Second Life signifies a virtual world where avatars can fly and anything can be created with the click of a mouse. It represents a platform, a virtual space, where like-minded people can gather to share ideas. Dr. Leslie Jarmon of UT’s Division of Instructional Innovation Assessment says that the co-presence of an avatar psychologically creates better connections than mere email or internet postings. The three-dimensional element adds another level of connectivity that stretches beyond a web cam or a teleconference, she says.
Companies are starting to take advantage of this co-presence and have recognized this platform as a way to save themselves money. IBM, for example, holds most of their administrative meetings and has their business center located virtually on Second Life. This saves them the transportation cost of having to fly management to a central location for conferences and other meetings.
What does this have to do with the environment? Airplanes are huge emitters of the toxic wastes that pollute our atmosphere. Second Life is offering companies, and people, a way to cut their transportation costs by allowing people to meet virtually, which both saves them money and reduces carbon emissions!
US Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts illustrated this point at the 2007 UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali. Markey is the head of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and instead of flying to Bali, he chose a more virtual representation as a Second Life avatar, proving to the conference that actions can speak louder than words.
According to the Carbon Footprint Calculator, Markey’s flight from Boston to Bali would have released 7,448 lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This number helps to legitimize the use of virtual representation as part of future solutions to solving our current climate crisis.