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Published: November 2019 (3 Min Read)

The BBC presented the more sleep-deprived among us with not just Sir Tim Berners-Lee but also his brother Mike before 6.00 this morning. Important people to listen to, and I am more alert to this because I met Mike last week.

Sir Tim is of course the inventor of the World Wide Web and needs no introduction. Mike is a professor at Lancaster University in the Environment Centre, the founder of Small World Consulting, and an expert on greenhouse gases. His clients include BT, Facebook and Taylor Wimpey, and his third and most recent book is “There is No Planet B”.

Both are fearful of dystopia. Digital and carbon respectively. Both have solutions.

Sir Tim gave his discovery to the world but now has concerns about its usage. Please listen to his recent Richard Dimbleby lecture in which he argues for a “mid-course correction”. He explains why and how the web came into existence. (Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bj15/the-richard-dimbleby-lecture-sir-tim-bernerslee-the-world-wide-web-a-midcourse-correction)

Yesterday Sir Tim launched the “contract for the web”. He said, “The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. But if we don’t act now — and act together — to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.”

To restore trust in the web and its power for good, people must be in control of their lives online, and they must be empowered with clear and meaningful choices around their data and privacy. The Contract sets out policies and proposals to ensure companies place these considerations front of mind, and that none of their users are excluded from using and shaping the web.

Crucially, we all have a responsibility as web users to create the web that we want. The Contract calls on all citizens to build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity.

At launch, the Contract for the Web has the backing of over 160 organisations, including Microsoft, Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, DuckDuckGo, CIPESA, Access Now, Reddit, Facebook, Reporters Without Borders and Ranking Digital Rights. Thousands of individuals, hundreds of organisations and the governments of Germany, France and Ghana all signed up to the Contract’s founding principles. (Source: https://webfoundation.org/2019/11/launching-the-contract-for-the-web/)

Switching to climate change, Mike argued last week that the common issue for us to contemplate is the use of energy.

Energy use enables us to do things and to have things but now in the “Anthropocene Age” we need to recognise that increasing energy usage has an impact on the planet. Human activity holds the key to the environment.

He didn’t say we should stop flying or eating meat but did suggest we do them less often. He did argue that we need to burn fewer fossil fuels and develop more renewable energy.

We can all do these things, and he suggested we act as role models in our own small ways. He thinks we should all insist, and that protest is inevitable and constructive when decision-makers don’t listen. (Source: https://soundcloud.com/the_rsa/there-is-no-planet-b)

It’s up to us. On both counts.

Article written by
Simon James