SpringFest in Ann Arbor – SignOff Talks About an “Internet Minute” and Climate Change

Every Spring, a student organization called Music Matters at the University of Michigan organizes a music festival in downtown Ann Arbor. With local artists, local food and local businesses, a daytime festival shuts down a few streets near campus. At night, a major recording artist is booked to play the famous Hill Auditorium for a charity benefit concert, from which the proceeds go toward outreach efforts in Detroit. This year it was A$AP Ferg.

SignOff held down a booth at the festival to talk to the students, citizens and workers of Ann Arbor about phone habits and digital wellness. And play fun games. We asked a trivia question about the following stats. The question was:

All of the following happen in one small amount of time on the internet, considering immense simultaneous usage by all of us. Does is all happen in one hour, one minute, or one second?

  • 694,444 hours of Netflix watched
  • 347,222 people scrolling on Instagram
  • $996,956 spent on the internet
  • 2,100,000 Spaps created on SnapChat
  • 59.7 million message sent

What do you think it is? Few people said one hour, and it was fairly split between one minute and one second. The answer is one minute. And video-hours watched more than doubled since last year.

Our collective attachment to the internet also has arms reaching out to the rest of society. Based on some numbers reported by The Guardian, this one minute on the internet contributes to 571 tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere around the world. This figure considers power consumption of devices and data centers around the world, and it equals about 1.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from human society.

Let’s now consider the Internet Minute dollar spend. Each dollar spent was presumably for some product or service. If it was a product, such as Harry Potter wall decals, that product had to come from some shop or factory. It required raw materials that came from somewhere else in the world, and then it was shipped to my house in Michigan.

Each step of that process – the manufacturing, transportation, and even my use of power to make the purchase – puts CO2 into the air. So while the internet is most directly attributed to 1.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, some of the things for which we choose to use the internet have a much greater effect on climate change. By my calculations, that nearly one million dollars means about 200 more tonnes of CO2 (in the USA). We can continue down the the rabbit hole to consider employees for internet companies getting to work, power consumption at those offices, etc., etc… but I think the point is clear.

Finally, it stands that our quest for digital wellness and smartphone use reduction is tied directly to our fight against climate change. Many of us have wondered what more we can do in our daily lives to contribute to that fight. Reducing our use of the internet and our smartphones can contribute in a big way.

Of course, SpringFest was a lot of fun! We’ll be back, and we’ll see you around Ann Arbor soon.

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