The sustainability of our data storage.

Sustainability is the buzz word of our age, our country and our curriculum. It also seems to be appearing on a number of the buildings of big corporations – suddenly everyone is after a more sustainable future.  But what does this word mean…really?  And is our definition broad enough?

Some years ago now – New Zealand was criticised for not having a broad enough set of goals when it came to its’ targets around sustainability.  The criticism was along the lines of that it was all fine to have goals around environmental sustainability but  that perhaps we had forgotten to think about sustainability of our communities – specifically our children.  With the horrendous rates of child poverty and child abuse and neglect – those criticisms had (and still have) a point.

Since then our fascination with “sustainability” has continued although I’m not sure that our outcomes have improved in any of those areas.  Sometimes I begin to think that the word is bandied around so much and so often that it has begun to lose its’ impact.  Perhaps we have stopped thinking about true sustainability in its’ broadest sense – in relations to the things we have around us every day instead of the vege garden we’ve planted in recycled plastic containers on the converted carpark out the back.

And this is where one of my idols Frank Chimero comes in.

Frank is a legend and his most recent essay on the metaphor of the white and fluffy “Cloud” we’ve all begun to store our data in and the reality of what that really looks like is pretty awesome.

It’s worrisome that The Cloud as a metaphor clarifies the benefits of its user’s experience, yet hides the repercussions of that convenience. (Of course, it’s old hat in capitalism to conceal the unsavory bits of production behind a curtain.) What kind of energy does that data factory use? Where does it come from? And how does it compare to the energy used if we kept all this data locally? How does that building affect the community where it is built? And what are the repercussions of having all that data in one place?

Read the rest of this quite compelling essay here and perhaps re-think your take on sustainability. Interesting questions for yourself, your students and your school regarding the saying “out of sight, out of mind”.

Emma Bettle