50 years ago when the first Earth Day happened, the networks that would later form the Internet were only beginning.
20 years later, when Earth Day 1990 turned the celebration into a global event, the World-Wide Web existed only as a single website in Switzerland.
Today, the Internet is our lifeline. In a world locked down by coronavirus, the Internet is how we connect. It is how we communicate, collaborate, and create together. It is how we work and how we play. And on this Earth Day 2020, we will use the Internet to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Each and every day, we are using the Internet to respond to climate change and other environmental issues:
- Scientists are collaborating and sharing their knowledge. They are finding new solutions and creating new programs.
- Projects are crowdsourcing vast amounts of data from regular people around the world (ex. Earth Challenge 2020)
- We are sharing ideas and learning from each other.
- Policy makers are learning what works in other regions.
- We are avoiding unnecessary travel and reducing our carbon footprint.
- Activists are joining in global movements.
- We are seeing that what affects someone in one part of the world may affect us all.
This open, globally-connected network of networks empowers us to work for change. The Internet enables us to confront global challenges, whether those are viruses or a changing climate.
These many benefits do, of course, have costs. The Internet’s networks need electricity to operate. The data centers used by many services offered on the Internet can use huge amounts of power and water. All our many devices are leaving a long trail of discarded “e-waste”. These are challenges we all must confront.
We also face the reality that on this day, 49% of the world will not be able to join in the online celebrations. They are not able to work at home during this coronavirus crisis. They do not have the Internet access that most of us take for granted. The many opportunities of the Internet are not shared evenly – we must grow the Internet and connect the unconnected.
If we are to solve the many global challenges before us, we must tap into the creativity and ingenuity of people around the world. Everywhere. We must connect, communicate, and collaborate. We must share our ideas and innovations. We must learn from each other and help each other.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure that the Internet of opportunity is available to everyone.
We are stronger together. And through working together, we will find new ways to change the world.
Happy Earth Day!
Image credit: NASA Image Library