Using the Internet Destroys Earth

created Sep 27, 2018

And publishers who create massively bloated websites do more harm to the planet than lightweight websites.

Why not make that guilt-shaming argument? Other similar types of arguments of have been made in the past.

Eating meat produced at large factory farms is bad for the environment. I assume that hunting or fishing locally or regionally in the Toledo region is better for the environment than consuming vegetables, produced on factory farms, thousands of miles to the west in the Central Valley of California.

Buying plastic bottled water is bad for the environment. Plastic based upon petroleum is heavily used in our society. It's hard to escape plastic's usage.

Using Uber, Lyft, and other similar ride-sharing services could be bad for the environment, causing global warming.

https://www.axios.com/uber-sustainabile-mobility-traffic-carbon-c1099222-27bc-4c44-a6c9-5f0714d49aa3.html

... some analysts and policymakers fear that the growth of ride-hailing is worsening urban traffic — and hence boosting emissions — and could be cannibalizing mass transit.

Using the internet is bad for the environment. Shopping online destroys the planet. Airplanes and trucks transport goods for next-day or two-day service. Those transport mechanisms use fossil fuels.

More arguments about how our online usage is killing Earth.

https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2018/09/how-to-build-a-lowtech-website/

We were told that the Internet would “dematerialise” society and decrease energy use. Contrary to this projection, it has become a large and rapidly growing consumer of energy itself.

In order to offset the negative consequences associated with high energy consumption, renewable energy has been proposed as a means to lower emissions from powering data centers. For example, Greenpeace’s yearly ClickClean report ranks major Internet companies based on their use of renewable power sources.

However, running data centers on renewable power sources is not enough to address the growing energy use of the Internet. To start with, the Internet already uses three times more energy than all wind and solar power sources worldwide can provide. Furthermore, manufacturing, and regularly replacing, renewable power plants also requires energy, meaning that if data traffic keeps growing, so will the use of fossil fuels.

Finally, solar and wind power are not always available, which means that an Internet running on renewable power sources would require infrastructure for energy storage and/or transmission that is also dependent on fossil fuels for its manufacture and replacement. Powering websites with renewable energy is not a bad idea, however the trend towards growing energy use must also be addressed.

To start with, content is becoming increasingly resource-intensive. This has a lot to do with the growing importance of video, but a similar trend can be observed among websites. The size of the average web page (defined as the average page size of the 500,000 most popular domains) increased from 0.45 megabytes (MB) in 2010 to 1.7 megabytes in June 2018. For mobile websites, the average “page weight” rose tenfold from 0.15 MB in 2011 to 1.6 MB in 2018. Using different measurement methods, other sources report average page sizes of up to 2.9 MB in 2018.

The growth in data traffic surpasses the advances in energy efficiency (the energy required to transfer 1 megabyte of data over the Internet), resulting in more and more energy use. “Heavier” or “larger” websites not only increase energy use in the network infrastructure, but they also shorten the lifetime of computers — larger websites require more powerful computers to access them. This means that more computers need to be manufactured, which is a very energy-intensive process.

A second reason for growing Internet energy consumption is that we spend more and more time on-line. Before the arrival of portable computing devices and wireless network access, we were only connected to the network when we had access to a desktop computer in the office, at home, or in the library. We now live in a world in which no matter where we are, we are always on-line, including, at times, via more than one device simultaneously.

“Always-on” Internet access is accompanied by a cloud computing model – allowing more energy efficient user devices at the expense of increased energy use in data centers. Increasingly, activities that could perfectly happen off-line – such as writing a document, filling in a spreadsheet, or storing data – are now requiring continuous network access. This does not combine well with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, which are not always available.

Related Hacker News discussion.