Island Life by David Slack


Feeding the hens

Google will readily tell you how to make a pipe bomb, how much tax Kerry Packer contrived to not pay, and where to find Paris Hilton looking like a racoon, but it’s more coy about telling the world just how many thousands upon thousands of computers it has yoked into service in its many, many server farms. They are not state of the art computers; they're basic PCs bought at good rates and loaded up with the operating system you can depend on: Linux.

They are silicon-chipped battery hens.

They work to satisfy your urgent requirements, your idle curiosity; your panting lust.

How many of them are there? Wikipedia takes a stab: “a 2006 estimate cites 450,000 servers, racked up in clusters at data centers around the world.”

And where are these data centres? As close as they can get to nuclear power plants, according to the man who knows the inconvenient answers, Juha; anywhere where the power is cheap, because boy, do they hoover it up. Here beginneth the carbon footprint lesson.

Is that search really necessary?

If this is news to you and you care about the planet, your immediate thought will doubtless have been: what can I do to cut down my Googling? You may wonder if there is some kind of Google ride-sharing option available. Is there a Google bicycle alternative to the Search Engine SUV you have double-parked outside MySpace? Can you recycle some of your old searches?

These are all good ideas, but if you punch them into Google, you won’t get far. (Disclosure: this may be incorrect. I am interviewing my keyboard at this point. The surname is what it is.)

Something needs to be done.

Every time you type Britney nude into Google, the servers suck a little more juice off the grid, and you know the rest. Fossil fuels burn, the greenhouse gets warmer, a tiny butterfly flaps its wings one last time, drops to the floor of the rain forest and, as ever, God strangles a kitten.

Think global, act local. We’re all in this together. Let’s pool our ideas.

Like I say, I’m just interviewing my keyboard, so I have but a few modest ones. But it’s a start, eh? Here are my suggestions.

Idea one: Make Kiwiblog your friend. Don’t go using up energy to seek out your current affairs information! If it’s news in New Zealand, it will be relayed from the original source to the columns of Kiwiblog. Not only that, entire wasteful paragraphs will be eliminated in the retelling, in the style of Reader's Digest, (if Reader's Digest were your noisy uncle). Excerpts of columns and editorials will also be offered at sufficient length to save you the bother of seeking out the original. Likewise the time-saving Kiwiblog humour service, in which a link to a YouTube clip is prefaced by a precis which includes the punch-line. You can be laughing at Sarah Silverman and back into the billable minutes in 30 seconds without using up a single Google CPU cycle.

Idea two: The five dollar test. As you type in the name of your ex for the fifteenth time today, ask yourself: would I be doing this if it cost me five bucks each time? If you find the answer is still “yes” beyond a hundred dollars, you should disregard anything Pharmac has said this week about the efficacy of antidepressants.

Idea three: Leave it all to John and Bill. Look, they haven’t announced a lot of policy yet, but that doesn’t mean the next Government doesn’t have a plan. In a funny kind of way they would love to start saving the planet now, but there’s an argument you can make that if they told us their solution right away, Labour would just pinch their ideas, and then what? But hey, if you’re worried about what might happen in the meantime just stop using the Internet until the election. It’s full of stuff that’s frankly not all that good anyway.

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