In our fast-paced information packed technological world where entertainment and education are ours at the click of a button, whenever and wherever we want, mindful choices are necessary in terms of how we access these services. Our choices are in fact pivotal and matter far more than most of us realise. Such decisions have far-reaching implications for our health, the critical balance of the planetary eco-system and the wellbeing of all life on Earth.
Internet and telecommunications carry a “footprint” that cannot be underestimated in size and scale – it is enormous. This footprint however, can vary greatly depending on how, when, and where we access and integrate technology into our lives.
When we tap on the screens of our phones or click our computer mouse to watch online movies and video clips or to participate in video summits, webinars and conferences, if we connect wirelessly, then there is a price to pay species-wide – and here is why:
At this point in time, data can be transmitted in two primary ways –
- through wires (fiber or copper)
- wirelessly through the air by cell towers, 4G/5G “small cells”, satellites or WiFi.
Both wired and wireless connections have benefits and drawbacks. The advantage of wireless as we know, is that it allows for mobility: A smartphone can be used wherever one goes – although this advantage does have its drawbacks in as much that it can generally lead to over-use, and, in some cases, addiction – a topic for another post. Yet, this is where the advantage of wireless ends and its drawbacks begin. The microwave radiation that is needed to send and receive data wirelessly is extremely harmful to humans and wildlife, and wireless consumes vastly more energy than wired.
Wired technology, however, is unquestionably a far better option for sending and receiving data when mobility is not urgent or essential. Fiber is not only safe but faster, and more reliable, energy efficient, cyber secure and able to withstand extreme weather events – (please note that wired connections include not only wired to the premises but also connecting from the router to our laptop, computer, or other device via an ethernet cable, and deactivating the WIFI).
To send a page of text wirelessly requires a miniscule amount of data and energy; to transmit a stationary image requires more; and to send audio requires considerably more. However, to send video – particularly high definition video – requires exponentially more data and energy than any other form of communication. Those who have monthly internet plans that cap the amount of data they can use may know that just a few hours of video streaming can “guzzle a month’s worth of data.”
The reality is that currently 75% of all video viewing is done from Smart Phones – i.e. wirelessly. Industry speculated that in 2019 85% of all online usage in the US will be from video. All this video streaming will “require” 5G antennas outside our homes, adding another blanket of radiation to the 2G, 3G and 4G networks most or all of which will still be active. Together these ‘G’s’ are poised to form a web of technology that will insinuate itself into the delicately, perfectly attuned, and intricately balanced web of life.
All video streaming accessed wirelessly translates into a continuum of unbridled wireless expansion and the mandatory irradiation of every man, woman, child, infant, animal, mammal, bird, insect, tree, plant, flower, body of water, etc, on Earth – and so a shadow looms large in this equation unless we commit to making more appropriate and life-affirming choices.
Couple the threat to health of wireless with the fact that most of our energy is still produced from burning fossil fuels and we are unwittingly adding yet another burden to our already electromagnetically saturated Earth.
When connecting to the internet wirelessly, the responsible approach is to consider not only our personal preferences or needs in the moment but also the impact our choices will have on the Natural World – of which we are a part. If we watch video or join a video call (Zoom/Skype/WhatsApp/FaceTime, for example), then perhaps we might consider factoring in the enormous environmental footprint of wireless technology as well as the associated negative health effects and make every effort to access these from a fully wired connection. A little planning and foresight can go a long way toward conscious internet consumption and a healthier world.
Our actions have consequences, and when equipped with the facts of how our online preferences can negatively impact the overall health and wellbeing of not only ourselves but all lifeforms, we are left with a burning question: Do the benefits of wireless video streaming and video teleconferencing outweigh the harm that they cause? Perhaps we can adopt a more mindful approach in terms of how, when and where we access the internet.
Becoming informed empowers us to make healthier and more life-affirming choices and to take conscious and conscientious actions that are both life-honouring and life-serving for all. One simple and effective action we can take right now in our homes is to connect our devices to a router via an ethernet cord. In doing so we help to protect the health and wellbeing of not only ourselves, but also those with whom we live.