Limits To Electronic Growth By Katie Singer
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Limits to Electronic Growth: the Internet’s Demands and Solutions to Help It Last Longer
by Katie Singer
The Internet is the largest thing that humanity has built.
Every online activity (every text message, email, Facebook post, Google search, Amazon purchase, photo exchange, software download, video, smart appliance message, GPS search) requires energy intensive infrastructure. The Internet’s infrastructure includes access networks (cell sites) and data storage centers, which require electricity and water.Manufacturing every electronic device requires electricity, water and minerals mined under abusive conditions. The world now has more cell phones than toilets or toothbrushes. Per person, electronics users generate 73 pounds of e- waste per year.
All this—and yet, the Internet’s energy demands, greenhouse gas emissions and waste have kept largely invisible and unknown.
Most people consider Internet access a necessity. If that’s true, then every municipality,
service provider, manufacturer, school, business, household and individual is now challenged
to become informed about the Internet’s impact on climate change, biodiversity and human
health—and to participate in reducing it.
As Bill Torbert, Boston College management professor emeritus says, “If you’re not aware that you’re part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.”