9.1 Digitalization and ecological justice (Intro)

Just Digital Part 2: Taking Control, Making a Difference 9.1 Digitalization and ecological justice (Intro)

Social, ecological, and digital justice are inseparable. The patterns of
marginalization and oppression that we see so clearly in our world are
replicated—and often amplified—online. People who suffer violence,
who are denied human rights, who are ignored or harassed, also find
themselves marginalized in digital communication spaces. Your experience
with digital communication technologies is an extension of the power
and privilege you have (or don’t have) offline. Women, ethnic and racial
minorities, Indigenous Peoples, refugees and migrants, and people who are
economically disadvantaged, are among those who experience significant
exclusion and oppression in online spaces. In this chapter we will look
specifically at digital justice for women and racial and ethnic minorities.
We will also look at digital technologies’ impacts on the environment

Ecological justice is interwoven into all the social and digital justice
concerns we have looked at so far. The rise of a digitalized world has also
had significant ecological impacts. E-waste, including millions of digital
devices, is largely discarded in landfills. It includes dangerous chemicals
that contaminate soil and water. This waste is often sent from wealthy
countries to poorer ones, where local populations are left to deal with the
environmental and health impact of tonnes of irreparable electronic waste.
Only 19%
of women
in the 46
countries used
the internet
in 2020.
In the United States,
Black, Indigenous,
and Latinx people
make up less
than 5% of the
workforce at big
tech companies.
Nearly 80% of a
smartphone is
recyclable, yet
upwards of
150 million
devices end up
in landfills
each year.
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Planned obsolescence, a deliberate strategy by manufacturers to make
products unusable in a short period of time, results in unsustainable
consumption and needless waste. It unnecessarily limits the lifespan of
our digital communication tools, causing harm to vulnerable communities
and ecological devastation throughout the planet. Products and devices
designed to break and fail, lack of software updates, minor changes
to make consumers want the latest and greatest device, and limited
or prohibitively expensive repair options are all examples of planned
obsolescence in the tech world.
Digital communication tools and platforms also impact the environment
through resource extraction and energy consumption. Most digital devices
require resources found in poorer countries, where people—including
children—suffer horrible labour conditions. Such resource extraction has
devastating effects on local ecosystems and creates waste that can harm
many generations to come.
Our daily web and social media use consumes massive amounts of (often
unrenewable) energy. Computer networks run all over the world, at all
hours of the day. The “Cloud”— all of the computers and services you
access through the internet—now has a bigger carbon footprint than the
more than 115,000 flights that take off and land each day.