The Internet: Good or Evil for the Environment?

Something has been bothering me lately and that is my impact on the environment through my mouse clicks. How can something as abstract as the internet be a danger to the planet you may ask? But think about the amount of information that is being stored for the internet; stored not in the air but in massive data centres which consume energy.

Every email you send, every drunken snapshot uploaded to Facebook, every word of this blog and that funny video on YouTube has a carbon footprint.  Facebook’s future data centre is a far cry from the single server that the internet site started out from (see picture).

Facebook‘s New Custom Built Data Centre. Bit bigger than a single Server.

There are few figures for the exact carbon impact per KB of data that is stored and of course it varies depending on the data centres age, location, electricity source, and size. But the impact of a single spam email is predicted by a study from the ICT as like driving a car three feet. The average spam mail is about 10 KB so my Facebook profile which has some 500 photos at several tens of KBs  a piece has quite an impact on the environment.

Part of the problem is we are multiplying data more times, but with different names and in different locations.  This post is the collection of what I have found on the internet and for legal reasons it is an original, but look at YouTube and you will see videos that are basically the same, go to Google and search a fact and you will find that fact in several reposted articles of the original fact, go to your friends’ Facebook profiles and view once again that photo of that massive lying Buddha of Bangkok. We are basically creating carbon smog on the internet,

But is the internet also good?

Yes. It has cut our carbon footprint indirectly by providing people with work in services instead of heavy industries.  We are now creating more information and developing more efficient communications, but we are creating a massive drain on our electricity supply at the same time.

The internet also is enabling new forms of media delivery. We are watching less television and therefore the increase in internet use is being partially offset by decreases elsewhere.

The internet is also mobilising new groups. The environmental movement is using the internet increasingly to bring about change. Emails are the easier form of written communication and it is a more carbon effective communication than via post, when you consider the paper and transport costs.

The internet is here, but what we should do is consider the way we transfer information.  Is that email really necessary, is that attachment needed, do I need to post ten pictures of my evening meal.  The internet could be a clean temple of human knowledge or it could become an energy hungry rubbish tip of regurgitated waste.

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