Of the 86 groups that formed the Stop Watching Us coalition to protest the NSA’s illegal spying on people’s Internet use, you might wonder why Greenpeace was on the list. We had a bunch of good reasons to join, not least of all the fact that we have a long history as the target of illegal espionage, often at the hands of corporations, though the government has spied on us its fair share as well.
We know firsthand how quickly government agencies can tumble down a slippery slope, using tools that were ostensibly meant to protect people as a political weapon instead. We also recognize an act of heroic civil disobedience when we see one, and Edward Snowden deserves all of our praise for his patriotic action to protect people’s rights despite great personal risk.
But there is a much more important reason why we have taken a stand against the NSA’s spying, and why you should consider doing the same:
A free, open Internet may be our last best hope to save the planet.
Like all tools, the Internet is not inherently good or evil – its value is determined by the intentions of its users.
Thankfully, an incredible number of people are currently using the Internet to make the world a better place. From the Arab Spring, to Gezi, to Greenpeace activists punking oil companies’ propaganda, people are using the Internet as a powerful tool to organize democratically and fight for their rights.
But corporations and governments are slow to cede power, and they will fight back using the exact same technology.
That is one of the greatest threats posed by the NSA’s illegal spying program. The idea that the NSA is monitoring so many people’s communication is deeply unnerving; the idea that they could use the program to entrench governments’ political power is downright terrifying.
The fight over the future of the Internet extends into the non-virtual world as well. Greenpeace has been calling for an Internet powered by clean energy, so that as it continues to grow, it can simultaneously help drive the clean energy revolution we desperately need to slow down climate change.
And what kind of power is fueling the data center that Big Brother is building to store our illegally collected Facebook posts and phone calls? Coal, of course! The data center, which is estimated to draw 65 megawatts of electricity, as much as some towns, is being constructed in Utah, where 84 % of the electricity comes from coal, according to Energy Information Administration data.
Illegal government spying, powered by the fuel most responsible for climate change, represents a special kind of darkness, an absurdly apt metaphor for the worst kind of Internet we could imagine.
We will keep working to build an Internet that is free, open and green. Please join us, starting by adding your name to the over 100,000 people and organizations who have already signed the Stop Watching Us petition.