It’s true what they say about San Francisco — it leaves an imprint on your heart. If you’ve never been, it’s hard to imagine such a diverse landscape. The bay waters, the skyline, the bridges, the forests. The natural beauty is an American treasure. Ten years ago when my family moved to Mill Valley, a village set amongst magnificent old-growth redwood forests near San Francisco, we never imagined that we would bear witness to the destruction of these centennial giants rooted deep in the history of this land. It’s a devastating sight to behold.
The destruction left behind by the August Complex fire is unprecedented. So far, it’s burned 1 million acres and is only 60% contained, making it the largest fire in the state’s history. The total area of land burned by more than 8,200 California wildfires this year has surpassed 4 million acres. Record-breaking wildfires are occurring more and more often, and show no sign of letting up. The last ten years have shattered records — 2020 tops them all, surpassing the previous record by more than double.
The scientific community has warned us for years. Human activity and its consequence of carbon in the atmosphere causes global warming, which perpetuates a vicious cycle of increasing temperatures. Scientific research is complex and the language in scholarly articles can be convoluted, making it easier to look the other way than face the facts. But, the California fires are a direct reminder of what is at stake.
Drought combined with heat is a deadly mixture. A rare end-of-summer lightning storm was the match that lit the flames. Destruction of our beautiful trees, grasslands and even our homes releases more carbon into the atmosphere and reduces the Earth’s ability to transform carbon into oxygen.
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These fires have illuminated a harsh reality: It is our responsibility to take urgent action to curb emissions now.
Scality’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions
As a software company, our direct carbon footprint is minimal, but we’ve long been passionate about environmental conservation (read how Scality supports coral gardeners). At the beginning of 2020 (before the fires hit), we made a commitment to offset our travel-based carbon emissions by partnering with ReforestAction, an organization founded to raise awareness about the enchanting power of forests and the need to protect them. Since 2010, ReforestAction has planted 8.5 million trees across the globe to improve the condition of humanity and the erosion of biodiversity.
Little did we know that 2020 would be an extraordinary year — the COVID-19 pandemic locked us down at home, bringing Scality (and world) travel to a screeching halt. Even so, our commitment to planting 14,000 trees in California and Paris by the spring of 2021 remains steadfast. Our partnership with ReforestAction has reached an even deeper level of meaning and urgency in light of the recent fires. This is not a marketing gimmick. It’s simply the right thing to do.
The quest for carbon neutrality: Scality joins tech giants
The development of cloud computing has been criticized for being a huge contributor to carbon emission. The facts are more moderate. In the U.S., data centers are responsible for 2% of electric consumption, according to the Department of Energy. The International Energy Agency reports global numbers even lower (1%).
While Internet traffic has increased tenfold since 2010, data center electricity use increased only 10% thanks to exceptional efficiency gains. At the same time, the widespread use of digital solutions has the potential to both decrease energy consumption and waste in the energy production and distribution process, resulting in energy savings to the order of 20% of total energy consumption, according to an Accenture report .
Not only are data centers becoming more efficient, but large cloud players are making a point of purchasing electricity solely from renewable sources. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that they will only be consuming electricity from renewable sources by 2025, they will be carbon negative by 2030 and will remove all historical carbon emissions by 2050. Google and Amazon are also making headway. In its founding decade, Google became the first major company to be carbon neutral. In its second decade, it achieved 100% renewable energy. By 2030, it aims to operate carbon free. Even Amazon is making an effort. AWS’ infrastructure is reported as 3.6 times more energy efficient than median domestic enterprise data centers, and AWS is working to achieve Amazon’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025.
I expect to see more and more partnerships, such as the one announced by Microsoft and ENGIE in September 2019 to simultaneously deploy more efficient energy monitoring technologies and commit to a long-term renewable energy supply.
Progress is being made, but we must keep pushing. Scality is proud to join the ranks of the tech giants leading the way with viable solutions. We are doing our part.
Taking individual responsibility, together
Did you know coastal redwoods capture more carbon dioxide than any other tree on Earth? They are life-giving, and the reality is they are in danger. Let’s not turn a blind eye to the roles we all play in harming our planet. May we act now and with consistency, as individuals and with collective humanity, to do our part while we still can.
As I take in the view surrounding my California home in the forest, I’m deeply grateful for the beauty and the relationships I’ve formed since planting roots in San Francisco. I am lucky to work alongside like-minded colleagues who want to create a better future, not just for ourselves but for future generations.