Can the Internet save the planet?

Sometimes, when I brainstorm ideas for my PathToLess posts, I just write down quotes or questions that come to my mind. Then as I sit down to write, I try to turn them into full-fleshed out opinion pieces or advice for others, so that they don’t have to struggle the way I struggle.

One of the questions I wrote down in one of my brainstorming sessions was a short, yet complex one:

Can the Internet save the planet?

The idea is an appealing one, I have to say. The Internet is almost everywhere nowadays. And using it is like breathing to us. We don’t have to think about it anymore. We’re connected by this network of platforms and services.

I can sit comfortably in my bed in Poland, and chat with a friend from Midwest US. I can send money to a woman in a developing country to help her start a business.

But can I change the world with the Internet?

Sure. There are no limits as to what a person can achieve with the digital world at her fingertips. But the Internet can’t be an end platform for those actions, it has to be the stepping stone on the journey of bringing the change into the real world.

The only thing the Internet can do is connect people to help them spread information.

In October 2016, the Internet helped Polish activists organize nation-wide protests in opposition to the newly proposed severe abortion bill. Thousands of women went to the streets, dressed in all black in one of the biggest protests in Poland’s history (if not the world). What quickly became known as The Black Monday achieved what women set out to do: it stopped an incredibly restrictive bill from becoming law. And the world watched us do it. And people all around the world expressed their support for our fight.

And where was I? I was on the street, marching with 10 thousand other women, protesting so hard I could barely speak the next day.

And I saw the support online and felt motivated to scream even harder.

But you know what I learned from Black Monday?

That organizing online cannot be the end of it. If we just stuck to angry posts on Facebook, or changing our profile pictures to black, the Polish parliament would ignore us and the anti-abortion bill would become law.

If your activism can be shut down with a click of a mouse, or by turning off the screen, you’re not going to have much impact.

The Internet is a tool. It can help us connect and discuss our ideas, but real change needs to happen once you turn the laptop off.

The Internet won’t declutter your house for you.

The Internet won’t sort through recycling for you.

The Internet won’t make sure your purchases are not wrapped in plastic.

You have to do those things.

The Internet can help you find information on how to do all those things. It can connect you to the people who had already done those things so they can guide you in your own journey. But it’s up to you to hit the streets and do the work.

And as you take those difficult steps and work to change the world, the Internet will support you.

To end it on a cheesy, yet powerful sentiment:

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Take the first step and the world will follow.

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