Just recently, a “temporary” cell phone tower has appeared on the shores of Silva Bay on Gabriola island. I assume it was brought in to fill the little black hole of cell phone coverage we had in this neck of the woods. It seems some folks figure this is a good idea to increase communication in case of disaster or emergencies and perhaps to help alleviate the stress caused to those people who arrive here and suddenly find they are “connected’ no longer.
You know, I can appreciate the desire to have a supposedly”flawless” communications system in case of emergencies or disaster, to have another level on all those things we have already in place but I can’t help wondering at what cost we are doing this. I’m no expert on the cumulative effects of electromagnetic radiation and such things that are associated with technology of these sorts but several learned friends and associates of mine assure me it’s not necessarily benign. More on that side of things can be discovered at
I also wonder however, about a more subtle effect. One that talks to our developing mindset as a culture and our life experience as individuals. In this world of high tech gadgetry it’s easy to be connected to the internet 24/7 if you want or if you are addicted. Lots of good stuff on the internet. Lots of great connections with voice or texting on your cell phone. I mean, all over the world we see folks on their phones or blackberries or laptops being “connected” while they are in restaurants, playing golf, walking down the street (or even the beach), driving and yes, even boating. Heck, I do it myself sometimes!
I just can’t help wondering what that constant connection or ability to be connected does to us. I remember when I was a young man and when my freedom meant everything to me, I would go wild places by myself and have no way of connecting to any other human being and no one would know where I was. It gave me a wonderful sense of freedom, independence and self reliance. If I got in trouble of any sort I only had myself to rely on.
Perhaps it was a bit extreme and I’ve certainly mellowed but I still cherish those times when my connection to “civilization” is limited. When I’m disconnected I am far more present, far more aware of my surroundings, far more aware of the need to look out for myself and whoever is with me and far more aware of the need to be properly prepared. It also allows me to really connect with the natural world and the rhythms of the tides and weather and wild critters. Something that is crucial to really understanding why there is an ever-increasing need for environmental best practices.
Enter the cell phone and other devices with constant connection to the “world”. Now I don’t need to be as prepared. 911 is just a call away. Now I can keep up with my stock portfolio. Now I can connect with my”friends” and tell them how wonderful it is to be in such a beautiful place but not really experience it or understand what is needed to keep it beautiful.
Perhaps it is a risk to live or go somewhere without cell phone coverage but what sort of characters do we develop if we eliminate all risk? What sort of characters do we develop if we are able to connect all the time wherever we go? What sort of characters would we have if we did not question those things that are foisted upon us?
How can we, as individuals and as a community, really look after this precious part of the world if we do not spend time immersed in it and paying real attention to it’s needs without being constantly distracted? I for one am not in need of more cell phone coverage. I’m in need of more time being disconnected.