Article: A sustainable Internet starts with


Does creating a sustainable Internet
start with every Internet user learning the supply chain of one substance in
their computer… and about the mineral deposits in their region?

A few years ago, a telecom engineer-friend’s wife asked
him about public and wildlife health impacts from exposure to
telecommunications’ radio-frequencies. “I have advanced degrees in
engineering,” he told her. “I know this stuff is harmless.” Anyway, he
researched her questions and the ecological impacts of manufacturing, operating
and discarding telecom devices and infrastructure. He realized that during engineering
school, he never considered such questions. His research changed his thinking and
he began exploring ways to reduce radiofrequency exposure and the Internet’s
energy consumption.

another friend introduced me to bioregionalism,
an orientation defined by your own watershed, landforms, animal, bird and plant
communities and mineral deposits. A bioregion is defined by geography not
political boundaries.

course, we rarely define human communities now by place, since Internet
access and airplanes provide international connections 24/7. Infrastructure and
tools are no longer limited by the energy and ores available in any one bioregion.
For more than a century, we’ve made infrastructure and tools from ores,
chemicals and water sourced and processed from multiple continents. Living
beyond our ecological means is all most of us have ever known.

This is not sustainable.

To create a sustainable Internet, would users research
their own computer’s supply chains and the mineral deposits in their bioregion?

In my (March 2023) Substack, Digital Enlightenment, I list
about 125 substances in a smartphone. Consider it an invitation to trace one
substance in your computer’s supply chain and share your research.

Last week, I offered questions for getting to know your watershed.

Today, I’ve got questions about your region’s geophysics
and mining operations.

The geology in your backyard

1. What kind of soil is prevalent in your neighborhood? (Topsoil? Clay? Sandy?)

2. What grows best in your soil? How many feet
would you have to dig through to reach bedrock?

3. Defining your bioregion by your
watershed’s boundaries, what are the primary geologic events
that shaped your bioregion?

4. From what direction do storms usually come to
your region? The door or windows that get wettest in a storm may give you clues and
the answers may change seasonally. Or, storms may come from several directions.

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Katie Singer writes about nature and technology in Letters to Greta. She spoke about the Internet’s footprint in 2018, at the United Nations’ Forum on Science, Technology & Innovation, and, in 2019, on a panel with the climatologist Dr. (more…)

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