Avatar in China: Limes Niger

Limes Niger

Opening: August 5 2012, 5pm at Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, E06, 798 Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China.

The Internet consumes a lot of energy. Roughly 1,000,000,000,000 kWh per year. Emails, webpages, videos and social websites need electrical power. This electrical energy is mostly produced by burning substances like coal, gas, oil or uranium.

In June 2012, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in Beijing released a new measurement of the Great Wall of China. Their study shows that the monument has a total length of 21,196 km being the largest man-made structure ever built.

Assuming that the Great Wall of China would be completely built out of coal, we surprisingly find out that the complete wall would just be big enough to produce the amount of electrical power sufficient for operating the Internet for the duration of one single year.

That means, that the Internet consumes a Great Wall of China built from coal every year.

This amount of coal can as well be represented by a giant pyramid monument with a base side of 1,422 meters and a height of 905 meters. If we arrange all this coal into a line of briquettes, it will be 1.5 times as big as the distance between Earth and Sun.





The previous measurement by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage from the year 2008 released, that the total length of the Great Wall (8.851 km) was containg 71% of man-made sections (6.259 km), the rest being trenches and natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Assuming, that the current measurement from 2012 contains 75% of man-made sections (15.897 km), an overall wall height of 7.5 m, an overall wall width of 6.5 m at the bottom and an overall wall width of 4 m at the top, we find out, that the Great Wall contains a volume of  634.3 million cubic meters, which is exactly the amount of coal needed to produce the electrical energy to operate the Internet for one single year as described above.


Title: Limes Niger / Black Wall / Schwarze Mauer
Author: Michael Saup
License: CC BY 3.0 (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)
Original photographs by Bill Price III and Brocken Inaglory.