Employee Space

On January 21st, Touraine Tech took place, a day of conferences at Polytech Tours. Around fifteen Cat-Amania employees attended the event. This includes Julien Busset, who notably attended a conference on the carbon footprint of the IT sector. Here are the insights he gained.

The observation

The opening of Touraine Tech #22 focused on a topic that is already affecting us today and will likely have an even greater impact in the future: we are reaching the limits of our planet. Camille Justeau-Morellet presented an alarming, yet realistic, overview of the consequences of exceeding these limits. Water, fossil fuels, certain materials are finite resources, yet they are consumed as if they were infinite. The first consequence for information technology (IT) is that one day (not so far away), we may no longer have the resources to manufacture our computers and keep them running. These technologies, however, have become indispensable both in the economic development of our country and in our daily lives. The second consequence encompasses many other areas: it is climate change resulting from the global warming of the atmosphere. With a few more degrees on average, our beautiful regions could quickly turn into deserts or breeding grounds for hurricanes.

In this context, IT is not neutral

She consumes these limited resources, and more and more. Camille wanted to raise our awareness of this point on which, according to her, our common and individual future depends: Tech is not necessarily High-Tech, it can (and according to her, it should!) be Low-Tech, frugal in materials and energy. ‘What about renewable energies?’ you might ask. I gathered that Camille doesn’t believe we can replace global energy production with windmills, even very advanced ones. The principle is therefore simple: limit the consumption of limited resources and the production of greenhouse gases (GHGs) 

And in practice?

That’s another story… On a website presented by Camille, the wiki Low-Tech, in the midst of many tutorials on making homemade detergents and worm composters, you will find a small tutorial on how to build a cheap computer, €30, that consumes little… At least as soon as the Raspberry Pi shortage ends. At Touraine Tech, we also witnessed a presentation by Jérémie Drouet on power measurements taken from a web server to compare the carbon footprint of using one programming language over another for a web app, both during build and per request. The approach is still somewhat manual and lacks a thorough analysis of the results, but Jérémie deserves credit for taking this initiative. As you can see, there is still much work to be done.

Some are already getting started

And there are more of them than just our two speakers from Touraine Tech. Those in the know will have recognized the arguments often repeated by Jean-Marc Jancovici in Camille’s presentation. You can refer to the French Economic Transformation Plan (PTEF) initiated by the Shift Project, particularly its section on IT, to get the most advanced assessment on the issue. It provides figures on IT’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as proposed strategies to reduce these emissions in order to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change. It also reflects the skepticism, supported by strong arguments, regarding the feasibility of producing a significant portion of the energy we currently consume through renewable means. The proponents of this approach are still struggling to go beyond the already courageous and ambitious spread of the underlying ideology… So, for those willing to roll up their sleeves, the call is out!

The IT sector is also going green, but it doesn’t happen on its own!

Green IT cannot be the use of more and more energy-consuming devices just to monitor the temperature of a vermicomposter. It must primarily involve recognizing the finiteness of resources used in hardware production and limiting energy consumption for their operation. In a context where too rapid a decline would likely sow chaos, this is crucial. While IT proves to be an asset for many companies, Green IT and Low-Tech, despite appearing as impediments, hold a real advantage for the survival of computerized services in a world increasingly facing nature-imposed limits. Perhaps we could raise awareness among our clients about the relevance of running one more server for a functionality that may not be so essential? As they say, the greenest energy is the one not consumed.