Blog: Your Online Business Is Destroying the World

Thu, Jul 16, 2009


Didn’t you read the title? Stop whatever you’re doing. If you care about the environment, turn off your computer right now.

Do it.

Seriously, do it.

I’m waiting.

Still here? I thought so.

You’re human (presumably) and it’s only human to have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Or is it only human to waste time? In either case, the Internet has everything we need. With the ability to shop from home, talk to friends, express oneself, fall in love, run a business, or argue over the meaning of life, what reason is there for someone to return to the real world?

How about this: you’re hemorrhaging energy. According to Havard scientists (so they must be smart), every two Google searches produces enough energy to boil a pot of coffee.

And that’s just Google. Think about that season of The Office you watched last weekend on Hulu, those hundreds of Harry Potter (or #iranelection) tweets you unthinkingly tweeted yesterday, or all of those Blu-Ray discs you listed on eBay. And don’t get me started on spam mail. Congratulations, you’ve generated enough heat to turn a mile-wide chunk of Antarctica into a bubbling jacuzzi.

But wait! What about your business? How can you go back to that brick-and-mortar world, populated by empty shopping malls and barren stretches of highway? How can your small business succeed in a place where even giants have crumbled, their ashes doled out to the uncaring masses in so many spaces for rent and liquidation sales? What will become of your embryonic enterprise?

Panicked yet? Don’t be.

You’ll keep doing what you’re doing, but you’ll be conscious of the environmental impact of your online activity, just as you are with the other ways you use energy. You’ll realize that many “scientific” studies are exaggerated and even Harvard scientists sometimes make facts up if they sound good. You’ll stop yourself before you play some Bejeweled knock-off flash game for the third hour in a row and you’ll take a break from working on your computer or your BlackBerry every now and then.

The Internet is part of the real world. It’s humans producing energy, the same kind of energy we’ve always produced, but just in a different way. And like any form of production, we can’t sustain it all the time. Take a break. Your business and your planet will breathe easy.

Google Matt Lurie and you’ll help cook his dinner.

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