Mobile, cloud, internet – they seem obvious, but they are not. Our physical and digital lives take place on the same planet. We live surrounded by network infrastructures and data centers that host all the 0’s and the 1’s of the movies we watch, posts we like, emails we send, payments we make, and every other single step we take in the digital world. Our business and private lives are currently undergoing an intense digital transformation, it’s time to think about the real costs associated with this ongoing evolution.
Everything we do online leaves a carbon footprint. Every time you download files or reply to the emails, click “Like” on Facebook, or scroll your friends’ photos on Instagram, you are indirectly responsible for harming the environment. As reported by Maddyness, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, the Internet is responsible for nearly 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases each year.
A standard that one email generates 4g of CO2. Studies show that the carbon footprint for processing and transferring 1 GB of data ranges from 28 to 63 g CO2, while its water footprint ranges from 0.1 to 35 L/GB, and its land footprint from 0.7 to 20 cm2 /GB.
Singularly it doesn’t seem like much, the real problem is when it scales. We send about 300 billion emails every day, of which 60 billion are unwanted spam (approx.. 20%). In 2020 we created, transferred, and consumed almost 64,2 zettabytes of data. 1.7 MB of data every second. By 2025 it is estimated that data creation worldwide will exceed 180 zettabytes.
Read the article to find out how sustainability and cybersecurity are strictly connected.
Talking about digital ecology we have to consider the definition given in this study: “digital and non-digital artifacts and a user, acting as nodes, where its boundaries are defined by an activity”. The definition given by the researchers from Aalborg University embraces an important aspect of digital experience – a non-digital backbone of the structure.
Every message we send, storage on the cloud we use, needs physical support. Every digital exchange we create is translated in bits moving between servers. To process them consumes enormous volumes of energy.
Data centers are growing exponentially. They are currently the fastest growing area in technology. 96% of internet connectivity is via underwater cables. The laying and maintenance of this wiring map disrupt whole ecosystems, including coral reefs.
Some large sea predators like sharks detect electromagnetic fields. In the natural context, they use this ability to find prey, but in the Anthropocene, they often end up biting underwater cables.
That is why the cables were wrapped in Kevlar, a high-strength fiber used, among others, in bulletproof vests. One kilometer of Kevlar reinforced cable weighs about 1.5 tons. It is highly resistant but hardly recyclable.
Sustainability is becoming a watchword. By clicking here, you will discover the differences and the European agenda.
And like every piece of digital infrastructure at some point becomes waste, as is in many cases synthetic fiber where the recycling process is neither easy nor convenient. In fact, every year 53 million tons of electro-waste is produced, and only 17% of them are recycled or re-used.
The lack of awareness in this respect leads to irresponsible behavior. In a few years, playing videos in the background will be as objectionable as leaving the water running while brushing your teeth.
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