You want to be organic? Think digital, too!

You want to be organic? Think digital, too!

Mozilla Foundation’s Solana Larsen, editor of the Internet Health Report, explains why a healthy internet is so important for our world. Why living a healthy and environmentally conscious life should also include consciousness of the digital biosphere. And how an unhealthy internet affects our personal life.

It’s like going through a magical ball: before entering it, there’s dusty air filled with dirt and the stressful moaning of a busy city – on the other side, though, a curtain lifts. The air clears, everything smells vibrant and verdant, a morning haze floats over the ground. Welcome to the garden colony at Plötzensee in Berlin-Wedding!


Here, where Berlin is more German than at many other spots in the city, Solana Larsen, editor of the Internet Health Report at Mozilla, has built a shelter. Her garden is wild and untamed, a very Berlin-y counterpoint to the traditional German allotment. A simple wooden cabin with a huge window front, a reed-fringed pond, lush and welcoming.


She jumps from her car with a smile that embraces the world. A smile that comes with being centered and content in yourself. It seems to be a contagious feeling. Maybe this is how it feels when your daily work has the power of changing the world for the better, the goal of making our Earth a healthy and loving place.

“To contribute to a better world – that’s happiness to me.”

Born and raised in Copenhagen as a Danish-Puerto Rican, Solana always appreciated being able to have a choice, to do what feels right. She’s committed to keeping this opportunity open for everyone. That’s why she’s an activist who fights for a free and open web.

Internet Health Report Article

“I love to watch things grow,” says Solana. “My daughter, or the plants in my garden. To feel that I can contribute to a better world, being able to make a change – that’s happiness to me.”


The internet is also a growing entity. Look on it as a digital garden that’s based on the principles of ecological balance. We should care for it and keep it healthy, thinks Solana. Because that’s the only way we can benefit from the rich blossoms of the internet – and walk through them freely.


“In the early days, the internet was a place where people dreamt about its potential for good. It was almost like internet use came with a certain worldview, like ‘we are all human, we are all connected, let’s care about each other, let’s talk to each other’. For me, it was a window on the world, too. A freeing place,” she says.

How can the internet be protected so that it can be healthy and good for all humans?

Nowadays, the internet is also a space where commercial interests thrive. The open digital gardens, where creativity blooms and chances are available, are becoming ever more fenced in.


And how we deal with offline and online is ambivalent. We take more care of ourselves than ever. We think about what we eat, make sure we buy local and bio to save the environment and support our regional economy, or keep an eye on what we drink, to stem the tide of water privatization. And the internet? Isn’t it surrounding us, belonging to us, part of almost everything we do? Why wouldn’t we take care of it the same way?


“I think it’s really urgent. The internet is something we all have in our pockets. On our cell phones, in our homes, in the hands of our children. It’s everywhere now. And it makes it even more important to get it right,” says Solana. We need to protect it, keep it open because it’s an important building block of our global society.


So, what can we do to keep the internet a healthy place?

“Mozilla’s idea of the Internet Health Report is both: how can we track whether the internet is getting more or less healthy from year to year? And how can we start to think about it more as an ecosystem that can be healthy in some parts and unhealthy in others? Just like the real world.”


The project detects, observes, investigates. Together with a collaborative community. “The environmental analogy is helpful. Because the issues of the internet affect all of us – just like the consequences of environmental pollution and things like that. On a global scale. It’s all connected!” says Solana. “Maybe people don’t know exactly how greenhouse gases work but they know that global warming is bad and that there is a certain thing they can do to prevent it. And that’s what we’re trying to do with internet health for the digital biosphere.”

What is the Internet Health Report?

The first version of the Internet Health Report, Version 0.1, suggests ways to cultivate the movement, to ask questions whose answers could give us more insight into the changing landscape of our digital garden: How open is the internet? Is everyone welcome? Who controls the internet? Is it secure and safe? Are we web-literate?

With a healthy internet, we can thrive as a whole society

If the web is not healthy, not open, not secure, not decentralized and accessible, this would have effects on our very personal lives: on privacy, on the possibility to unfold our minds, and on our consumer behavior as well. Think about it. If only a few companies master things like social interaction, communication or search, how much freedom do we actually have? Should we really invite – metaphorically speaking – construction workers into our gardens so they can put up fences?
“The internet allows us to grow closer together as a global society. Without letting our perspectives be limited by the political and profit-oriented viewpoints of just a handful of big players. This immense exchange of creativity, thoughts, ideas and perspectives is something that really could help the world.”

“The internet allows us to grow closer together as a global society“

Solana experienced when she was very young how working together can have a huge impact. In 8th grade, just before Christmas, Solana heard about a ship lying at anchor in Copenhagen, hosting refugees. Without hesitating, she organized a collection of stuffed animals for the children on this ship. She took her own, collected more from her school and brought them all in huge sacks to the harbor. “I couldn’t imagine that these children wouldn’t get any gifts for Christmas!” she says. “That was my first project as an activist.” Then a humble smile. “When I was giving the gifts to the children on the ship, that really moved me and that feeling never left me. Ever since, I can’t stop being an activist.”

Moving something together. Solana and the classes of the Kildegård Gymnasium in Copenhagen. Mozilla, and the internet society. Multiple perspectives. On goal. Being strong together. The internet is our garden. We plant and flourish there as a society too. “And everyone can stand up for that. Fight to keep it a free and open place!”

The way we choose how we browse the internet can already have a huge impact

Many people aren’t fully aware of how much impact they can have. “The way we browse the web is already a possibility to influence the health of the internet. For example, a lot of people don’t know that Firefox is a not-for-profit browser. That distinguishes it from others,” Solana says. “It makes a difference if you use a browser that’s created to sell you things or a browser that’s created to help you navigate through the net.”


That’s where Solana’s wild garden in Berlin-Wedding and a healthy internet meet. “Free open spaces, in which we can learn, laugh, think, create – without being restricted by borders or nationalities – is extremely important. Also, it’s a lot of fun!”


The sound of Solana’s laughter is light and tinkling, just as if the magic ball is rolling over the meadow. We’re collecting apples while the sky clears up again – a little snack for our journey back.


Text: Anja Fordon
Photography: Falko Sievert
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