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ACM Opinion

The Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud


Illustration of a data center made to look warped and blurred.

Like any aspect of culture, the cloud’s trajectory, and its ecological impacts, are mutable, not predetermined or unchangeable.

Credit: Taylor Vick/Unsplash

As the cloud continues to expand, its environmental impact increases, even as the engineers, technicians, and executives behind its infrastructures strive to balance profitability with sustainability. Nowhere is this dilemma more visible than in the walls of the infrastructures where the content of the cloud lives: the factory-libraries where data is stored and computational power is pooled to keep our cloud applications afloat.

But the ecological dynamics we find ourselves in are not entirely a consequence of design limits, but of human practices and choices—among individuals, communities, corporations, and governments—combined with a deficit of will and imagination to bring about a sustainable cloud.

From Scientific American
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