Christopher Butler wrote a thought-provoking piece on the physical costs of a digital world and that the fact that there probably isn’t a digital world at all:
The truth is that there is no such thing as the “digital world.” It is not a realm that exists apart from the so-called real world. Everything that is digital — information, exchanges, and experiences — is also physical. And yet, as infinite as we imagine the digital world to be, there is only so much physical stuff to go around. We are facing a very real future of scarcity, not abundance, and it will only be more severe if we continue to deny the true, hard costs of digital culture. We need to begin to express it in harmony with the physical world.
Butler makes some very interesting points that I agree with (and I’m not knowledgeable enough to disagree with any yet). I particularly like the phrase “A World Within, Not Instead of” as a reminder that without the physical world and its tangible resources—microchips, electricity, metal, water, human input—the digital would not exist. So I think it is time for a digital conservation movement within the various physical conservation movements such as fighting climate change, stopping deforestation and land displacement. They’re all interlinked, just like a social network. Hell, it’s all a social network really.