Environmental impacts of the emerging digital economy: The e-for-environment e-commerce?

Environmental impacts of the emerging digital economy: The e-for-environment e-commerce?

Although great potential exists to harness information technology in general and the internet in particular and improve the environment, possible negative impacts of e-commerce on the environment should also be considered and dealt with. In this forum, we discuss both the potential positive and negative impacts of ecommerce. Drawing from insights gained from the complexity theory, we also delineate some broad contours for environmental policies in the information age. Given the paradoxical nature of technological innovations, we want to caution the scientific community and policymakers not to treat the internet as the holy grail for environmental salvation.

This forum first reviews the recent development of the emerging digital economy and then summarizes and critiques the current discussions on the possible environmental impacts of e-commerce. Thus anchored in the basic principles of the complexity theory and non-linear dynamics, the paper also discusses possible environmental policy initiatives during the information age. The forum concludes by presenting a cautionary note on the potential positive impacts of technological innovations and the deeper cultural roots of environmental degradation caused by increasing consumption.

'New technologies affect the earth in its entirety. The more useful a technology is, the more unstablizing its effects can also be.' John von Neumann.

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