Is reading this article helping or hurting the environment?
Reducing human imprints on the climate are going to take changes large and small. I’m not too hopeful we will find a workable solution. Governments who impose one will be voted out, and voluntary measures will appeal to a few, even if that means millions, and to meaningful risks the “sucker factor.” Involuntary measures, whether through environmental, economic or democratic collapse are terrifying. By the time we move it may be too late; it may be too late now.
But if there is an answer, it will probably be one cobbled together. That’s why I don’t overlook legislative changes (where they can happen) or undermine personal choices: we will need them all. I’m a vegetarian with no children and no car. My last long-distance trip was by rail. I wash my relatively small wardrobe in a low-water washer. Yet I know that demand-driven economy I live in is intensely energy intensive. I’m sure I have more clothes that most people in the world, and that washer didn’t spout out of the earth. Apples and broccoli are good, but they are produced, preserved and transported at huge energy cost. My green beans are better traveled than I am. The better choice us rarely the easy choice, so it takes work. And there is one sector that seems ready for conservation attention: internet use.
Using the internet uses an immense amount of electricity, from the servers that store and share files, to the electrical use for devices to the energy embedded in making them. Storing and distributing ever larger amount of data — websites but mainly on-demand video and audio — means that our internet use will require more power. If that power comes from unsustainable sources, it contributes that more to greenhouse gas production and climate change.
So, make your computers and phones last as long as possible, build and use lighter websites (that’s a long term fix; one I’ve begun with my side projects like universalistchristian.org) and cut back on streaming video.
Gauthier Roussilhe writes on this subject, making the case for a lighter internet and more prudent use, and offering concrete suggestions. Or go to his work at The Shift Project (“Lean ICT: Towards digital sobriety”: Our new report on the environmental impact of ICT) if you want to dive in now.