The history of modern humanity is the history of separation from Nature. Many of our modern philosophies and religions have made Nature subservient, the human superior. Nature, we are told, is there to serve us.
We are destroying Nature. Our destruction of Nature essentially begins with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the Technological Revolution. The United Kingdom was the first known nation to industrialize using modern technology, and thus the UK was the first CO2 polluter. In 1751, the UK polluted the atmosphere with 10 million tons of CO2.
World of Warcraft and Fortnite have been played for over 141 billion hours. The average computer that they are played on consumes 500 watts of electricity per hour. That’s 70,500,000,000 kWh. Producing 1 kWh of electricity creates 0.463 kg of CO2 (international average). That’s 32.6 million tons of CO2. There are five million World of Warcraft and 11 million Fortnite gamers. A typical gamer setup can easily cause 600 kg of CO2 during manufacture. That’s another 20.8 million tons of CO2. Fortnite and World of Warcraft could easily have caused over 50 million tons of CO2, five times the 1751 UK global total. Which is course is still not a lot in the context of the 35 billion tons humans cause every year.
The destruction of Nature has massively, massively ramped up in the last 50 years. Of all the fossil fuel CO2:
• 25% of it was emitted during the period 1975 to 1995.
• 50% of it was emitted during the period 1995 to 2020.
In 1970, some 28 billion tons of material were ripped from the Earth. In 2020, it was 100 billion tons. The mass of Mount Everest is about 150 billion tons. In 2050, 170 billion tons of material will be taken from the Earth every year. More than 90% of all materials extracted end up as waste. In 2020, human-made mass exceeded all living mass for the first time. By 2040, human-made mass will be three times living mass. Exponential acceleration.
This is in no possible way sustainable. This rampant extraction is the prime driver of species extinction. Since 1970, marine life, insects, and birds have seen 50% or greater decline. Of all the mammals on Earth, humans represent 30% of the biomass, livestock 67% and all other wild animals just 3%. Wildlife has declined by two-thirds since 1970.
The destruction of Nature has been brought about by the use of technology, and we are being told by the technologists that to save Nature we need more technology. It is of course absolutely no coincidence that massive ramping up of the destruction of Nature coincides with the massive ramping up of the computer industry. Technology is a calculator, an amplifier, a replicator, and an accelerator. If you’re heading in the wrong direction, it’s going to get you there faster.
The manufacturing of modern technology is intensely extractive and polluting. A typical smartphone will cause about 60 kg of CO2 during the manufacturing process. The roughly 75 g of mined materials required to make a smartphone will result in 90 kg of stones, gravel, tailings, slag. (Tailings are toxic byproducts which seep into the soil and water.) About 15 billion smartphones were manufactured between 2007 and 2021. That’s:
• 900 million tons of CO2
• 1.35 billion tons of stones, gravel, tailings, slag
A typical laptop or desktop causes about 300 kg of CO2 during manufacture and results in 1,200 kg of stones, gravel, tailings, slag. About 4.5 billion computers were manufactured between 2006 and 2020, causing:
• 1.3 billion tons of CO2
• 5.4 billion tons of stones, gravel, tailings, slag
This is the tip of the iceberg of damage modern technology does to Nature. Electronic waste (e-waste) is enormously toxic and poisonous, and unless it is properly recycled, its substances will damage the water, soil and air forever. Recycling of e-waste is abysmal: less than 20%. Even that which is recycled rarely gets back more than 40% of useful materials. The reason is planned obsolescence. In the pursuit of growth, innovation and short-term profits, technology companies not only do not design their products to be easily disassembled, they design them so they cannot be easily repaired and disassembled.
Every year, over 50 million tons of e-waste are produced. That’s enough to build the Great Wall of China. It’s the fastest growing waste stream in the world and in another 15-20 years, some 100 million tons of e-waste will be produced annually. Two Great Walls of China of e-waste every year. E-waste is currently less than 2% of the world’s waste stream by volume but causes over 70% of the toxic impact of waste.
The Cloud is on the ground.