Who’s the victim?

Recently, I have become more aware of the ignorance directed towards the importance of the environment and the various things that affect it. One of things I am speaking of, is the excessive use of technology. Now, I have to be completely honest and admit that even though I was aware of the environmental impacts of technology I wasn’t completely aware of the size of the impact. In the reading titled, “Dark Clouds” the author mentions that “According to Maxwell and Miller (2012a, 3) by 2007 between 20 and 50 million of e-waste were generated annually…” (Mosco, 127). Reading this was absolutely mind boggling, because it’s easy to comprehend that dumping trash into the ocean or driving a car every day causes endangers the environment, but using a cellphone or computer every day has the ability to do that as well. These aspects of our daily lives are causing immense amounts of “stress on the environment” (Mosco, 128). By exploring these impacts on the environment, another side of journalism will be discussed as well as the impacts of the environment on journalism.

I want to first tackle data centers. “A data center is a storehouse of information, the closest the Internet has to a physical vault” (Blum, 239). Before this reading, I don’t think I had ever thought about a data center and what it entails. Data centers contain all sorts of information, such as pictures, videos, documents, and pretty much everything else that ends up on the Internet. This is a very intense idea to digest, because it is difficult to think that most of the data we produce about ourselves ends up in this giant center of information with millions of other people’s information. Now that the basic concept of a data center is out there, it is time to delve into the various environmental impacts it has. Because it is a large source of power, it has to be powered by a lot of electricity, because in “Unsustainable Journalism” the International Energy Agency approximates 400 terawatts hour per year wasted, because of cell phones staying on (Miller, 654). To think that having a cell phone wastes that much energy is insane and then the idea of how much power is needed to power a data center is quite scary. In “Dark Clouds” an example of the hazardous behavior displayed by technology companies and data centers is discussed. “It did not take long for the wow to turn to pow when a Quincy citizens’ group took legal action against Microsoft for pollution spewing from forty diesel generators as is common at data centers…” (Mosco, 124). This is just one example of the dangerous actions conveyed by data centers and big companies dealing with technology.

In “Unsustainable Journalism” the negative impacts on the environment caused by technology is discussed, as well as how it ties into journalism. Because journalism has been in a decline for some time, at times the focus can be redirected to focus on other problems such as the environment. In this reading both of these concepts are addressed; environmental impacts and the conflicting point of interest. Even though it is important to note that e-waste is a big environmental problem, it often times steers the focus away from journalism and the impact that that has on our society. As Miller states, “… journalists should do less research, less travel, less interaction, less recording, and less writing…” (Miller 660) in order to become more “sustainable” but in terms this creates a negative impact on the journalism aspect. By retreating into these anti-tech ways of managing unsustainability, the world may be better off, but what would happen to all of the information journalists gather to further the knowledge of the public? There are so many aspects to journalism and the utilization of technology in society, and trying to have a main focus becomes more and more of a struggle with every passing year.

Even though I completely support action against the unsustainable practices of data centers and major companies, I also believe that there is more to the grand scheme of things that we sometimes forget, once the environment becomes a part of the equation. The elusive cloud and data centers carry a lot more baggage than is perceived through the media, but it is their job to draw the attention away from the harsh reality from the general public and to continue with what they know. What I find to be conflicting about the environment tied in with journalism, is that when newspapers were more popular there was the thought of deforestation, creating a bigger demand for digital journalism. However now that digital journalism has increased in popularity there is now the issue with e-waste, which also harms the environment. In this case I don’t think there is a clear winner, because either way the environment is at risk, but all we can do is be more aware and tweak the daily habits we have, starting with our cell phones and computers.

Blum, Andrew. Where Data Sleeps, “Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet.” New York: Ecco, 2012.

Mosco, Vincent. Dark Clouds, To the cloud: Big data in a turbulent world. Routledge, 2015.

Miller, Toby. Unsustainable Journalism, Digital Journalism. 3:5, 653-663, 2015.