies elsewhere, with big entities, big government, with the chickens, with the supply.  Not with us.  The eggs, the demand.

But trickle down economics doesn’t work.  Neither does trickle-down environmental care.

However small the footprint of my armpits, foregoing aerosols for non-aerosol deodorants was in the best interests of the planet and the ozone layer. And chicken or egg, supply or demand, that product – deodorant – changed and the change remains.

Small micro-personal actions in concert with macro-consumer activism and conscientious development and tech will result in durable and lasting breakthroughs that benefit the environment. Benefit the planet.  We will all be better gardeners.

And as always, we remain the skeptic gardener.

(For reference: ways to reduce carbon footprint.)


¹The web-pages of Ozone Depletion>Ozone Facts were dated.

²The web pages of the Scientific American were not dated. Some of their articles are. Some are not. This leaves us to wonder as regards to dated information.

³(I want to) read more on Tom Duck’s Blog. 

˜Surgence, a Viva definition: a rising into prominence of life, activity, prominence the first time around.  If there is a resurgence, should not there be a surgence first?

The paradox of a tattoo.

The definition of a paradox (noun): “a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.”

And so we are mesmerized considering the paradox inherent in a skin tattoo.

Although you should love a tattoo design and consider its placement carefully before you get inked — it is part of you for the rest of your life, don’t worry too much.  We don’t live forever.

Tattoo: “permanent artwork on a temporary canvas.”

– Viva E.