Photo credit: Noah Berger
Last night we watched The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz . I’d been given a Creative Commons copy by a fellow lecturer at my first PhD workshop last week – very fitting since Aaron helped to design the code behind Creative Commons . I’ve since discovered that it’s also freely available on the internet, so you can view it here.
In the workshop I’d mentioned my desire to do my PhD online so that it would be readily accessible to anyone who might be interested. That immediately started people talking about Aaron Swartz. Aaron believed, as so many of us do, that human knowledge is there to be shared . I’ve since discovered that quite a number of PhD students have blogged . The urgency to act in the face of global warming makes it even more critical that evidence based knowledge is available to all – not locked away behind a paywall.
After his death, Aaron’s girlfriend Taren Stinebrickner-Kaufmann (now Executive Director and Founder of SumOfUs.org) spoke about how Aaron believed that
“you should be asking yourself all the time, what is the most important thing I can be working on in the world right now and if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?” 
So, 2 years and 8 months after last posting on this site, here I am blogging again and asking myself the question, what is the most important thing I can be working on in the world right now?
And why haven’t I been doing it?
I feel as though I’ve just heated up a pot of popcorn and taken off the lid … the questions, like the popcorn, are shooting off in hundreds of directions at once. Somewhere, in all these questions, lies my PhD research question.
Image: Lis Bastian
Perhaps an important first question I need to ask is one which can begin to help me to understand the level of global inaction in the face of climate change: why, when I knew how serious the global situation was, did I suddenly slacken off?
Clearly there are many reasons … exhaustion after long nights of blogging, increasing work demands, health, family, normalizing, but perhaps most importantly, a sense of futility and resentment that all my efforts were just a drop in the ocean if government and big corporations refused to take action.
It’s not that I stopped caring or believing we needed to turn our lives around quite dramatically … it’s just that I wasn’t prepared to make myself or my family suffer while the people with the real power were living the high life and actively making the problem worse.
And, perhaps, I was just biding my time and waiting to find out what the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now was?
In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein quotes Henry Red Cloud, a Lakota educator, who said “there are times when we must accept small steps forward – and there are other times ‘when you need to run like a buffalo.'” She then says, “now is one of those times when we must run.” 
So why blog? Partly to share information and partly to motivate myself to start running (metaphorically speaking). In a conference paper I’m delivering next weekend I’ve drawn attention to social facilitation research which tells us that individuals are more likely to take environmental action when they are seen to be doing so [5, 6].
When I first started this blog, my goal was to take one personal and one political action each day and to hopefully inspire other people to take action too. I fantasized that if 365 people took action we could effect change at the rate of a year in a day. Back then I was running.
The remnant of that daily committed political action is still evident in my almost daily social media clicktivism . Writing this thesis online will be my ongoing political act by making all my research freely available. On the personal front, there’s been very little other environmental progress – other than, perhaps, markedly reducing our consumption as a family.
My NO JUNK MAIL sticker had shriveled up and disappeared – something I finally realized today when I had to throw away piles of glossy advertising that have managed to creep back into our lives.
Fortunately, I found one leftover sticker from an early campaign and today I stuck it back onto the spot where the other one had fallen off.
Time to start again.
NB. For those of you who previously followed this blog, my last template was hacked and no updates were issued so there are lots of formatting issues in posts previous to this one that I’m slowly rectifying. Links and blogrolls may no longer be up to date but part of my research will be to look at what has happened to these blogs over the last few years and why other bloggers have stopped blogging. I think it’s more important to fix this blog than clutter the internet with another one.
1. Knappenberger, B. (2014). The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/TheInternetsOwnBoyTheStoryOfAaronSwartz (viewed 5 July 2015)
2. Glaser, A. (2014). Aaron Swartz’s Work, Computer Crime Law, and “The Internet’s Own Boy”. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/08/aaron-swarts-work-internets-own-boy (viewed 5 July 2015)
3. The Thesis Whisperer (n.d.). Read some PhD Student blogs. Retrieved from http://thesiswhisperer.com/read-some-phd-student-blogs/ (viewed 5 July 2015)
4. Klein, N. (2014). This Changes Everything, Melbourne, Australia: Penguin. (page 24).
5. Milinski, M., Semmann, D., Krambeck, H.J. (2002). Reputation helps solve the ‘tragedy of the commons’. Nature 415: 424-426
6. Webb, N.M., Jonathan, D., Fall, R. (1995). Constructive activity and learning in collaborative small groups. Journal of Educational Psychology. 87 (3): 406-423
7. Clicktivist. (n.d.). What is Clicktivism? Retrieved from http://www.clicktivist.org/what-is-clicktivism/ (viewed 5 July 2015)