On February 5th, Time magazine published an article written by former Time managing editor, Walter Issacson, called: How to Save Your Newspaper. Mr. Issacson calls for an end to major newspapers making content available free on their websites. As he points out, newspapers depend on three types of revenue for their survival: subscriptions, newsstand sales and advertising revenue. A newspaper cannot afford to employ dozens of full-time writers and investigative journalists on revenues generated by Internet advertising.
As an environmentalist, I don’t see anything praiseworthy about making everything on the Internet available for free. Our current system only functions when economic activity is increasing. But in a world of limited resources, we are destroying that which has real value (nature) in the struggle to maintain economic activity. Our economic system cannot function without our ecosystem. We are turning our planet into the ultimate economic bubble.
So where will we get the resources to continue to fuel economic growth? Some people look to outer space for more room. I think we should look at cyberspace. The Internet is one place where we can achieve greater economic activity without a concurrent increase in resource consumption. If we can shift much of our product-based economic activity to web-based economic activity, we can create green jobs and rebuild our economy without damaging the environment.
But here’s where we run into a problem. How can we create Internet-based green jobs if most people are accustomed to receive valuable information, goods, and services in cyberspace for free? We need to transfer money from the real world to the virtual world. Even on the Internet, there is no such thing as a free lunch.