Replacing our traffic jams with online highways to meet via zoom seems to be a shift that is better for both people and planet. What we often forget is that this online traffic also needs energy to function and that this energy generation still emits carbon dioxide. That’s why ecological artist Thijs Biersteker has designed an art installation: MB>CO₂. It shows the amount of carbon dioxide emitted while using a certain amount of megabytes.

The amount of MBs you use per second determines the amount of carbon dioxide you emit. Image credits Thijs Biersteker

The global use of the internet emits the same as all air travel combined, which is 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without taking the pandemic and the massive shift online into account, this figure was expected to double by 2025. So, there is reason for concern. That’s why Thijs Biersteker has designed MB>CO₂. He hopes it inspires people to reconsider their data usage. “Sometimes making complex problems smaller and relatable helps us understand the bigger picture again,” he says.

Thijs Biersteker is known for his works that “seamlessly combine scientific research and new technologies to deliver an empowering experience.” MB>CO₂ does exactly that. While people are video calling into the installation, Netflix series are shown, or NFTs are sold, a spherical biotope is filled with puffs of CO₂, revealing the ecological impact on a small scale. The work advocates sustainable data use by “not sending a 10MB attachment photo of your holiday, employing sustainable AI, and giving your boss the perfect excuse to skip that next Teams meeting.”

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