Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
Austin Carroll is a 17-year-old high school senior in Garrett, Ind., who recently did something so outrageous that it got him expelled from school. He used profanity. On Twitter. Oh my stars and garters! What is the world coming to?
To hear even his own family describe him, Carroll sounds like a bit of a handful. Last month, he earned a suspension for violating the school dress code and wearing a kilt, and last fall, he ran afoul of the school administration for tweeting an F bomb via a school computer.
But Carroll insists his more recent Twitter tirade — which Indiana News Center colorfully quotes as “BEEP is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP use in any BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense” – was banged out from his personal account on his home computer. The school district says the post came from a school-issued device or the school’s network. (Both Carroll and the district seem to agree that the post was not directed at any individual or the school itself.)
But students at Carroll’s school are expected to sign a Respectable Use Policy that requires them to “consider the information and images that I post online,” to not “flame, bully, harass or stalk people” or visit sites “that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.” There’s no specific limit on word choice, which suggests that the school has now granted itself considerable leeway in interpreting its own rules.
Adding an invasively chilling element to the whole affair is the recent tweet from the Garrett School District’s IT director, who said, “Freedom of speech is our right, but it doesn’t (always) make it appropriate. Think before you type people. #austincarroll.” Because your school is watching you, kids.
It’s true that if more people thought before they typed, the Internet would be a markedly saner place. It’s easy to forget your teachers or your parents might see the words you’re banging out in what feels like perfect solitude. But Carroll wasn’t threatening anyone or deploying hate speech. He was just using some naughty words. He may even have been doing it on his own computer on his own time. And his school appears to have never issued a specific policy on the words in question anyway. So we are left with a kid who will now have to finish out his senior year at a nearby “alternative” school, where at least he can ostensibly wear a kilt and curse on Twitter and nobody will care.
Freedom of speech comes with a price, but the price tag should be appropriate. It’s a school’s job to encourage conversation, to spur kids to question the impact of their language and the effect their actions have, not to scurry away, blushing, from harder questions about expression, personal privacy and the limits of authority. In its Respectable Use Policy, the Garrett school says, with a stunning apparent lack of self-awareness, that “The primary priority of the technology is to improve student learning.” But Carroll and his fellow seniors must be wondering today how attainable that goal really is, when what could have been an authentic teachable moment has been so abruptly shut down.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.