Virtually saving the world |

Virtually saving the world

A friend forwarded an email last week inviting me to join the “Virtual March on Washington to Stop Global Warming.”

Here’s an excerpt: “From the vanishing glaciers in Montana to the damaged coral reefs of Florida; to sinking villages in Alaska and wild fire outbreaks in California, the impacts of global warming are a part of daily life across the United States. It is crucial that you join the March because the consequences of doing nothing are unimaginable.”

According to the web site ( the virtual march is well under way and has already made it to Arizona. The list of virtual marchers is an impressive one. If I decide to join up, I’ll be virtually striding shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Al Franken, General Wesley Clark, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Leonard DiCaprio. I suspect, though, that it would be tricky to get next to these people, as they will be mobbed by virtual paparazzi, but I could probably hang out with Rabbi David Saperstein or Reverend William Sinkford, who seem to have set aside their virtual beliefs for this cause.

My emailing friend points out that it “only takes two seconds” to sign up.

Now, virtual reality is a strange enough combination of words, but I’m fascinated by the very specific idea of a virtual march, especially one that only takes two seconds.

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Isn’t the act of (actual) marching the protester modus operandi? Didn’t our forefathers build this nation on our right – nay, our duty – to sum up complex issues on a piece of cardboard, affix it to a stick and take to the streets? Or, for even more democracy-threatening causes, to build giant puppets? Is the virtual age going to eliminate this age-old act?

Pardon my cynicism, and please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying something shouldn’t be done about global warming, damaged reefs and disappearing glaciers, though these people in the sinking Alaskan villages may want to stop wagging their accusing fingers at global warming and consider a low carb diet. It’s the “doing nothing is unimaginable” part that struck me.

First of all, doing nothing is the most imaginable thing I can imagine – lounging on a beach (extra sunny), taking a long afternoon nap, plopping myself in front of the TV – these are all highly doable both in reality and in my imagination. And the consequences of these inactions is even more imaginable: extreme pleasure. The thing is, nothing says “doing nothing” quite like signing up for a virtual march on Washington. It is the very definition of doing nothing.

Isn’t it?

Well, maybe not. According to this new concept of the virtual march, I have, by a mere click of the mouse, done something.

The possibilities are staggering:


THEM: My God! The polar ice caps are slushy! Somebody should do something about this!

ME: Don’t worry, I’ve got high-speed wireless. I’ve got it under control.


HER: How can you just sit there like a slug while Mother Earth is dying?

ME: I’ll have you know that I am currently virtually marching on Washington, where I am about to get virtually tear gassed.

HER: Oh. I had no idea. Gosh, you’re kinda cute.


HIM: Hey, are you coming with us to the virtual march?

ME: Well, no … I’m actually thinking of going the “Virtual-Virtual March” route – I’m gonna sign up with a web page that will automatically sign me up for the virtual march. Takes less than two seconds.

HIM: OK. At least you’re doing something.


And if virtually marching is an acceptable substitute for the real thing, why not just create a virtual Alaskan village? One that ISN’T sinking? I’ve never seen a real Alaskan village, how would I know the difference? Same goes for a coral reef and a glacier. How hard could it be to virtualize them? In fact, why not just put up a virtual ozone layer? Hello?


All kidding aside, I really do want to do my part to save the planet. And unlike my apathetic “virtual” counterparts, I’m willing to put a full 4 seconds into it.

Just tell me where to click.

” Barry Smith, an Aspen-based freelance writer, moves his lips while writing this column, and hopes you do the same while reading it. E-mail him at or visit his web page at

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