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The Rise of the Net Zero Native
The Grasshopper has not posted in this place for a couple of weeks, due to focus on launching other projects. Apologies, dear readers, for this, although hopefully both projects will enrich the pages of this blog in the longer term. More about these in later posts.
A thing that has made G’s antenna twitch in thought lately, however, has been what we might call the Net Zero Native. This would be, one supposes, the green equivalent of the Digital Native, who has grown up in the Information Age, knows nothing else and lives life accordingly. Roughly speaking, Digital Natives started to be born in the late 1980s and are now mid-career and younger. So, we’re 30-odd years on from the appearance of the first Digital Natives. Fast forward 30 years from today, we are told that the world – or parts of it at least – will be Net Zero. Does that mean that the first Net Zero Natives are being born now?
A controversial topic since Mark Prensky’s original writings on the subject in 2001, Digital Natives have been characterised as many things, including self-focused multitaskers with tiny attention spans and huge, muscular thumbs. Those of us who were around before the Internet became a thing – Digital Immigrants, if you will – find it hard to understand how DN’s can work while buried in headphones listening to hammering music, watch TV while TikTokking, or skim the Netflix menu at the speed of light. DI teachers are encouraged to engage with DN students through a new language and new approaches such as gamification, non-linear access to knowledge and images-before-words.
Whether or not we agree with the above, people who still live in the ‘old country’ of paper, pens and books will – in the more affluent, developed world at least – eventually die out, or at least reduce to a minority. Whatever we choose to call them, Digital Natives are here to stay. But will the concept of the Net Zero Native be added? And how will mere Digital Natives of today – who spare little thought for the country-sized amounts of electricity consumed by social media and bitcoins – fare as the Net Zero Immigrants of 2050?
So, how might a Net Zero Native live life? Without social media as we know it, but with something else that is low on power but perhaps high on something else that that it shouldn’t? With an inbuilt understanding of the big picture and an instinctive feel for the complexity of things? With a true grasp of how to properly work at home? Working for companies that have learnt to silo their people at home while still allowing information to be shared and careers to be progressed through conversations at the coffee machine? Using the new forms of shared mobility as a matter of course without the urge to own something that smells of engine and goes brumm brumm?
Perhaps. Some of us shall see. And maybe some ancient values might even creep back into the Net Zero Native’s consciousness. Like switching off the light when leaving the room.
ps. if the term Net Zero Native ever becomes a thing, don’t forget you heard it here first.
 We’d quote figures here, but it seems every source calculates it differently. Here are a couple though: Bitcoin (116 TWh/yr) uses almost as much power as UAE (119 TWh/yr) and Norway (124 TWh/yr); while data centres in Ireland – including new ones from Microsoft, Facebook, TikTok, Google and Amazon – are forecast to account for almost 30% of the country’s electricity demand by 2028.