Barbados and the world’s push towards expanding the digital economy is a threat to the environment.
This view emerged last week during a session of the United Nationals Conference on Trade and Development’s e-Commerce Week 2022.
One of the opinions expressed was that while digitalisation had many economic benefits, its effect on the environment was often overlooked.
Gerry McGovern, author of the book World Wide Waste said the rapidly growing digital ecosystem was exacting a heavy toll on the planet.
“We are killing the planet through the use of technology,” he said.
McGovern cited the 120 trillion spam emails sent every year, creating 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and said about 3.6 billion trees would need to be planted every year to offset the pollution.
UNCTAD said he also pointed to digitalisation’s “enormous material impact on the Earth and living systems”.
For example, a smartphone, can contain 1 000 materials. It was pointed out that humanity pulls some 100 billion tonnes of raw materials out of the fabric of the planet annually, equivalent to destroying two thirds of the mass of Mount-Everest every 12 months.
McGovern argued that 95 per cent of data was wasted, stating: “There’s a massive waste problem in digital. Most of the massive data created has no value.”
He criticised big tech companies for designing devices that needed to be updated or replaced frequently and were difficult to recycle, warning that waste from old phones, computers and screens were piling up fast.
McGovern also said that less than 20 per cent of electronic waste was recycled, but even this was done in a way that is highly polluting as it was dumped by “ships of doom” in developing nations, causing untold environmental harm.
He said that digital tools could help save the planet by making things more efficient and more environmentally-friendly, while improving living standards.
“Keep things until they break and then fix them. We must make things that last and make things last,” he added. (SC)