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The Sustainable Network by Sarah Sorensen

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Chapter 16. Pushing the Boundaries

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You must be the change you want to see in the world.

Gandhi

As more and more activities are transferred to the digital world, it is inevitable that the overall energy consumption of the information and communications technologies (ICT), which includes the network, will grow and consume more. As the network attempts to keep up with the rapid pace of globalization, its technology and power consumption needs continue to grow at rates that are starting to outpace the space and energy available. By all estimates, the energy consumption associated with powering this digital world is nontrivial. Today, it is estimated that ICT consumes up to 10% of the world’s energy and is responsible for 2–3% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

How do you balance 10% of the world’s energy consumption with the network’s opportunity to push the boundaries and redefine the world as we presently experience it? How do you balance 3% of the world’s emissions with a promise to connect and reduce environmental impact on a scale that will improve our lives? Is the sustainable network unsustainable?

As our reliance on ICT increases, as evidenced by bandwidth consumption doubling every two years, the energy requirements to use that bandwidth also increase. To date, the bulk of the energy has been consumed by the connected devices, meaning the PCs, monitors, servers, and mobile phones (many ...

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