02 : Theme of the Month
Each month Intercitizens Weekly explores a different theme taken from the 10 hypothetical questions of The Everything Manifesto. June is time for...
Energy: Beyond Extraction
Aerial view of Tencent's biggest data center under construction in the mountainous area of the hinterland in March 2018 in Anshun, Guizhou Province of China.
Source: Datacenterknowledge / Jan. 2020
What if we go beyond producing devices with built-in obsolescence and ignoring the scale of the energy consumption that interconnected physical infrastructures enabling digital platforms and services demand, and then exponentially reduce their e-waste, natural resources consumption and carbon emissions?
The metaphor of the cloud can make the internet(s) seem like an ethereal object, floating above planetary life with little, if any, physical impact. In reality, the infrastructures and digital technologies from which the internet(s) emerges are deeply embedded in the planet and require huge amounts of energy.
In 2016 it was reported that the world’s data centres consumed about 416.2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, in turn producing carbon emissions. Manufacturing the devices that tether us to the internet(s) involves extracting minerals from the earth, a process with both ecological and human costs. It takes an estimated 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 litres of water to make just one computer. If things continue as they are, the IT sector will be responsible for 14% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2040.
Despite the scale and complexity of the problem, pathways towards a more sustainable digital economy are possible. From carbon-aware digital products and maintenance and repair communities and practices, to employee organizing and activist campaigns encouraging big tech companies to declare sustainability targets, there are reasons for critical hope. How can we build a more sustainable digital economy that goes beyond extractive energy practices and towards preserving the human and more-than-human life of Planet Earth?