Green IO
#15 Data Tsunami with Gerry Mc Govern and Katie Singer
March 21, 2023
Did you know that 81% of a laptop's lifetime energy use will be consumed before its end-user turns it on for the first time ? 🤯 Gaël Duez travels to New Mexico, USA and Dublin to meet Katie Singer - acclaimed author of “A silent electronic spring", who has published many articles and a book about technology's impacts on nature and human health - and Gerry Mc Govern - well-known author of “World Wide Waste” - for an episode about the dark truth of the data tsunami and its catastrophic environmental effects. 🌍 Join us for a mind-blowing episode where we explore the dire need for sustainable data practices, and how we can take action to build a better future for our planet. Together, we discussed : ✅ The high energy consumption involved in the production, consumption, and disposal of digital devices and data ✅ The relationship between efficiency in technology and its negative impact on the environment ✅ The importance of reducing waste as the primary strategy for mitigating the environmental impact of digital technology ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
Did you know that 81% of energy will be consumed before you turn your laptop on for the first time ? 🤯

Gaël Duez travels to New Mexico, USA and Dublin to meet Katie Singer - acclaimed author of “A silent electronic spring” - and Gerry Mc Govern - well-known author of “World Wide Waste” - for an episode about the dark truth of the data tsunami and its catastrophic environmental effects. 🌍

Join us for a mind-blowing episode where we explore the dire need for sustainable data practices, and how we can take action to build a better future for our planet.

Together, we discussed :

✅ The high energy consumption involved in the production, consumption, and disposal of digital devices and data
✅ The relationship between efficiency in technology and its negative impact on the environment
✅ The importance of reducing waste as the primary strategy for mitigating the environmental impact of digital technology

❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!

Learn more about our guests and connect

Our first guest, Katie Singer lives in New Mexico, USA, and she has researched and written about technology's impacts on nature for more than 25 years
She spoke about the Internet's footprint at the United Nations' 2018 Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation ; and, in 2019, on a panel with the climatologist Dr. James Hansen. 
Her reports explore the ecological impacts and fire hazards of solar PVs, industrial wind, battery storage and e-vehicles. Her most recent book is An Electronic Silent Spring.

Our second guest, Gerry Mc Govern is based in Dublin, Ireland, is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords, and developed the Top Tasks customer experience management model after 15 years of research. 
His clients include Microsoft, Cisco, NetApp, Toyota, IBM, and multiple governments. 

Gerry is also a highly-regarded speaker and author, with expertise in digital customer experience and design. His latest, World Wide Waste, is about how digital is killing the planet, and what to do about it. The Irish Times has described Gerry as one of five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the Web. 

📧 You can also send us an email at to share your feedback and suggest future guests or topics.   

Katie and Gerry’s sources and other references mentioned in this episode


Gael: Hello everyone for this episode. I have the pleasure to welcome Katie Singer and Gerry Mc Govern to talk about the unsustainable data growth and all the environmental impacts that comes with it. Kati Singer lives in New Mexico, USA. She has researched and written about technologies on nature for more than 25 years.

She spoke about the internet footprint at the United Nations 2018 Forum and Science. That's a long time before this topic became trendy. In 2019, she spoke on the panel with the climatology Dr. James Hansen, about the very same topic, so pretty consistent. Her reports explore the ecological impacts and fire hazard of solar photovoltaic, industrial wind, battery storage and e-vehicules. Her more recent book is An Electronic Silence Spring. Yes. Kind of the mirror of the silent Spring written, how long was it? Like 40 years ago? A very interesting book to read, and her websites include and 

Gerry is based in Dublin Island and he holds the MMEITGIOP Worldwide title with six victories.

And if you don't know what this title is, it's a very important title to every listeners to the Green IO podcast because this is the most mentioned experts in the Green IO podcast, MMEITGIOP. And that being said that's absolutely true that Gerry has been mentioned, contacted minimum six times by August.

So that is to say how much his book worldwide Waste had an impact on the digital sustainability community. So I'm truly delighted to have him with Katie today with us. But Gerry has done other things as well. He's been working on the Web content and data issues since 1994. He's a highly regarded speaker.

He has spoken on such issues around 40 countries. He has written other books as well, and maybe the most known one is Top Task because Gerry has developed a top task methodology, a research method to understand what truly matters to customers. And I believe he has worked for many, maybe 500 companies, but we could name Toyota, Cisco, Microsoft, the Word health organization governments, US, UK, Dutch, Canadian, you name it.

And maybe something that we truly share, at least many listeners. We truly share that the Irish Times has described him as one of the five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the Web. And I have to admit that I believe so after reading Worldwide Waste. So welcome to both of you.

I'm delighted to have two book writers who had such a massive impact on our industry, as you did. Welcome to the show. Very happy to have you here tonight for me, today for Gerry, and this morning for Katie.

Gerry: It's great to be here, Gael and great to be here with, uh, Katie as well.

Katie: Thank you. Thank you for having both of us.

Gael: First of all, the two questions I love to ask to my guest is, what did I miss in your bio and how did you become interested in digital sustainability in the first place? So maybe Katie, if you want to share your view on it.

Katie: Sure. In 1997, I learned about the Telecommunications Act, which passed the US Congress in 1996 and Section 7 0 4 states that no health or environmental concern may interfere with the placement of a cellular antenna. This law passed internationally. As far as I know, most countries have a similar law. And so that means that if a corporation wants to install a cell tower in your neighborhood, if you say, well, we're concerned about our health, or we're concerned about the environmental impact of the antenna, that will not help you.

That's not part of the discussion. You're not allowed to have that there, and I was shocked when I learned that law. So I started learning more about telecommunications and what we're doing, and here I am!

Gael: Yes, absolutely. A fair point. I've never seen the issue of this law with such an angle, but that's very interesting. Like nature, starting with human health is not part of the discussion. A pretty potent argument. And what about you, Gerry?

Gerry: Top task is something I've spent most of my career doing, and it's about helping organizations focus on what's important particularly in relation to data and content. And I noticed that with practically every organization I worked with, that somewhere in the region of 90% of the data was always poor quality or useless.

There were a few tasks that were really important in an environment, and then there was huge quantities of stuff that had very little use and very little importance. And that it slowly began to get me thinking about why do we create so much data waste and why do we store so much data waste?

So that was the seeds of the journey. But I suppose the, the, the most powerful trigger was hearing Greta Turnberg saying, you know,"we are in a crisis. Act like you're in a crisis.";

Gael: And you did, you did write worldwide Waste. Was it the next logical step ?.

Gerry: That was the next slide. Yeah. I was kind of thinking, you know, semi coming to retirement or I didn't need to work quite as hard as I had in the past or stuff like that. I was looking to try and do something maybe a bit more socially conscious. But I didn't think, I thought, you know, "oh, digital, it's green and, you know, it's, don't print this, you know, send an email".

The whole language of digital has always been somehow immaterial, you know, the cloud, et cetera. And then the more I researched it, the more I discovered that digital tells a huge, enormous lie to the world that it is an incredibly energy consuming, incredibly wasteful and incredibly toxic.

Gael: Absolutely, and maybe that leads me to the first question because you've already mentioned several impacts and that just goes beneath the "delete your email stuff." So maybe to Katie, because of your very broad view on environmental issues, both from digital but also electronic equipment, et cetera. If our goal is to find substantial ways to limit data growth and reduce Digitalizations ecological impact, what do we need to know about the internet so that we are all on the same page for the forthcoming discussion?

Katie: Yes, I'm taking in this big question.

Gael: Yeah, that's a big one. Sorry.

Katie: It's the question we need. I have focused on learning about three places where the internet guzzles energy, water, extractions and generates toxins and worker hazards and fire hazards. I break things down into three issues. 

One is manufacturing, one is with access networks, and the third is with data centers.

I've learned that AI is another major guzzler, and honestly, I'm just learning about that and I'm really interested to hear what Gerry says about that and how we're creating data that's essentially useless, and that is another major guzzler of what we're taking from the earth in order to have this conversation, for example.

So if I go back to the three things that I have focused on, and I start with manufacturing, if you take a laptop, And you look at its cradle to grave energy use, 81% will be consumed before the end user turns the laptop on for the first time. The remaining 19% of lifetime energy use is divided between operating the laptop and discarding it.

Discarding or recycling are also energy intensive processes. So manufacturing anything is an enormous energy guzzler. We're taking water and oars from the earth. In order to do this, we're manufacturing lots of chemicals and the vast majority of toxic waste happens during those processes before the end user turns it on for the first time.

That's manufacturing. Then with access networks, they're also major energy guzzlers, and as we keep building out new access networks, we're not necessarily getting rid of the other ones. So for example, we've still got 4G going while we're building out 5G and making plans for 6 G. All of the access networks also need manufacturing, and they have batteries and cables and they need lots of energy to manufacture and to operate.

And then 5G, for one example, can be fantastic within a factory where robots can communicate with each other as they're building something. Manufacturing something, but we don't need 5G as a public network. We can use what we've already got with 4G, but we're not thinking in those terms. We're not looking to keep using what we have in the public network.

Okay, now let me go to data centers. Data centers are, they can be so large that you can see them from outer space, from floor to ceiling. They're covered with servers, with computers, and 40% of their energy cost goes to air conditioning because the computers need to keep cool. And of course, the cooling systems also need water.

Those are three things we absolutely need in order to do this podcast. My focus has been on helping people like me, and I am really, I was not designed for technology . But I can, I can help people like me to see what we are asking of the earth in order to do our daily lives. One of the things that I've laid out is: I've counted about 125 substances in one smartphone, and most computers have at least that many substances involved.

I've listed them and my dream is that every user will research the supply chain of one substance. Once that happens, once people begin to learn the true costs of what it takes to use computers and access networks, I think our use changes. Our relationship to technology changes. We realize what we're asking in order to do these activities.

Gael: So three areas, end user equipment, access network, and data centers. It was beautifully said, I could have listened to someone finishing the facilitation of a digital collage workshop, with you know, the ecological rucksac for manufacturing, et cetera, et cetera. The ecological rucksac I mean, I would say the landscape of environmental impact having been set up by Katie.

Gerry, could you name the primary areas of data traffic and where it's increasing and why? Yeah, why do we see such massive data growth, around the world?

Gerry: Well, to some degree it's a bit like the chicken and the egg. We create the tools, the data centers, the computers that allow us to create data. And then we create that data with those tools and we fill those data centers and part of data growth has been driven by basically cheap processing and cheap storage, which we are beginning to come to limits in relation to that.

Specific data growth at the moment would be very much dominated by video. About 80% of internet traffic is video. And then we have new generations of formats. We are going from 2K to 4K to 8K, you know a four minute video in eight k could be like 2.4, 2.5 gigabytes in comparison to maybe, you know, a hundred megabytes or 70 megabytes for the same video in a standard format that we would be used to watching on YouTube.

So we've got the formats. So-called becoming richer, even though we can't see the difference. I mean the human eye cannot see the difference above 2K if it's watching something on a smartphone or on a laptop. But the weight impact is huge. So we've moved more and more to visual communication and visual entertainment.

And that is having a really massive impact. But, data is exploding everywhere. We're sending something like 400 billion. Emails every, every day. So, you know, we send the same amount of letters every year. Everything digital is exploding. But videos are a particular driver. But then we already have the Internet of things and all these automated systems.

If we get things like self-driving cars, they will be creating gigabytes of data or a second telling the system where they are. They'll have hundreds and hundreds of sensors. So all of these devices that we're building the internet of things or self-driving or artificial intelligence are slightly, it feeds off the data, but it also creates a lot of data as well.

So we've got an absolute tsunami of data that the vast majority of organizations I've dealt with have, they don't even know half of the data that they have that it even exists. And the other half of data they've essentially given up on any rigorous way to manage it. Data has gone outta control and you could kind of hide that reasonably, well historically by saying, you know, by just storing it in these big data centers, but there's only a limit that you can, you know, you can fill crap data into data landfills.

There's even limits to the amount of crap that we can create without resulting consequences.

Gael: I believe that the latest study, I mean you mentioned in your book something like 80% or 90% of the data that was not used at all after being stored. We didn't learn from the past. I mean, at the beginning, data storage was cheap. That was kind of a free lunch. Now we can see some effect that this data grows has on organization and still, we are still mainly storing data that we will not use.

So why ? That's a big question actually.

Gerry: Because it's easy, because the people who run or chief information Officers or whatever they don't see it as their responsibility. They're responsible for keeping the equipment up and running. So the vast majority of IT managers are chief information officers. We do not see data quality as their responsibility.

And in other environments where they're in marketing or there's this culture of, you know, "all data is potentially useful". So let's keep as much as we can, cause you never know sometime in the future it might be useful and it's easier and it's cheaper. I mean, you don't need very skilled people to store data.

So you can have less expensive employees if they don't have to think. They just have to store stuff to actually decide what's important requires skill, intelligence, and in many instances, real wisdom and long term experience. Organizations like to fire most of those people because they're too expensive.

I mean, the whole movement of the Web was: "let's get rid of the editor". You know, we don't need editors anymore and let's just publish everything. So we've had this culture that it's cheap. We store everything. You don't have to think about these. And there's always technology. The latest one is artificial intelligence.

You know, that's going to figure it all out for us, which it is, absolutely not because if you bring AI to a dump and you feed it in a dump, you get garbage AI. And that's what we are getting and will get because it's the old computer saying garbage in, garbage out. Essentially we are feeding AI and garbage.

We are feeding AI with prejudice. We are feeding AI and bias. We are feeding AI and all sorts of dodgy data. And in fact, we don't even know what data we are feeding AI because as you say, I don't like using the term dark data, but the data that the organization doesn't even know exists. Well, this is the data that they're feeding AI. They don't even know what data they're feeding AI in the process. AI is going to become an increasingly dangerous aspect in society for multiple reasons. One of them is that the humans who should be controlling it in some way have essentially given up on the idea of professionally managing data. So data is out of control because it's too expensive to do it properly.

Gael: We say data growth is an issue because we tend to store too much and at some point we might reach some limits, whether it's environmental limits or even physical limits, but it, am I correct that the issue for you is not that much about data storage, but that reaching some limits, but data storage, unsustainable data grows in this crazy amount of data being stored, being an issue for humanity, for the way its organization works for the way the human brain works.

Am I correct?

Gerry: We need quality data. I mean, it can help us make good decisions. If only 1% of your data is quality and 99% of it is poor quality, it reduces your ability to discover and process and analyze that quality data. So there's an old saying, what do you get when you cross a fox?

With a chicken you get a fox, cause the fox eats the chicken. And if you imagine the chicken being the quality data and the fox being the crap data for a moment, and you know, this idea that it's okay that we're producing tons and tons of waste. We are just going to come up with clever and clever ways to store this waste.

It's an incredibly cynical view of the world and also efficiency has never, ever, ever, ever led to energy reduction. Efficiency has only ever, ever led to energy explosion. So this, these smart techies claiming that they're somehow making things better with their efficient solutions. Every single time they make things five or six or 10 times worse because they just encourage.

Bad habits and they just say, you don't have to worry about the waste. But it all builds up because as clever as they are, there's still 70 million servers out there right this moment storing this crap. And each one of those servers caused between one and two tons of co2 to manufacture.

And Katie, you know, is an incredible resource for all the physical impacts of all this stuff. The tech industry is always jammed. Tomorrow they create this enormous mess and then they're always telling us about how they've got something in the lab that's gonna solve this mess.

And then when it creates a five times bigger mess, they say, “oh, we've got this new technology that's going to solve this mess”. We wouldn't have a climate crisis, we wouldn't have a biodiversity crisis if we didn't have a driving advance in technology.

Katie: Efficiency increases energy use. It increases extractions, it increases water use, it increases toxic waste. We learned this in 1862 when a British economist named William Jevons published the Coal Question, and he realized when we had trains and we had factories that were making, making cast iron pots and denim jeans, things that people were needing that they used to make in their own cottages.

And then when we mass produce them, we could deliver them far and wide. It was much less expensive for people to buy a pair of pants than to make the fabric. When you do that, when you lower the cost of something, then many more people can buy that product.

And you've got this whole infrastructure, like the trains, like the factories, like the fabric makers you know, where are you getting the cotton? All that stuff comes in, in mass quantities. And so as things become less expensive for the consumer, they will buy more. And that means more factories, more energy for the trains, more energy for building the trains and the train tracks you just keep generating more.

The same principle applies with computers, and I'm, you know, calling a smartphone a computer. It's a luxury portal for accessing the internet. Same with an iWatch. As things get smaller and less expensive, it just means more extractions, more water use, more toxic waste more infrastructure.

And then sure, everyone can download more and more videos, but you see how we're just perpetuating increased use. I also have a question for Gerry. When you said that we're going now to video, that's my understanding is it's more highly defined, but the human eye can't tell the difference. Why are we doing that?

I guess this is also an efficiency question. I don't know if it's an efficiency question actually, but why, why are we doing that? Why are we making videos with such high definition if the human eye can't tell the difference?

Gerry: Well, a couple of reasons, Katie. One is just marketing to have a new fancy feature that your neighbor doesn't have, and a reason to pretend that you're better than your neighbor. Another is the essential pact between software and hardware. Software says: "Make bigger hardware and we'll make bigger software then", then they'll have to buy newer versions of your hardware and then they'll have to buy newer versions of our software and we'll all make a lot of money together.

The bigger the weight of software and data, the more it means that you cannot use the old hardware, so you have top grade. So it's part of the planned obsolescence model. Most features that are released are irrelevant, not useful, and not important. But you know, it's how we sell more stuff.

But it's the software, hardware industry part. And, you know, everyone's in it broadly as well. The TV industry, you know, 8K, it's a new fake feature to sell in the process. You know, that's an unfortunate world. We're in enough of creating fake features to sell new products in the planned obsolescence model.

Gael: That's a very systemic blend that we are into. I think we've got a pretty clear picture of all the impacts now and how everything relates to each other. My question now to both of you actually, and that will be three questions, is what can we do, and especially what can I do as an individual?

What can I do if I run or if I have some kind of management capacity in an organization? And what should governments do about it?

Katie: So for individuals, I really started seeing the world in a different way when I learned how transistors are manufactured. And then I got the idea of this list, which Gael I can send so you can post a link to my website where people can see this list of substances in one smartphone. If every user traces the supply chain of one substance, then we'll begin to have informed users.

And once that happens, I think we can make more informed decisions. I also gave myself the goal of reducing my overall consumption by 3% per month. I was with 3% cause I thought, okay, I can do this. So I stopped using a dryer for drying clothes and I got a laundry line in, I think in some places in the world, this is completely obvious, but I'm a US American and I needed to get a laundry line.

I started finding ways where I can reduce my consumption. And then I got a new website. And so , I canceled my reduction by getting a new website. I'm seeing this, that it's not easy, there's no quick fix, but I'm in the conversation and that's valuable to me. As for organizations and also individuals, I've said for a while, don't upgrade for at least four years.

So every time you buy new, it's like what Gerry was saying. We wanna stick with keeping older equipment in good repair as long as possible. is a wonderful organization that has free manuals explaining how to repair goods. That's and certainly organizations have clout there cause they're buying computers in big numbers.

And so if they delay buying new, that's great. Also when an organization buys something in large numbers, they can insist to the manufacturer that they wanna see fair trade. They want to see that the people all along the supply chains have been fairly paid and fairly treated. That's another way that organizations can influence what's going on.

Another idea is how we introduce computers to children. I used to encourage people to not let children use any kind of electronic device until they have mastered reading, writing, and math on paper. Now, a lot of babies are using screens before they have speech, and what that does is make them not know how to do basic activities like communicating without an electronic interface.

And that, of course, sets us up as a society for people not knowing how to function without an electronic interface. So looking systemically, you can see how we're just creating this tremendous dependence on digitalization, on computers, on screens, and we're doing it without awareness of what we're asking from the earth, how it's affecting our social health, our mental health, our physical health.

So really what we need to change, what we need to look at is our thinking.

Gael: Yeah, I really, really love your angle of attack cause usually when I ask about what the government should do, it's, “oh, we should, you know, have some kind of legislation or put new lows in place, new regulations, whatever, et cetera”; and you've got a very refreshing approach, which is: but let's start with the basics.

Children. If we build a new generation of humans, highly dependent on machines and especially tech machines, IT machines, then we are doomed . I really love your answer. Can I ask Gerry the same three questions? And, please, Gerry, when it comes to the organization factor, I've got some kind of two sub-questions.

How would you relate what an organization should do to manage its data growths with everything you've done with the top tasks framework? 

That's my number one question. 

And sub question number two would be the current movement around data governance DM book, et cetera, do you think it can help or not ?

Gerry: Okay, no problem. From a personal point of view, I think. We need to increase the data free times during the day and everything Katie said there, I agree a hundred percent and particularly in relation to children. But, you know, reduce the amount of times we're either creating data and consuming data, just be quiet for a while as well, and go for a walk without your phone. You know what? Extraordinary thing, you know, nature is beautiful. We are so extraordinarily lucky to be born at this moment in time on this extraordinary, amazing planet that is a million times better than the best virtual reality that will ever be created.

You know, this reality is amazing and we should recognize it a lot more. And all we need is our eyes and our ears and skin to feel this extraordinary reality that we can actually enjoy. So we should do that. Then when we're at the point of creating, either taking a photo again, pausing and saying, you know, is it wise or is it the right time to actually do it?

You know, waiting for the right moment to take the photo rather than, you know, taking 50 photos and hoping that one of them will be the right moment. Because then the right moment gets smothered with the 49 photos, cause you're not gonna look at overdose photos most of the time. But another issue is that after you've created something, that's always the best time to delete. What the best time is ? To not create in the first place to make that decision. No, I don't need to take this off already or don't need to send this email or whatever in the process. But if you have created something I talked to a professional photographer once and he said after every shoot, he always allocates about 30 minutes to review the shots he has taken cause he can immediately delete, delete, delete, delete, knows immediately cause you're fresh at just after that creation process. Then if you wait until the next day or you wait until the next week, it all often becomes too burdensome and then it becomes part of the 25,000 photos that you have and you're never going to go back to it.

So the moment after creation is a great time for actual review and deletion.

Gael: I have to take his advice into consideration and make it a reality. I'm terrible at that. And once you were saying it and I was like, "oh my God, actually I never do that," and then I've got like 1000 pictures on my smartphone and I wait for the digital cleanup day to clean them all. But that's a very valuable piece of insight, I feel super guilty now.

Gerry: Well, these are things I've been discovering in a habit developed in Zuni in the last couple of years is that every time I look for something in a folder, I now look for something to delete. I nearly always find something to delete. So rather than making it this overwhelming activity, which most of us give up on," oh, I've got too much stuff, I'll never be able to do it". Do a little on a day-to-day basis when you're looking for something, look for something to delete in the process.

So there's lots of good individual habits at an organizational level, I think we need to seriously look at getting in control of our websites, our intranets and other data lakes and, and data environments. And actually bringing in proper data management. Most internal environments, they don't even have professional search people.

They don't even have people responsible for search design and search maintenance and search evolution. And then they wonder why we have terrible data environments internally. You got to invest in people. Professional people are more important than the latest technology. It's the combination of skilled people and good technology that gives us great results, the best technology in the world without proper skills.

So invest in people who used to call editors 20 or 30 years ago, you know, we still need them. We need them more than ever. Invest in people who have information architecture skills. There was more focus in information architecture in 2000 than there is in this year. You know, that's extraordinary.

I mean, I find in organizations they cared more about structure and metadata back in 2000 and they care cause they've essentially given up. They've said, "oh, there's too much stuff, we couldn't even begin to organize it well, you gotta get control of your data". And if you have to store stuff for long term reasons, really consider the type of storage that you're going to use.

Tape storage is about 3000 times more energy efficient and less polluting than hard drive or cloud-based storage because tape is obviously much more energy efficient. It's not constantly calling energy, but also tape will last about 30 years or longer. Whereas hard drives you even, you're going to be changing them every five or seven years, and even at the time of hard drive, sSD drives are twice as polluting as HTD drives. Look at the type of systems and devices that you're using to store your data because you can make decisions that will have a hugely positive impact on data. Everybody talks every day about how critical data is and data is managed worse than rubbish is managed in a dump in 99 out of a hundred organizations.

Finally the government, I think unfortunately I'm going to go for legislation. I think we will have to have a data tax. I think we will have to tax data because unless you put some constraints and some punishments for the creation of waste we will constantly create more and more waste and create stress.

I think governments need to create data taxes and connect them with what Katie said. I think we have to legislate for a longer life. We have to legislate for modular designs. We have to make it illegal for Apple to sell AirPods that cannot be repaired or recycled and thousands of other companies.

So we have to make legislation that deals with waste because waste is the biggest problem and threat to life on this planet, whether it's waste data or whether it's toxic waste in the pros. So we need a data tax. We need to mandate that smartphones last a minimum of 10 years and that laptops last a minimum of 20 years.

I think without that sort of legislation the tech companies are not going to change because they're making too much money out of selling new devices every two or three years.

Gael: Okay. Katie, you mentioned that we need a new way of thinking and I like to close the podcast with this question: are you optimistic about the trend that you see today? So, do you believe that people, more and more people are embracing this new way of thinking, welcoming bold ideas like data attacks or huge warranty period, or more serious fire hazard regulation or not? What is your opinion on it? What is the trend that you've noticed?

Katie: In the last week, I've learned about two things. One from you, you told me about the ADEME law in France where if a corporation wants to call their product carbon neutral, they must prove it. That is a fantastic law and I hope that it gets a lot of attention so that more countries can adopt laws like that so that we don't just believe the marketing and we really look from cradle to grave at the impacts of every product.

I also have learned about a young US American woman who started the log off movement, she was totally addicted to social media for three years, and her self-image went really badly. She got an eating disorder, all of this stuff because she couldn't get off of her social media. And now she and other teenagers are saying, we don't want this.

We want a healthy relationship with technology. So I think many people are coming to a place of realizing they don't want this totally consuming relationship with technology. So as more people have problems with their relationship with their computer, I think people will begin to create healthy relationships I don't know how that will translate at the government level, at the organizational level, but as individuals say, "okay, this is too much, this is more than I can handle", then perhaps we'll get to a place where it does translate more for governments and businesses.

Gael: What about you, Gerry? Are you optimistic?

Gerry: In some ways, I find it hard to be optimistic, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop and not make an effort here. What I would say is that if anyone is listening to this and agrees with these sorts of things. I'd just say it's not enough.

You need to become an evangelist. It's still a tiny movement. It is way far from being anything close to a minority, let alone a minor majority of the population. I think we're still in fractional parts, of percentages of the overall population. So I think we need to become evangelists.

We need to talk to our brothers and our sisters, our mothers and our fathers, our friends and our neighbors, our work colleagues. We need to join a movement or start a movement. This is a crisis. You know, I didn't think it was four or five years ago.

I was quite smug about it. But the more I've researched, the more I've talked to this, this is a crisis. There is a real chance that we could lose this beautiful environment. This unique little bubble that humans and animals and plants can live within. There's a real risk that it won't be there for our children or certainly our grandchildren.

So, you know, even if that's a small risk, we'd want to protect against it, wouldn't we? And it's not enough just for us individually to agree we need to become part of a movement or start a movement. We need to evangelize. So please, please do something about it. If you join a group, join a movement, join a community.

Gael: Being mindful of time, I would love to close the podcast. But before I've got one final question for you, which is, and you've already shared a lot of references and materials that we will put in the show notes. But if you had to pick one or two qualitative content that you would love to share with the audience to better understand what is at stake when it comes to data growth or the overall environmental footprint of our digital world, what would it be?

What would you like us to share with the people reading the show notes?

Gerry: Well, I'd definitely say, you know, if you wanna know the physical impact of digital technology. Look up the work that Gael has done over the years. I mean there's few people who have done better deeper work on that physical impact. There's a very interesting guy, a physicist I've come across called Melvin Vopson, who has done a lot of work on the impact of the growth of information.

And he has a theory about that information has a weight, information and data has a weight that is independent of the format that it is stored on. If that is true, the implications of that are absolutely enormous as well. So data focus, understanding Melvin Vopson, is a very interesting person in the information theory space.

Katie: Gerry, can you say more? What does that mean? That information has a weight independent of the format. Can you translate that for me?

Gerry: He's a physicist. And he has a theory that if you had USB stake and the USB stake held a hundred gigabytes, let's say of data, and that if you weighed that USB stick empty, and then you weighed it when you had placed the hundred gigabytes of data on it, that it would actually be heavier.

You would need a quantum machine to actually weigh it. But that literally, a hundred gigabytes has an independent weight. And he said that at the moment, all the data in the world that we're storing, which I think is probably, between 10 and 20 zetabytes that were actually storing at the moment would be the weight of bacteria.

It's a fractional bacteria as a fractional weight. But he said that with the way we are creating data and the quantity and the speed that we are creating data. Within 250 to 500 years, data, if his theories are right, would go from the weight of an ameba to the weight of half of the mass of the earth, whether data has a weight or not, it gives you a sense of the extraordinarily pace that growth data is growing at, and that it is already out of control.

Gael: What about you, Katie? Would you have some resources you want to share with the listeners?

Katie: Sure. I'll just share my website, our Web dot tech, and then go to the reports. I've got almost 50 reports about everything from solar photovoltaic and industrial wind turbines and electric vehicles about how each of these things have ecological impacts :fire hazards, worker hazards. I can also really recommend and he has a fantastic piece called the Semiconductor Water Problem. That's a short video. 

Gael: Thanks a lot Katie, that sounds very interesting, especially the water consumption problem, the semiconductor industry. It has been put a bit under the spotlight, the recent years in Taiwan, where they had to basically choose between rice fields and the semiconductor factories. And I use it a lot when I facilitate workshops or in conferences.

Katie: And in the United States, we are now building three fabs in Arizona, which is the desert. So the tax incentives will be very good for these corporations, but no one knows where the water will come from, and yet we've built three fabs in this state. It's, as Gerry said, we're doing things without thinking, without evaluation.

Gael: So let's try to evaluate a bit more what we do. And for that we need good data. We need data with a good quality, with a manageable size. And I think it could be the closing word of this episode. That was an intense discussion. I must admit that a lot of the concepts or ideas that you brought, I'm half familiar with, so it was very enlightening to see different approaches not just focusing on the energy consumption and let's decarbonize energy and everything will be back to normal because there will be no back to normal if we follow what you've just explained to us today. So thanks a lot, both of you, for all the insights you shared, all the references and the discussion you had between the two of you as well.

That's delightful to hear two guests speaking to each other and interacting. So thanks a lot. It was great to have you on the show today.

Katie: Well, thank you. I'm still taking in all the things that Gerry said. It's great.

Gerry: No, same here. It's been a great conversation and thanks for organizing it Gael and thanks for the Important work you're doing, you're really making a difference.

Gael: Hopefully, you know, it has been a year now that I launched the podcast. We've reached 4,500 downloads, which is not that much Gerry I know because you didn't mention your podcast. But I'm a big fan of the World Wide Waste track on "This is HCD" podcast and actually I salute the other Gerry that will be in the show in some months actually in 2023, that's for sure to talk about sustainable design.

But yes, I wasn't sure that this kind of media was needed in our community. And so far the feedback has been good. So I hope now that I will be able to use Green IO as a tool to reach people that are less aware, that might be environmentally aware for sure, but not necessarily connected with their daily job.

So we'll see. 2023 is a year for you where we'd like to grow, but in a positive way because we want to grow awareness, not data.

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