Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's Time to Start a Digital Conservation Movement

A friend and colleague, Keith Gross, pointed me to this interesting article on greenness in cyber-reality.

My comments to the author were these:

I think you make many excellent points, in support of the main point. It is not obvious what the answer is about how to proceed, because the business models for such companies as Google call for lots of storage and lots of CPU. Further, some people with whom I have talked seem to feel that the virtualization of information and communications will save us from climate change. Someone needs to do the numbers and see what makes sense. Maybe I will tackle that, but I also have many other things to do, and so perhaps someone else will do it first.

I do want to comment on your comments about digital pictures. This is a somewhat complicated area. Clearly 800 pictures attached to a Facebook site is excessive. As grist for the mill, I would suggest consideration of another scenario. Earlier this week I was on the roof of a building reviewing equipment with my business partner, a licensed professional engineer. We had limited time, and he went directly to key areas to document what we knew we had to have when we left the site. I clicked dozens of additional digital photographs of all the equipment. This made it feasible to retain information that otherwise we would not have retained. Later it turned out during the data analysis stage of the work that this extra information was essential. It was not that we were stupid about our narrow focus. It was that we focused where we had to focus and also captured as much of the periphery as we could. Why? Because, as anyone knows who has done video documentary, if you are filming in real time, and some key event happens, you often discover that part of that event occurs just outside the camera's frame. Thus, all those seemingly un-necessary photos turned out to be critically important. So the digital camera costs something in storage and battery, but it saves time and travel that would otherwise have been required to return to the site for more data. But then, taking it to the next level, the question is what do we do with all that rich extra data once we have finished using it. I again need to do the numbers, but I suspect that archiving it off onto a CD or DVD, labelling well, and storing the media efficiently goes a long way toward keeping it all as green as possible. Further, we fall even more deeply into agreement when I point out that such digital photographs should not be stored on a Google site simply because Google makes all those GBs of storage available for free.

One key lesson stands out for all of us in our time. We all need to restrain ourselves, even if it seems that we are partaking of unlimited resources. Those resources are not really unlimited. And they do have costs.

1 comment:

Scotty said...

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and encourage your readers to use the Energy Environment Forum and get a link back !
energyenvironmentforum at gmail dot com