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Nature's climate talks, or is the web a climate savior or climate doom?

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[Re-posted from Greenery & Other Fine Things to Look At] You don't have to fly all the way to Bali to participate in some form of climate negotiation, you merely need an avatar and the ability to teleport him, her or it to Second Nature, the Nature journal's archipelago in Second Life. They're hosting a series of chats, including one with George Monbiot, archdruid who wants us all to stop flying immediately among other parts of the climate change plan outlined in his book Heat (an intriguing read). He'll be popping by (I wonder what his avatar looks like) next Thursday, December 13. All this begs the question of how much energy goes into creating a Second Life avatar. Nature soothes its conscience by noting that it is less than an American household uses in three days. But, as I have written before, these avatars do consume more energy than an average person in the developing world. Still, if Second Life could be employed to avoid face-to-face meetings of international dignitaries it might actually serve a purpose other than a rendezvous point for those who enjoy corporate branding schemes, electronic widgets and the ceaseless flow of electronic dollars. The whole energy-web question comes down to which perspective you want to take on it. In as much as the internet enables the paperless office, telecommuting, virtual meetings, what have you, then it is a massive energy boon. In as much as it is an entirely new infrastructure consuming ever more energy on vast server farms, energy primarily derived from burning coal, you have a massive energy nightmare. Courtesy of EcoGeek I guess I have yet to see that paperless office... But, hey, who am I to cast stones, living as I do off of electronic screeds like this one? Still, what's sad is when all that energy is burned for little purpose.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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