How can the use of the internet influence our planet’s good health? What is the correlation between our online business and ecology? And what negative impacts internet can pose to mankind by potentially affecting pollution levels? This is what I’d like to discuss in this post today.
Last week Saint Francis Assisi Feast Day
Last week, on Tuesday 4th October, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi was celebrated by the entire catholic community across the globe. Yet, it is thanks to the latest encyclical letter by Pope Francis Laudato Sii, published in May last year, that the wider community, Christian or not, religious or not, has started embracing more actively the teaching of Saint Francis, who is venerated by many as patron of animals and ecology.
I shall not bore you with the details of the encyclical letter, other than to say Pope Francis, in his opening, reminds us how for many years the fate and safe future of this planet have been a concern by many, including catholic ranks.
[In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”. He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, in as much as “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man”]
The above is an extract from the original Laudato Sii encyclical letter of Pope Francis, which you can read in its entirety by following the link.
I’m a blogger, how’s that to do with me?
At the same time, last week again I came across an article on BBC News entitled “Is the World Wide Web a waste of water?”. It basically outlines the possibility, whenever we use the internet both on a computer, laptop, but even on our mobiles, that we may use up to 200 litres of water for every time that we download a gigabyte of data. Imperial College London is the one leading the research, but they have not confirmed a specific figure yet, as too many uncertainties are surrounding the evidence yet.
What’s water to do with the use of the internet?
I had to get my head around on how the use of internet and the potential wase of water as a result may work hand in hand. But then I read on and it all became very naturally clear.
It is to do with the exchange of data that takes place whenever we push that button to download images, to send an email, but mostly, since the advent of social media, whenever we send and receive information by tweeting, or posting on Facebook and all the other social media platforms.
How does it work?
Do you remember the size of the first computers invented? And do you remember the sizes of their servers? Sometimes they would take the space of an entire room, and that would be for just one terminal.
Now, I am moving forward a few decades to compare the size of the latest server I have seen – at work, as it matters. The firm I work for has approximately some 300 employers, so they manage a similar numbers of terminals. But then the servers there must also cater for data exchange of those employers who sometimes work from home. Well, that server there sits cosily in a not very big room. And it is only a localised server, which will pass the information to bigger server ‘banks’, so to speak.
These mega galactic data storage centres – like big factories of data exchange – are the ones that is suggested have an impact on the well being of this planet. These centres use enormous amounts of electricity, which has an impact on water having to be used to produce a sustainable request. Also, a cool environment, or cooling mechanisms, have to be used to prevent these big ‘factories’ from overheating. And this at times requires the employment of more water.
Now, on a planet that has been battling shortage of water for many decades, surely this cannot have a positive impact!
The BBC article went on explaining how big internet giants Microsoft, or Facebook or Google are taking steps to become more ecologically aware, and to find possible solutions to reduce the consumption of water in order to keep their data exchange centres alive.
It appears that Microsoft is currently testing an underwater data centre – ideal, I suppose, as you would have full access to water supply for the production of energy, but also as it would be a natural cooling environment for the overheating reaction of the centre.
Facebook, on the other hand, have recently built a data centre in the Arctic Circle, again to make the most of a natural way of preventing overheating.
Other big corporate internet giants are pledging to use renewable energy, such as the one produced by wind farms, or to reduce the production of landfill rubbish to virtually reach 100% expectations.
But how can we as individuals and part of society contribute to make, or retain, a healthier planet in our small and relatively contained use of the internet?
Let’s be sensible
First of all, let us think of how many hours a day we use and exchange data. It is not only the time spent working online – and for many of us, this is equally an enjoyable but also necessary activity, if we make online business our prime source of income. I am also referring, however, to the many hours spent on our phones, sending digital texts, not to talk about chat exchanges on social media.
Think of the commuting time you spend on a train every day, if you are working away from home. Now, think of all the people on that same carriage as you that are on their phones ‘chatting’ online. As individuals, nobody will think to have a major impact on the global footprint if you do a bit of social media daily socialising. But try putting together the amount of data exchange taking place in every carriage packed with commuters, and in each carriage of the train where you are. And try multiplying that figure by the number of journeys that train makes every day. The outcome will be mind blowing! And that’s how each of us will compromise the good health of this planet.
On a latest news, it was only of a few days ago the announcement by Samsung that they are withdrawing production of their smart phone Galaxy Note 7 after receiving health and safety reports by many customers that the phone catches fire. The reason apparently lays in the fact that smartphones, and the Galaxy in particular, overheat quite easily and quickly. This news should give a measure of how much heating energy we produce by using our smartphones, to the point that the more we use our phones for prolonged periods of time, the more we endanger our planet by creating unnecessary overheating on the planet and in the surrounding atmosphere.
I am far from suggesting that we should stop communicating by social media, or we should stop using the internet to build our business and create a home based income. I promote the concept wholly. But we can all take simple measures that will help prevent polluting levels from increasing to even more disastrous levels. My recommendations are the following:
- Reduce spamming
When on social media platforms, or forums, or community support online groups, try to reduce spamming. I am not encouraging rudeness – it is basic politeness to thank for an answer to your question, or not to ignore other parties’ communication. But try and stick to the point of the discussion, and don’t use all sorts of platforms to digress. Each online conversation is focused on a specific subject, so it is up to you to find the right forum to talk about the weather, or yesterday to programme, or the latest Jamie Oliver recipe.
- Switch off connection when not needed
Surely you do not need to be connected to the internet or to a floating wi-fi signal all the times. If you know that there isn’t signal in the underground, or on a high peak mountain, just switch off the wi-fi connection until you know that you are in a receptive area. Likewise, do not keep your bluetooth connection open if you know that you are not going to use the relevant app. In other words, switch the data collection facilities only when you know you are going to use them.
- Switch off your devices when not needed
The same recommendation your employer wants you to follow at work, when you are kindly asked to switch off your screen in order to avoid unnecessary consumption of electricity, should also be followed with your own devises for personal use. So, do not leave your tv set on stand-by. Switch it off completely. Likewise, switch your laptop off (unless you are asked to keep it plugged in for software updates), if you taking a break from your online work for a couple of hours. And again, do not overcharge your mobile phone, or your portable devices, but allow the battery to run low before recharging – this will avoid the battery to overheat through the constant recharging, as well as allowing to make complete use of the energy stored on the battery unit.
The above are only but a few of the steps that we can take not to make matters worse. But I am sure you have plenty of alternative suggestions to shout out. If so, do share them with us, and leave a message below. Thank you.