Sometime ago, I wrote a post entitled ‘Praying to Trees‘, the point I was trying to make then was about turning environmental protection into a religion. Environmental fanaticism is neither new nor pretty, in fact sometimes its clearly off-putting, even for those who are inherently sympathetic to the green cause. Take a look at PC Format’s report on Antony Lewis.

For those of you, who don’t know Antony Lewis is the architect of the rather brilliant and extraordinarily useful freeware utility- WordWeb.  I’ve used WordWeb for a long time and quite happily. Perhaps that is why the attempt to sing the green tune by its maker is painful.

Lewis in an interview says, “Climate change is an international crisis. By linking prices to customers’ carbon footprint we can provide an incentive for people to cut down. WordWeb is used worldwide, including in many countries such as India with rapidly expanding economies where awareness of climate change is growing only slowly. Software developers and Internet companies can reach an international audience consisting precisely of those people who are most likely to have unsustainable lifestyles. We hope the new licensing model will increase awareness of the high environmental cost of air travel and encourage people to fly less.”

Sigh. I have several questions, of which the pertinent ones are these: How on Earth are frequent fliers going to be told apart from other users? Unless of course you intend to illegally monitor surfing habits and draw correlation, in which case I would rather unhappily call WordWeb Spyware now. 

I’m all for green incentives, but this really is not one of them! Now if Microsoft were to do something about dirty manufacturing I would understand–but targeting Indian’s who have just about started off with low-cost airlines is a bit much! Here’s the problem, the idea of free software is a commitment to free as in freedom and not a space to push ideology that not all people necessarily buy!

More importantly, daft things like this takes away from the seriousness of environmental movements, that have in the third world much more to do with marginalised communities and subsistence livelihoods as opposed to over-consumption. Skewed incentives, is what it is. Sigh.

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