Dear Facebook -- How About Starting a Revolution in Your Own Backyard?

03/29/2011 11:00 am ET | Updated May 29, 2011
  • Kumi Naidoo Executive Director, Greenpeace International

It is hard to quantify the influence that new media has had on the epic, era-defining events of the last few weeks and months. From the revolutions in the Arab world to the disasters in Japan, social networks have played a vital role in organizing collective responses, monitoring developments, and creating pressure for change by communicating these events on the ground and to the world.

New media has proven itself to be a force for good. But what many people do not realize is that this force for good is actually powered by a dirty and dangerous fuel: coal. If the internet were a country, it would be the fifth largest consumer of energy of all the world's countries. And as the internet grows, so too does the demand for more electricity -- meaning more coal, more CO2, and more climate change.

So we've challenged Facebook, one of the most innovative and influential companies of our time, to "unfriend coal" and to embrace green energy by Earth Day, April 22, 2011. Today, we are releasing a new campaign video to convince Facebook that, just as it has revolutionized the way the world communicates, and the way people organize politically, so it can also revolutionize the IT sector's reliance on dirty energy.

(Or click here to watch the new Facebook TV Ad by Greenpeace)

Facebook's reputation for innovation means that wherever it goes, other IT companies will follow. And with Facebook's massive new data centers in Oregon and North Carolina due to be switched on soon, there's never been a better time for Facebook to go green. I recall a meeting I had with Randi Zuckerberg -- Facebook's PR director and sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg -- at Davos in January, where she expressed great interest in reducing Facebook's reliance on coal.

Our best estimate, since Facebook doesn't publish the data, is that together these data centers will consume 70-80 megawatts -- about the same amount of electricity as 70,000 average US homes. So where will they get all this energy from? Dirty coal powered stations? Dangerous nuclear plants?

One lesson for the global community to learn from the recent events in the Arab world and in Japan is that we need to move away from these unstable, unsafe energy sources towards clean, renewable energy. In April, we will mark two anniversaries: the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 21, and the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26. How many more disasters and accidents do we need to convince us to change?

Facebook has already facilitated social and political revolutions across the world -- now it needs to use the same courage and foresight that made it the world's most popular website to lead a green IT revolution.