Tag Archives: technology

Planet A

As winter and the covid-19 pandemic wear on, and wear us down, I’d like to shift the focus to something perhaps more positive. Although access to the vaccine is still very limited in Canada (as I’m writing this, only about 2.5% of the population has received the vaccine and questions remain about some vaccines’ efficacy in light of new variants, let’s remember that we were able to develop vaccines in less than a year after identifying and isolating this new virus.

How were we able to respond so rapidly? First, various researchers were already investigating coronaviruses, so a solid foundation had already been laid to advance vaccine development. Second, because covid-19 impacted every nation and economy, strong political will and ample financing was immediately available to propel vaccine development in numerous labs. 

Having made these observations, my thoughts turn to another global issue that’s been brewing for decades: climate change. The concept of global warming became common knowledge in the early 1990s, but I was introduced to the concept of alternative energy sources when I was still in high school, considerably before any discussion of this warming trend. Even in high school, adopting carbon-neutral alternatives seemed like a no-brainer considering the negative impacts on health of increasing air pollution from carbon emissions.   

Between then and now, technologies that support our efforts to tap into cleaner renewable energy have continued to develop and have become less expensive to produce. A solid foundation has already been laid to support adoption of numerous carbon-neutral energy sources to serve the needs of our rapidly growing human population. So why aren’t we there yet? The strong political will and ample financing that were fundamental in delivering the covid-19 vaccine in record time are still missing from efforts to deliver carbon-neutral energy solutions.

When President Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project within hours of taking office, some Canadians were outraged; I was not one of them. I was relieved. Plans to invest in outdated energy technology with clear negative environmental impacts make no sense to me. We know better.  

I’m relieved to see world leaders slowly turning away from oil and gas for the sake of our shared environment. I’m also relieved to see some major investors finally comprehending that they can make ample money investing in cleaner renewable energy sources instead of oil and gas.

Given the rapidity with which humanity has managed to poison our planet and set in motion the volatile climate changes we’re increasingly seeing, it’s unclear how long recovery will take or if it’s even possible. But I am hopeful that, like the covid-19 vaccine, if we continue to develop the technologies we’ve already invented, and invest adequate political will and financing, maybe we’ll be okay. Fingers crossed. As stewards of the Earth, we’ve been doing a pretty piss-poor job. Mama Gaia deserves some TLC. Let’s give it to her and maybe she’ll let us stay.   

© Catherine Jenkins 2021 all rights reserved

Mama Gaia deserves some TLC

Fall 2007

Although perhaps more Luddite than some, I’m also more technically savvy than others. I’m part of that awkward in-between generation that didn’t grow up with much technology, but was introduced to it at an early enough age to be able to integrate it into an understanding of the world and the way things work. As such, I may be a bit reluctant to embrace new technologies, but sometimes also pleasantly wowed.

I despair that kids these days figure they don’t have to learn to write or spell or do basic math because there are machines to do these things for them. I’m not sure how they’re going to cope when the power fails. But hey, middle-aged fuddy-duddies have been wondering about the next generation since the Ancient Greeks and somehow we’re still here.

The Internet enables the spread of information-and misinformation-at previously unavailable speeds. This has opened the door to a whole new arena of enlightenment and potential frustration.

I’ve been trying to correct some misinformation that got online about my involvement with a series of books. When I’ve contacted specific offending websites requesting that they correct this information, they generally shrug and claim that it’s not their problem; their information comes from the distributor, who, of course, gets its information from the publisher, who was responsible for creating the misinformation in the first place. As an individual outside this loop, I apparently have no voice, even though it’s my name and reputation being misrepresented. Needless to say, I was forced to go a more formal route to seek resolution. Although the situation has improved, it still isn’t resolved. Why? Because misinformation replicates itself ad nauseum, just as information does, on the Internet. As Caleb Carr pointed out in Killing Time, on the Internet, there’s no differentiation between information and truth. There’s no consideration of authenticity or validity; there’s only endlessly streaming data.

Not all Internet errors are so annoying. I occasionally receive fan mail, even from radio stations, for Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh Mezzo Soprano. What I find funny is that these fans don’t realize that our names are spelled differently, so they end up on my website rather than hers. Then, even though my website is pretty obviously that of a writer, rather than a vocalist, they still go ahead and e-mail me. But hey, I’m a good person. I redirect them. If I get back to my music, things may become even more confusing. Of course, I’ve also discovered one, possibly two, other writers named Catherine Jenkins. While they seem to be in the UK, there’s still lots of room for growing confusion, thanks to the globalizing nature of the Internet.

On the plus side, the Internet has enabled me to locate numerous people I’d misplaced or even forgotten. I’ve reconnected with people from high school and my old hometown of Peterborough, people I’d lost touch with for fifteen or twenty years. E-mail allows me to stay in greater contact with friends who live at a distance. While I still write an occasional letter or make an occasional long distance phone call, this is a way of saying “hey” at the moment of that thought, with an immediacy that doesn’t have the disruptive effect of a ringing telephone. It allows people to mention the regular minutiae of a day in a way we generally don’t in letters. It’s a hybrid form of communication that supports the advantages of both telephones and letters.

Professionally, electronic media and communication have made things much easier and more efficient for me. Writing research is a whole lot simpler using the Internet-as long as one keeps a critical eye on the information source. I’ve also been able to track down and contact other professionals to request information, guidance or input into something I’m working on. The technology is great, as long as it’s used intelligently.

I’m also pleased that some literary journals are now accepting submissions via e-mail. From my perspective, that reduces the time and cost of handling, office supplies and postage. Electronic submissions are especially welcome when I’m submitting outside Canada. I gave up on International Reply Coupons some years ago; they’re expensive and I found that not everyone on the receiving end knew what they were or how to redeem them. Whenever I travel to the US or UK, I buy postage stamps, but the rates keep changing, so I still have to research current rates and figure out how to make whatever stamps I have add up. If a journal accepts electronic submissions, I don’t have to worry about return postage on my SASE. I’m currently compiling data to see if the turnaround time on electronic submissions is any faster than those sent the old-fashioned way.

So, as with most things, I can see both pros and cons. I use what works to advantage for me and critically consider the rest, accepting that the technology is here now and it’s here to stay.

© Catherine Jenkins 2007