It’s a funny question. How much does my website weigh? Is it heavy? It is light? I have no way of knowing. 

But I like the question, because it is a good proxy for the energy impact of my website. What is its footprint? What is the energy used in keeping the servers whirring in the cloud (which is not in fact fluffy and is in fact a warehouse). 

And the reason we don’t know the answer to the questions is that there is no feedback loop. When I write a post and add some data-heavy images I don’t feel that extra load. 

Feedback loops are what we rely upon to make better decisions. Very few of us want to make a decision that harms another person or being. When we can see the harm we are doing, when the feedback is in our face, we can make a different choice. 

This week the team who manage my websites and those of some of the projects I support had to make some emergency upgrades to their servers. As a precaution we were asked to make our own back ups of these sites. 

I could not believe the size of the files as I waited late into the night for the entire contents of these sites to download. This process of downloading the files gave me new information. It connected me to previous decisions.

Now, proponents of Moore’s law will say that our computer power will keep on growing and we can handle this increase of data. But that’s not the point of this article. 

The point is that when we have no feedback, we don’t know the impact of our decisions. But just because we don’t have feedback, doesn’t mean our actions don’t have impacts.   

If we want to shift from a culture of damaging our finite world to a culture of enabling humans and the rest of the living world to thrive, then we need to start join up the feedback loops. Connecting us, our decisions and the places we impact.

And when we can’t we should proceed with great caution. Because we don’t know the impact of what we are doing. 

My act of caution today is not adding an image to this post.

The Regenerative Structural Engineer, by Oliver Broadbent and James Norman, is out now, available in print and PDF from the IStructE website.