The Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry is touted to be environmentally friendly. In March of this year the European Union launched its industrial strategy for a green and digital Europe. It is fashionable, albeit unjustified, to couple digital with green. With an annual carbon footprint of something under 800 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions the pollution caused by the ICT industry globally is comparable to that of the aviation industry and about 70% of that of the shipping industry.
Global E-Waste amounted to 54 million metric tonnes (Mt) in 2019, of which only 17% was collected for recycling. E-Waste is expected to increase to 74 Mt by 2030. As if this was not enough, ICT systems facilitate every polluting industry that exists on the planet. The industry is clever in portraying itself as the answer to any national or global crisis. This is also happening in the ongoing Covid-19 scare. Digitalisation of data has also contributed to the globalisation of trade and this, as we are now experiencing, is not necessarily a good thing.
Digital is the term used when information is converted to an electronic format, meaning converted to electrically charged particles which are transmitted, received, stored and processed. This data carrying electric current can travel via cables or wireless through space, as electromagnetic radiation, for example, to your laptop, PC, smart phone or tablet. There is a huge global ICT infrastructure in space and on Earth to support this, such as massive data centres. The strategy of the ICT industry is to have all data on the internet available literally in every corner of the planet via a grid of tens of thousands of satellites surrounding the planet beaming electromagnetic radiation down to Earth.
Billions of domestic, industrial and office appliances will be connected to this matrix – the Internet of Things. The IOT promises total connectivity of everything to everybody and anything, everywhere. I have one question – why would we want that? This empowers machines, not people. We are, and shall continue to be, exposed to huge volumes of unnecessary information. As is the case for plastic, the digitalisation of our lives is not driven by consumer demand but pushed by suppliers. Why exactly is bigger, more complex and faster better. We also need to ask for what purpose and for whose benefit.
Our attention has been captured and enslaved by the ICT industry. We are spending more and more of our lives focusing on data and images on screens, living in a virtual world. Rather than having human interactions, we communicate with electronically reproduced voices and images. Being able to download an entire movie in seconds, rather than tens of minutes, is what life is about. We are so uncaring of younger generations that we have forced this technology down into universities, schools and child day care centres. Even entertainment has to be digital. This technology panders to our collective paranoia.
We place electromagnetic radiation transmitting stations on offices, homes and hotels, WiFi in schools, hospitals and all places of entertainment and relaxation. There is reasonable concern by thousands of scientists, doctors and many millions of people all over the world that this 3G, 4G and 5G technology may not be safe and may be causing terminal illness, such as cancer and heart disease. Radio frequency electromagnetic airborne radiation polluting the space around us is seriously thought to be negatively affecting biological life on Earth and, by the way, all life on Earth is biological. Earth’s life forms, including our bodies, use electromagnetic circuitry at cellular level in order to function and stay alive. Many species use the Earth’s naturally arising magnetosphere to navigate and communicate. All this may also be a direct threat to the other species that together with us call this planet home. We are messing with the stuff of life.
In my opinion by far the worst consequence of this human obsession with digital technology is that it separates us from the natural world. This separation from Nature has caused us to lose the empathy we would otherwise feel for each other and all other life forms arising from the brotherhood of life on Earth. Without empathy there is no understanding, tolerance or respect, Humanity’s huge compassion deficit is the reason why we farm and slaughter animals, exterminate wildlife, destroy wild habitats, commit genocide and fabricate wars for profit.
I believe that there is a direct correlation between the atrocities committed by people and the increasing use of technology in our lives. Nature on Earth is our birthing place. It is welcoming, hospitable and friendly to our human life and to the lives of other species. Other animal and plant species have created this benign environment over many millions of years and we freely benefit from it. We owe a debt of gratitude and allegiance to the natural world.
We prioritise technology-based disease mitigation over promoting wellbeing and healthy immune systems. It is extraordinary that Government so called ‘health’ services worldwide are silent on greenhouse gas emissions, radiation pollution, and the destruction of ecosystems that is resulting in mass extinctions and ecocide. We exist only because of, and within, the Earth’s life sustaining ecosystems. The health of all animal and plant life, our own health, and that of the Earth’s ecosystems are inextricably interlinked. We succeed or fail together, One Earth, one life. How hard can it be to get this?
This article was published in the Sunday Times of Malta on the 12 July 2020