Road to Sustainability: Introducing the Museum of the Fossilized Internet

By Cathleen Berger and Michelle Thorne | March 12, 2020 | Advocacy

The Museum of the Fossilized Internet

The Museum of the Fossilized Internet // Nina Zimmermann Photography

Welcome to the Museum of the Fossilized Internet.

This museum was founded in 2050 to commemorate two decades of a fossil-free internet and to invite museum visitors to experience what the coal and oil-powered internet of 2020 was like.

Gasp at the horrors of surveillance capitalism. Nod knowingly at the plague of spam. Be baffled at the size of AI training data and lament the binge culture of video streaming.

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We’re in a climate crisis. The internet contributes significantly to the world’s global carbon emissions. But we also believe in the internet as a global public good that can inform, empower and connect us.

This museum was designed to spark conversation. We wanted a playful and thought-provoking way that would allow us to envision a future where the internet isn’t one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases, but instead operates within our planetary boundaries.

Learning from the Reimagine Open consultation process, we knew that people linked both opportunities and challenges of the open internet with sustainability, but struggled to find paths to act. Built at an accessible scale, the museum is a research object that helps surface the major contributors to the internet’s pollution but also serves as a tool for people to navigate questions around the climate crisis.

We curated nine objects to convey the main greenhouse gas emissions related to the internet. We’re looking at online advertising, connected devices, and legacy code to name just a few examples. We plan to keep iterating on the research, backing up the numbers, and working across our networks and with partners to make our findings more relevant and tangible.

Mozilla is still early in our journey towards environmental sustainability as an organisation, embarking on a dedicated programme that will publish our impact assessments, develop internal policies and mitigation plans. But even more importantly, we want to change the way we live. Because a sustainable future requires all of us, individually and organisationally.

Spinning this further, we hope the museum and related ideas inspire other positive and playful things. If we had, for example, a sustainability engineering career, what would be taught and done in that role? If we had policies that protected the environment and our data, what would those look like? If we had tools that encouraged sustainable online experiences, what would those do?

This is the beginning of Mozilla learning about and doing more on sustainability and the internet. We warmly welcome your thoughts on the museum and our larger sustainability efforts. Check out the wiki for more documentation, including tutorials that inspired some of the exhibition pieces and leave a comment below or email us at sustainability@mozilla.com.

The museum is on display in our Berlin office right now -- and it will be on tour to more Mozilla offices soon. Stay tuned for details about tour dates and public events hosted around them.

Thank you to Gabi Ivens and Joana Moll who created the museum experience, and to Nina Zimmermann for the photography.