Most of us might be surprised by the huge use and cost of energy from the information-communications-technologies ecosystem (reference article.) A recent study shows that we use 50% more energy with electronic data and the “cloud” than is used by all the planes in global aviation.
This study offers insights into the ways most of us misunderstand the world and the crises we face. We have led ourselves to believe that the cloud is benign – like a beautiful white mist that floats above us – when in fact the truth is that the increasing use of cloud energy has a hidden cost to our society, in dollars and cents, in environmental capital, and in freedom.
Even as we are ever more aware of our need to conserve energy by driving more efficient cars, turning off lights, and using solar and wind power, our use of the cloud and digital technology is constant. The cloud, and the technologies attached to it like cell phones, computers, and gaming devices, use an alarming amount of energy and that amount is only going to go up.
Computers and their servers are never turned off, cell phones are on 24/7 for instant communication, and as entertainment becomes more and more digital and immediately available to individuals in their homes, the appetite for energy becomes ravenous. Then, of course there are the Big Corporations, NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, and government in general. They consume massive amounts of energy, most of which is used in secret.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, President Bush and his administration invoked the climate of fear to vastly exceed their authority with the Patriot Act. Other nations are doing the same in the wake of attacks such as the shooting at the Charles Hebdo Magazine offices in France earlier this year. Much of this fear is the result of media propaganda, and it has been used as an excuse for the government to “protect” innocent people by spying on them.
Edward Snowden bravely pulled the curtain back on the mass telephone surveillance program by the NSA and showed the world how far our government had overstepped its bounds in the alleged interest of “national security.” Not only have these powerful agencies been violating the rights of the citizens of this country, but also the citizens of other counties.
The US isn’t alone in spying on its people; the UK, France, and Germany have also implemented mass data collection, whether authorized or not, of not only suspected terrorists but also of ordinary people. This collection and “stockpiling” of information violates a free society and does not guarantee anyone’s safety. And it also uses a lot of energy.
If we care about the future of the earth, and the future of a free society, in short, the kind of future we would want to leave our children and grandchildren, then we should care about energy that is never shut down, and data that is secretly obtained and stored by a suspicious and powerful government.
Write to your elected officials, the so-called “public servants” who have a say in how tax dollars are spent, how much power government agencies have, and regulations over energy use. Tell them this squandering of energy is unsustainable, the lack of transparency and accountability from the government is unacceptable, and our failure to find alternative means of fuel and electricity is unconscionable. Together our voice can be heard.