Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Cloud (cough, cough)

Google's New Year resolution consists of pushing through the Paperless Coalition, stating that it saves trees and is best for the environment. They say it is better to read online, and store everything online as "if you’re up for saving time, money and trees, going paperless might be a good goal for you in 2013".

This is not true at all, not even two out of three like Meat Loaf's song. It is only one out of three, you save time. The other two, money and trees are wishful thinking and heart warmth.

Google muscles up some figures as... a single search uses only 1KJ (0.0003KWh, or a 60W lightbulb on for 17 seconds) and making some silly comparisons with orange juice and cars. In the meantime, Google continuously sucks 260MW of power, equivalent to a quarter of the output of a standard nuclear plant. However, something has been quietly omitted on these numbers, something is missing... have you spotted it? No? If not, take a look at this advert first (concentrate on the first 40 seconds):


It's you! You are missing, your computer, your light, your table, your office, your home. Your computer smokes, your iPad smokes, your smartphone... smokes. Replacing paper for The Cloud... smokes! Google does not mention the 5 billion or more powered devices waiting on the queue for the results of a single search, the colossal amount of data centres needed to keep your information literally alive, as you can read here, because you cannot keep information at zero carbon footprint cost. Staying in front of your computer is  not greener than walking to a library to get the same information and the latter keeps you definitely fitter and sharper. The biggest bills Universities have to pay at present, that have risen tenfold are... electricity bills. If you spend more than five minutes reading an A4 page on your screen, a printed A4 is greener! and you can read it 30% faster. I quote a little paragraph from "The price of the paperless revolution" article; if you have time read it all.

"... the environmental impact of a single e-reader—factoring in the use of minerals, water, and fossil fuels along the manufacturing process—is roughly the same as fifty books. At first that sounds encouraging; after all, even the smallest personal library contains fifty volumes. But the real problems come in lifespan. At present, the average e-reader is used less than two years before it is replaced. That means that the nearly ten million e-readers expected to be in use by next year would have to supplant the sales of 250 million new books—not used or rare editions, 250 million new books—each year just to come out footprint-neutral. Considering the fact that the Association of American Publishers estimates that the combined sales of all books in America (adult books, children’s books, textbooks, and religious works) amounted to fewer than 25 million copies last year, we have already increased the environmental impact of reading by tenfold. Moreover, it takes almost exactly fifty times as much fossil fuel production to power an iPad for the hours it takes to read a book as it would take to read the same book on paper by electric light."

Now... saving trees... Google can't see the forest for the trees, again. Trees for paper is at present a sustainable activity, sourced by large recyclable conifer forests in Scandinavia, eucalipti in the Mediterranean. The trees and (rain)forests that are not sustainable are mostly for timber, exotic timber, probably that Imbuya chair and desk that is at Larry Page's office, plus the long table and 20 chairs at the meeting room, made of Pernambuco. If paper is replaced by The Cloud, this industry will disappear and so will the trees and the forests.

Smog in Los Angeles... at least 50% of this is can be
directly attributed to Internet and Cloud activity
The paperless dream consists of a world with no trees, a Cloud of Smoke, powered libraries and people sitting on chairs (ah and clicking the odd Google advert, wink, wink!).

The Cloud that is shown to us is always white or blue, beautiful. It isn't. It is just Smoke! Think twice how much you really need it, next time you upload anything to the Cloud. It can go literally up in Smoke, anytime. So, back up yourself... with paper.


  1. Yes... but... no.

    Your argument around The Cloud needing computers but paper not needing them... well, books, print-outs, etc all need computers too.

    Minimising paper use is a good thing, even if strictly paperless is very difficult to achieve, indeed. I would argue that, for anyone that already has a computer/ipad/etc (which would be everyone, including yourself - or how did you post this blog entry?) would be causing less overall damage to the environment when they do not produce paper-based output than when they do.

    And that's not starting on the topic of (laser printer) toner or ink issues...

  2. Yes but yes... you read pretty much like the flawed Renault argument on the Youtube above, as if an electric car does not have a tiny exhaust like all the other electronic devices showed in the beginning. If you take more than 5 minutes reading a page for single use (if you pass it on to 5 people it becomes 1 minute and so on), paper is more efficient and this is not the end of the story... keep yourself posted for the next entry in a couple of days.