second life 2Apparently, Second Life—an “online universe” that’s attracted hundreds of thousands of virtual denizens over the past few years—is onthe ropes, as cash-strapped financial backers have started to pull out.  And it’s a real shame—not only for the people who’ve invested time and energy in their online lives, but also for the real, non-virtual planet.

Two recentstudies have shown that obsessive Second Life players have the second-lowest environmental impact of any demographic group in the US and Canada, trailing only the Amish.  Apparently, online avatars consume fairly modest amounts of electricity; and their most dedicated human counterparts forego travel, consumption, and even showers, to pursue their online lives. As a result, the carbon footprint of a typical Second Life addict is just over one-third of the US average.

If Second Life goes under, some demographers predict a modest surge in consumption, as Second Lifers rejoin their first lives.  But “modest” is a relative term; nationwide, the environmental impacts of Second Life’s demise could be roughly equal to adding a medium-sized city—like Boise or Spokane—to the US population.  That’s a pretty big real-world impact from a virtual decision—and reason to think that the the true path to a healthy and sustainable planet lies in eschewing all forms of human contact, in favor of the comforting blue glow of computer monitors.

It’s a lesson that I’m certainly taking to heart.

UPDATE:  Since this is now in our archives, rather than the homepage, I’ll make one thing clear:  it’s an April Fools’ Day post, so don’t take it seriously.