How do we learn stuff without killing polar bears?

12 01 2009

Staff at Bobballs are feeling guilty. Apparently, doing a Google search is a bit like sitting behind the steering wheel of the Exon Valdez. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Instead think of being behind the wheel of a really tiny Valdez with little ickle sailors. That’s right, environmental timebomb!

According to this terrifying report in the Sunday Times, a single Google search contributes to such a whirr of energy use in data centres that it’s the equivalent to releasing 7g of carbon into the atmosphere. For scale, boiling the kettle costs around 15g for carbon. So:

  • when I Googled ‘Britney Spears’ – 7g.
  • when I Googled ‘Britney Spears + bonkers’ – 7g.
  • when I Googled ‘Britney Spears + asparagus spears’ – 7g.
  • when I Googled all my ex-girlfriends – 35g. (At first, I thought that figure was totally pathetic. But an inability to pull in my teens-slash-early-20s had the long-term benefit of preserving carbon emissions and so save the planet. So not so much of a spineless loser, but more a kind of environmental activist/hero.)
  • when I Google-imaged ‘Tripitaka + Monkey Magic’ – 7g.
  • when I Google-blogged ‘Britney Spears + Tripitaka’, then put the kettle on – 15g.
  • when I Googled ‘Swayze + cancer’; or ‘Peter Mandelson + smug twat’; or ‘Exon Valdez‘; or when my two-year-old son Googled ‘Ccccnneraasrtadgdfd’ this morning… it cost us a piece of the planet.

For work and other things, I worship daily at the altar of Lord Google. Have done for years. Should I recant? What am I to do? What would George Monbiot do? (And, ironically, does he write books on the environment based on research carried out through the carbon releasing Google search engine? I think we should be told.)

How do we learn stuff without killing polar bears? It’s the dilemma I never thought I’d face…

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