(AFP) – Mar 7, 2008
HANOVER, Germany (AFP) — "I don't care, we're all going to die anyway," says 17-year-old Christian, to laughs from his friends as they play video games at the CeBIT IT fair in Germany.
What he does not care about is the environmental impact of the games console he and his mates are playing in a giant exhibition hall crammed full of other teenagers playing the latest shoot-em-ups, driving games and the like.
Whereas many of the 5,500 exhibitors at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany like IBM and Deutsche Telekom have been at pains to trumpet their green credentials, in Hall 22 there is not a tree-hugger in sight.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer travelled to the fair to tell people what the world's largest software company was doing its bit for the environment -- but the company's Xbox games console was not mentioned once in this context.
Indeed a Microsoft Xbox spokesman in Hanover conceded he had never been asked about the environmental impact of the 18 million Xbox 360s sold so far, preferring instead to forward AFP's questions to headquarters.
Worldwide computer use requires 14 power stations for the necessary electricity, producing more harmful carbon dioxide emissions than the entire airline industry -- not including the emissions created and manufacturing and shipping around the products in the first place.
And games consoles -- of which 62 million were sold in last year -- are the gas guzzlers of this industry, using huge amounts of energy to generate the necessary mindblowing graphics and sounds.
When played online, they are linked up to huge server farms which use even more energy.
And with each generation of console -- we are currently on the seventh -- repeatedly made obsolete by the newest technology, millions of machines, games and other accessories are thrown away, destined often for the developing world.
This has not escaped the notice of Greenpeace, which was taking part in CeBIT for the first time, vowing to sort the "greenwash" from the genuine amid all the talk of green IT.
The environmental pressure group issued results of a survey comparing the green credentials of 37 products from 14 major brands, showing modest improvements regarding hazardous substances, energy efficiency and recyclability.
But Nintendo provided no data for the investigation on its Wii console, Micosoft said they had no information, and Sony's details on the PlayStation were "very late and very insufficient," Greenpeace campaigner Zeina Al-Hajj said.
Greenpeace suspects this speaks volumes.
"The industry has not looked at all at the environmental impact of the games console. The amount of energy they consume, especially the XBox and the PlayStation, is massive. There is no evidence that they are acting," Al-Hajj said.
Greenpeace concedes that some improvements have been made, particularly by Nintendo with its Wii in terms of energy consumption and recyclability, but it says much more needs to be done.
"If you can do it in a Wii, why not with a Sony?" Al-Hajj says.
And a spokesman for IBM, which supplies powerful microchips for the Xbox, the Wii and the PlayStation, while keen to talk about the firm's efforts to be greener in its other businesses, does not want to talk about games consoles.
"You would have to ask them," meaning the games consoles makers, IBM spokesman Joerg Winkelmann says. He adds however that processess for making the chips have improved.
Microsoft headquarters did not reply. Nor did AMD, whose processors are also found in many consoles.
Gamers in CeBIT Hall 22 meanwhile carried on playing.
"This doesn't stop me gaming at all. The fun factor is very high and you think first about the fun factor of the games," says Sebastian, a 22-year-old soldier and gaming fanatic.
"Most people who play games don't really think at all of the environment, they think about the fun factor," he says.
Seventeen-year-old Geld from the Netherlands shrugs as the sound of music in the windowless hall pumps louder and louder.
"A washing machine uses more energy than a computer," he says, turning to get on with his game, fingers working madly on the buttons.
CeBIT runs to Sunday.
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