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Far from being immaterial, digital technologies have an important and growing impact on the environment. It takes natural resources to produce them, energy to run them, and disposing of the inevitable e-waste is a growing problem. Even after accounting for the efficiency gains that can be derived from these technologies, it is clear that what holds true for economic growth in general is also true for increasing digitalisation: you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet.
The question then, from a progressive point of view, is how to have a digitalisation process that is both sustainable and equitable. This is all the more urgent as the current trend is in the exact opposite direction: we are facing today a digitalisation process that is both environmentally unsustainable and socially deeply unequal. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the regions and populations that benefit the least from digital technologies are also the ones that bear the heaviest environmental costs for their production and use.
Yet, as of today, conversations about digital justice and environmental justice are not happening together in the way that is needed. Digital justice is often discussed without taking into account the natural limits that constrain the very process of digitalisation. On the other hand, environmental justice is often discussed without considering the growing challenges imposed by digitalisation.
In an effort to try and fill this gap, the Just Net Coalition (JNC), in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the Tricontinental Center (CETRI), organised a two-day event on the 25th and 29th of October 2021 that brought together activists, experts and officials from the environmental, social and digital justice movements, with a special attention to North/South representativeness.
The event was titled “Articulating Digital and Environmental Justice: A North-South Conversation”, and was divided into four thematic sessions.
1st Session: Environmental record of digital technologies
2nd Session: What could a just and sustainable digitalisation look like? - Part 1: Hopes and shortcomings of green solutions
3rd Session: What could a just and sustainable digitalisation look like? Part 2: Limits and global (re)distribution for a desirable digitalisation
4th Session: Political implications for the digital, social, and environmental justice agendas
Each session was introduced and framed by presentations from experts, before opening the floor to a discussion with participants. The objective was not only to share knowledge and experiences on these issues, but also to start building bridges between organisations, movements, and regions and to try and identify potential avenues for common advocacy and political mobilizations in the months and years to come.
The result was an exciting event that has been almost fully transcribed in this report, so it can be used and shared as widely as possible.