In the world of digital life, it’s a wonder that anything is actually real anymore. No need to buy a newspaper, one can subscribe to read up on world events online. No longer do we need to spend heaps of money and time on textbooks and encyclopedias when something such as Google is at our fingertips. In the world of travel, one no longer needs to pack endless amounts of film rolls when one can simply tuck a pocket-sized digital camera with a few memory cards in their suitcase. Who needs records, tapes or CDs anymore with the unlimited amount of downloadable music that can be heard with crystal clear sound through an iPod?
And all this technology of the digital world should be making all us “Greenies” happy, right? Less paper used, means less trees being cut down. Period.
On the flip side of the coin, all this movement into the digital world has left some way behind. Things such as the postal service. In the USA, the postal service has “been losing money since 2006, including nearly $20 billion since 2007” (How to Fix the Postal Service?, 2011). Quite possibly, this would have something to do with the fact that emails have surpassed what some refer to as “snail mail.” In fact, the “total mail volume decreased 20 percent from 2006 to 2010” (How to Fix the Postal Service?, 2011) in the USA. Right – emails.
According to another article, Volume of Email Compared with Postal Mail, emails outnumber postal mail in the United States 18 to 1. There are approximately 14.4 trillion emails sent out a year compared with the estimated 177 billion items of snail mail. That being said, those statistics include junk/spam mail that takes up a considerable amount of emails over snail mail.
So what does this all have to do with us? Essentially, it means that though emails bring the promise and hope of a more environmentally friendly world with less paper being strewn about; it also means a potential loss of major component of modern society. The postal service is something all can relate to. Something that nearly every person of the world has used at some point in time. Our change towards a more digital world (and hopefully more environmentally friendly) could cause us to lose out on this critical link within our society.
This goes for more than just the postal service. Our digital world brings worry towards other aspects of the world as we know it. Things such as music – what is to become of the culture surrounding music stores, DJs, record playing and all other things of sound when everything we now listen to can be downloaded, uploaded, reloaded and completely loaded with the best sound quality we could want? What about libraries? Sunday afternoons perusing down long isles of books filled with history, adventure, romance and all things information could become extinct should things such as the iPad, Kindle, and other digital reading tools take over in the book department. No need for pen pals with social networking sites up and running. No need for adventurous road trips with a travel maps spread out over the hood of the car as plans for the next stop are made. We now are overwhelmed with the convenient service that GPS-ridden gadgets bring. No more passing down of family recipes when a simple Google search will produce the instructions for the tastiest treats a mouth has ever come upon. Not to mention, no more family fun days in the outdoors as interactive video games such as the Wii take over our spare time.
Sure, the digital world brings a lot of good with it – including the potential to really help minimize the effect our consumption of goods has on the environment – but could it possibly be simultaneously destroying our very world as we know it? The way we live is made up of more than simply the fresh air we breathe or the clean water we drink. It is more than the animals and the plants in the ecosystem. It is also about our relationships. Families. Friends. It’s about the memories we make through our everyday lives. It’s about using our senses – about more than a digital world of which things occur above and beyond the average human brain’s ability to process information.
So – with all that in mind – is the digital world really something that is saving our world of a wasteful stream of paper and other consumer products, or is it hurting the very essence of why we wake up each and every day?
Agarwal, A. (n.d.). Volume of Email Compared with Postal Mail. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from Digital Inspiration: http://www.labnol.org/tech/email-volume-vs-postal-mail/17858/
How to Fix the Postal Service? (2011, June 3). Retrieved July 29, 2011, from Freakonomics: http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/06/03/how-to-fix-the-postal-service/
Leonard, D. (2011, May 26). The U.S. Postal Service Near Collapse. Retrieved July 29, 2011, from Bloomberg Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_23/b4231060885070.htm
US Postal Service: Some Interesting Statistics. (2011, July 29). Retrieved July 29, 2011, from Stat Spotting: http://statspotting.com/2011/06/us-postal-service-some-interesting-statistics/