Saturday, February 09, 2008

I Voted

I've mentioned before that I don't watch a lot of mainstream TV. As a result, I end up not seeing a lot of stupid TV shows. I also end up not seeing a lot of commercials. I thought that was pretty much everything I ended up not seeing on TV, but it turns out I was wrong. I also ended up not seeing any paid political advertisements.

That hadn't even occurred to me until I happened to read a letter to the editor of my local newspaper in which the letter writer complained about the endless barrage of paid political advertisements she was being inundated with. And since she's not the only person who was exposed to them, I'm sure she speaks for millions of other people. It made me realize how lucky I am in some ways, since without even doing anything, I was able to completely avoid something that's so aggravating to so many people.

So I managed to escape all the political jaw-flapping for the 2008 presidential election, but I have a feeling I won't be so lucky when 2012 rolls around. It isn't because I plan to start watching mainstream TV -- it's because over the next four years, advertising on the internet will grow at an exponential rate. If you think it's bad now, just wait. It will only get worse. The technology to deliver targeted ads to people is growing more sophisticated by the day. And there's a huge financial incentive to invest in this, so it will develop much faster than other technologies. Microsoft knows this -- that's why they want to buy Yahoo. and Google knows this -- that's why they want to prevent Microsoft from buying Yahoo. Four years from now, we'll probably look back and fondly remember when internet advertising consisted primarily of annoying Flash animations and intrusive pop-up windows.

We had a primary election on Tuesday,February 5th. Since a lot of states have a primary election on the same day, over the years this event has come to be known as "Super Tuesday." I'm sure I'm not the first person to comment on this, but "Super Tuesday" sounds more like some sort of sporting event or holiday sales event than a part of our democratic process of electing a president.

Anyway, I voted. I've never had to use an electronic voting machine, so I'm pretty sure my vote still counts. Voting is either a responsibility or a privilege of all adult citizens living in a democracy, so I wonder why the voters are treated like children.

What I'm talking about is those "I Voted" stickers they always give you when you hand in your ballot. Why are they giving these stickers to adults? It's ridiculous. But more to the point, they're a waste of paper, and to make things worse, they aren't even recyclable.

Maybe this doesn't seem like such a big problem to you. Maybe you never even thought about it before. You vote, they give you your sticker, you throw it away, and that's the end of it. But when you consider that a hundred million or more of these stickers are handed out at every election, you might wonder how many trees were cut down to provide the raw material for them, how much energy was used during the manufacture and distribution of them, and how much more quickly the landfills will fill up because of them.

I realize, of course, that that these stickers are just an infinitesimal part of the problem, but the fact remains that there is absolutely no reason to manufacture them. I've never seen anybody wearing one. Nobody really even wants one. It's just something that they give you -- they don't even ask if you want one -- and then you just throw it away.

And this, my friends, is why we're doomed. Not because of these little stickers in particular, but what they represent. And what they represent is the fact that for all the talk you hear about how our planet is edging toward environmental collapse, we won't even do a simple thing like ending the manufacture of completely unnecessary products that no one even wants. I know it's a small problem, and there are plenty of scientists and engineers looking into materials technology and new fuel sources, but I doubt if we'll ever solve those big problems if we're not even willing to look at the small ones.