loader image


Recall those days and the hype around the of consumption of plastics bottles v/s the papers cups at schools, colleges, offices, cinemas and so on! Environmental enthusiasts permeated the notion of eradicating the use of paper cups every time you wished to quench your thirst. Refilling your plastic or glass bottles were preferable alternatives.

At least the late Gen Y’s and the Gen Z’s can relate to this, back in the days when they were younger or growing old! There would be protests around schools or cafeterias promoting the ideology of ‘saving paper’, ‘saving trees’ and rather ‘planting tress’. Similarly posters ( all in vibrant colours, origami pasted here and there) would be spotted around schools or class rooms stating the same message.

‘Stop the use of paper cups’, ‘stop printing study material’, ‘save paper’, ‘save trees’, ‘save the Amazon rainforest and their communities’ ‘save the planet’ and ‘save the human race’ were the mottos that left an imprint on every child’s mind. (The budding entrepreneurs of clean tech startups, biotech based startups, deep technology enthusiasts and artists).

So coming back: So okay we got rid of paper cups and essentially printouts that were ultimately substituted by emails and student-teacher portals/ dashboards. E-books replaced printed books, handouts were replaced by pdf files, notes were collected and articulated on tablets or laptops aged on cloud. In fact the student- parent- teacher meeting portfolios (the time we proudly presented our fav pieces of work to our parents ) too were transferred online. We were going digital!

What about the outer real world, they were catching up faster than schools around the world.

So probably around that time supercomputers were in full gear with technological advancements revolutionising the world everyday. Changing the technical landscape of the workspace as they adapted to new tech, CRM, SAP, Oracle and many more databases and portals to keep records intact and maintain connections with their immediate stakeholders (suppliers, employees). Hmmm so increasing use of energy to power these software! A thought to ponder upon, isn’t it?

Plastic pollution was in headlines, as it covered oceans around the world with plastic residue due to it’s non degradable nature. So then glass bottled (claimed the cleanest way to store drinking water) were adopted for storing water and water consumption. Fines and penalties were introduced for those who polluted beaches with plastic waste! Firms were encouraged to use paper based packaging (what? Weren’t we saving paper actually) The premises of using recycled paper or reusing old plastic or cloth bags gained relevance! Furthermore innovations took centre stage such as creating plastics in lab that were biodegradable!

And again schools were swamped with posters of eliminating plastic use and follow the 3Rs (Reuse, Refuse and Recycle- those days! And the segregation of wastes so they could be treated separately). Remember the school trips to the beach that encouraged us to clean the beach wearing gloves!

Food packaging too become regulated as governments realised the impact of consumerism on the environment. Burning of waste and although more Herculean amounts of e-waste emitted dangerous greenhouse gasses. Individuals who dealt with e-waste contracted fatal skin infections or diseases. Harmful chemicals from the e-waste flowed into rivers that ultimately led to spread of diseases such as cancer, or the burning of the e-waste led to respiratory diseases amongst people who lived near these sites or landfill sites. Manufacturing factories around the world were condemned for causing pollution such as emission of green house gasses, from their production activities. Not only air pollution but polluting nearby water ways, endangering marine life and nearby inhabitants ( leading to rise in cases of cancer) . All these activities led to unintended consequences such as an increase natural disasters around the world as well as loss of biodiversity. Multiple summits and protocols were organised around the world to manage the environmental crisis such a Kyoto Protocol, MDGs now SDGs and now COP26, to reduce the negative impacts of man made products and processes.

Technology was deemed as the sole solution to these problems, as harnessing it could reduce the amount of pollution created during process, that is absolutely true to a great extent.

Today we live in the world where e-vehicles are in demand and promoted by the governments around the world as well. The venture of creating smart cities attracted government budget allocations around the world. In order to reduce the instances of pollution, ensure efficient use of resources such as electricity, waste management, traffic signals (via sensors, IoT, AI/ML, deep learning and much more), functioning of smart homes. Gen Z’s and Gen Alpha’s are highly active in driving protests against governments to urge them to save the environment!

Here is the irony!

Today notice the use of social media, cloud computing, SAAS products or the establishment of data centres and the accelerating power of computing power- don’t these too led to excessive use of energy on the planet! An astounding fact that cannot be ignored: data centres consume 90 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, that is similar to the output of 34 coal powered power plants. Whhhaaatt? Though they try to use renewable sources such as solar power to power data centres as an alternative, this figure above brings to light the bitter truth.

So there has been news about how blockchain is bad for the environment (a possible solution: Ethereum’s evolvement from proof of work to proof of stake) or now carbon neutral NFTs are being explored! So as Quantum computing will start to manifest in reality, it too would suck humongous amounts of power that probably renewable sources of energy may not be able to accommodate! And then the metaverse in the making! Wow that is a lot of energy consumption! So would the world start to rely on coal again due to it’s efficiency for energy generation or new inventions will take place????

According to Intel metaverse will consume 1000 times more power v/s todays collective computer capacity. A stat suggests the in 2015 data centres contributed to 2% of green house gases equivalent to the emissions generated by the aviation industry. Gaming and cloud gaming varying across different devices too aren’t behind in creating a dominant carbon footprint. According to figures if 90% gamers adopted cloud gaming it would lead to carbon emissions of 112%.

Google aims to use 365 days carbon free energy for its data centres by 2030. Whilst Microsoft desires to become carbon negative and Amazon Web Services intends to use 100% renewable energy by 2025 for its operations.

The crux: whilst technology has been lauded as the one to reduce pollution, save paper and trees, its advancement is actually also going to cause pollution an unintended consequence, now gaining limelight. On an optimistic note technology will surely show us a way to solving this as well!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *