Digital Death: The effects of the digital age on human-kind and mother earth

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

It’s no secret that the digital age is alive and kicking, consuming various industries, including beauty. So why does this matter to us in the publishing, media, and entertainment industries?

We are propagating the importance of an online presence which is exacerbating this issue considerably when we consider the data exchange that takes place over apps such as tiktok, instagram, twitter, etc. However, no one has stopped to ask the question, How is it affecting us? Don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for. Technology is more a part of our lives than ever, and it continues to be essential in our daily schedules, but let’s take a deep dive into the effects that blue-light and our gadgets have on us.

Ethereum (A form of cryptocurrency), uses 33 TERA Watts per HOUR to maintain its digital presence. That’s 33 times the amount of a small country. The amount of carbon emissions that go into the atmosphere as a result is astronomically high, compared to any other form of energy consumption we see for daily existence of humanity. I think that question needs to be addressed before any other form of conversation around sustainability or related subjects. The digital footprint surrounding certain types of media that we consume has a serious impact on not just us, but our planet as well.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Why does this matter? Everyone in media and entertainment is transitioning to a fully digital presence. To further prove this point, magazines and other publications going fully digital is the nail in the coffin in regards to all of these industries going digital. The storage, maintenance and transmission of data to establish a digital presence may have a larger carbon footprint than we realize. It is a truly romantic concept that we can become a paperless, intangible, society that values natural resources, a veil of misinformation that clouds our understanding of the true cost of sustainability.

Managing, accessing, transmissiting data and storing it in warehouses is a very complex process. To summarize, the energy that is used to maintain the ability for us to view a digital world as consumers is astronomically high. To help us understand, let’s take a look at the numbers:

Photo by Rabih Shasha on Unsplash

Calculations:

[A 100-Watt bulb, if burned continuously for a year (or 8,760 hours, in other words) will use 876,000 Watt-hours (100 W x 8760 h), which can also be written as 876 kW-hours.]

1) Coal power calculations: Each ton of coal can generate about 2,500 kW-hours of usable electricity — that’s an average, however, because some types of coal pack more punch, making more electricity, and some generate less. To produce enough electricity for a 100 W bulb lit for the entire year, you would need 0.35 tons of coal (876 kW-h divided by 2500 kW-hours/ton). And 0.35 tons is the same at 700 lbs.

2) Home energy calculations: According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), in 2005 the average American household consumed 11,476 kW-hours of electricity each year. From here, you can calculate the amount of coal needed to generate the same amount of electricity, according to the calculations in (1).

3) Wind energy calculations: A wind turbine rating of 2 MW indicates the maximum amount of power it can produce. But when the wind isn’t blowing strongly (or at all), much less power is produced. Over the course of a year, you can often assume that a wind turbine will produce only about 25 percent as much electricity as it would if the wind were blowing strong enough to match that power output. This 25 percent value is the estimate the EIA uses for land-based wind turbines. If a 2 MW turbine were to run all year at maximum power, it would produce (2 MW x 8760 hours) 17,520 MW-hours (or 17,520,000 kW-hours). But if we assume it only produces a quarter of that, it would be 4,380,000 kW-hours). Each house uses 11,500 kW-hours, so about 380 homes could get electricity from one turbine.

4) According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Hoover Dam generates an average of 4.2 billion kW-hours each year. Again, if each home consumes 11,500 kW-hours of electricity, then the dam is producing enough electricity for about 350,000 homes.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The digital age has taken more of an impact on our bodies and on our planet than we’re aware of. It has the potential to harm us permanently and it’s barely spoken about in this field and in other’s as well. It’s time to re-evaluate the breadth of our individual, digital footprint. The data we consume is not only aging us (blue light pun), but is sucking the life out of Mother Earth.

Author(s): Ekta Y. & Remy Vidal

Concept By: Ekta Y.

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