Vesna Manojlovic

Computing Within Limits 2023

Vesna Manojlovic

9 min read


My goal in this article is to inform technical communities of the research presented at the LIMITS conference, and to invite those who work at the intersection of sustainable technology and climate justice to join RIPE and the IETF.

The ninth LIMITS workshop took place on 14-15 June, 2023.

There were more than 300 participants - researchers, practitioners, scholars from various disciplines - seeking to reshape the computing research agenda, all grounded by an awareness that contemporary computing research is intertwined with ecological limits in general, and climate justice-related limits in particular.

The papers submitted moved us closer towards a vision of computing that supports diverse human and non-human lifeforms and thriving biospheres. (Abstracts for papers from the last 3 years of LIMITS are available here:

If you want to get involved, send a request to join the LIMITS conversation at

RIPE-relevant topics

These are the top-tree papers that match the focus of RIPE Working Groups:

  1. Intermittent infrastructures
  2. Insufficiencies of “Life Cycle Assessment” for IoT
  3. Measurements and Solar Internet

Climate change impacts infrastructures

The author compared existing related work from networking research and infrastructures studies in Science and Technology Studies (STS) with the ethnographic vignettes about the impact of climate change on Internet infrastructures in southeast Louisiana in 2022. She contributes to the understanding of "intermittency" through political, historical, and spatial dimensions, and concludes that "we need to consider living artfully with intermittencies."

This is relevant for the RIPE community since it's similar to the ongoing examples of damaged infrastructure due to the war in Ukraine, and also natural disasters in the survival practices and to the usage of RIPE Atlas to measure impacts of extreme weather events such as Storm Sandy.

RIPE Atlas has open data that could be used to measure climate impact: The IETF community has drafts on this topic: Time-Variant Routing Use Cases.

(Ir)relevance of IoT solutions on e-impact

  • "Evaluating the (ir)relevance of IoT solutions with respect to environmental limits based on LCA (Life-Cycle Assessment) and backcasting studies" (paper, slides)
    Thibault Pirson, Louis Golard, and David Bol from Université catholique de Louvain

This study recommends backcasting (instead of forecasting) as a method of imagining a favourable outcome in the future, and then selecting IoT solutions that stay within ecological limits.

From the conclusions:

“Although [IoT] technologies are theoretically aiming at putting our developed societies on tracks towards less resource intensive patterns, the actual socio-technical system is generally moving further away from a state of environmental sustainability. ... Moreover, environmental concerns have been raised due to the ongoing massive deployment of IoT devices.”

Topics like this are of covered in and of interest to IoT-WG at RIPE.

Solar Internet

By comparing two very different projects (off-grid connectivity and conferences travel), authors illustrate multiple ways to use limitations as a source of creativity: for example, the solar internet emerges as a solution in the context of the rising electricity use (and costs) associated with internet infrastructure. They've shown that running a simple web server with low-energy devices on a cheap solar system is possible, however:

Temporary downtimes were still experienced during the darkest period of December to January

... linking this again to the paper about intermittency.

For me, important learning point was Goodhart’s law:

‘...when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure’. ~ Goodhart’s law

Plus, there is another connection with RIPE Community: one of the authors, Mike Hazas, gave a talk at RIPE75 in 2017 in Dubai : “Internet Services and Energy Demand”.

"Computing As Ecocide" slide

Personal Favourites:

Personally, I loved the topics of the following three papers the most:

Computing as Ecocide

Rob Comber and Elina Eriksson

Goals of the talk were: to introduce concepts of “environmental harm” and ecocide, and to bring future environmental legislation into conversations about computing.

Authors have considered technology aspects of Computation, Infrastructure, Material (impact) and (technology as) Facilitator, and rated them by elements of ecocide:

Ecocide means un-lawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.

I kept working on this idea myself, by improvising a visualisation of their work (see image below), presenting their paper on a small hackers event, and writing a short text about AI as ecocide.

Graph illustrating "Computing is Ecocide" conclusions

(Academic) conferences (air) travel

The paper linked above - "How do we arrive at constraints?" - also looked at the “future of academic travel understood in relation to CO2 emissions and reduction targets”.

Aim: support KTH in reaching set targets for reducing CO2 emissions from flying by 50% in a decade, by developing and evaluating tools to reduce travel-related CO2 emissions.

Practically, the advice was two-fold:

  • Set the target: rate of reduction (of CO2 emissions) of 7% per year.
  • Use CO2 budget for travel (instead of monetary budget)

...with a surprising outcome of “of making academia a career path also open to those with caring responsibilities”, that also increases diversity, equity and inclusion.

There are more and more academics that are concerned with the impact of travel on both the planet and their careers:

I find this inspirational for both the RIPE and IETF communities. Here is a Forum thread about traveling by train to Rome in November, for RIPE87.


This presentation was done from our own local hub in Amsterdam: Aymeric, one of the authors, was there in person!

Permacomputing is a holistic approach to computing and sustainability by taking inspiration from permaculture, while aiming at a diversity of approaches devel- oping at all levels. It is enmeshed in culture, because people have a deep connection to technology, beyond the tool, as part of art, ecology, philosophy and history. ~ Terminology, Marlies de Valk

Slides were very aesthetically pleasing, but the message about this young movement was quite pessimistic, mostly due to the self-criticism, wondering if it is "doomed to be a symbolic collective late capitalist gesture" or "a mere hobby for the most privileged".

What gives me hope is this same self-reflection, and the open questions asked of the fellow practitioners:

"What is a good enough, ecologically meaningful computing practice?" , "What kind of present and future are we constructing?" and "How to forge alliances?" (with Global South, marginalising people and frontline communities).

Event Format: Federation through Local Hubs

Like last year, this conference was fully online and decentralised / federated:

  • There were multiple local hubs (in Sweden, Canada, Germany, Italy, Belgium…) and the other online participants were distributed around the globe
  • Online "connections" count was 196 (Day 1) and 100 (Day 2) while there were of course multiple people meeting in local hubs, who were sharing one connection… so the total numbers of actual people are higher
  • The local community in Amsterdam organised our own hub for Day 1 - we had lively discussions in our small group, and one of the speakers/authors was among us!

This format contributed to the lower overall costs for the organisers, and negligible costs for the participants; travel emissions were reduced; and other barriers for participation were also removed - which resulted in higher participation of youth and parents.

As I described in my article about 2022 workshop: “Time-structure of the event was very interesting, too: papers were published in advance, so the authors gave very short presentations; most time was spent in Break Out rooms, where we held "reverse panels" - authors have posted their questions, and the groups of participants were having discussions and giving their input in the documents we collaboratively edited."

Due to the time zone "optimisation", event was in the afternoons/events where I live - and that made it additionally stressful for me, since I took part after already working for a full day — and still, the programme was so interesting and interactive that I was energised instead of tired.

RIPE87 will also use Local Hubs as a tool for diversity and sustainability: do join!

Appendix: List of Communities Dealing with Tech and Environment


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About the author

Vesna Manojlovic is Community Builder at RIPE NCC. Vesna joined the RIPE NCC as a Trainer in 1999. In 2003, she took responsibility for developing and delivering advanced courses, such as RPSL, Routing Registry, DNSSEC and IPv6. In 2008, she lead efforts to establish IPv6 RIPEness as a measure of IPv6 deployment among LIRs. In 2011, she joined the Science Division as Manager of the Measurements Community Building team; in 2015 she moved to Communications Department as Senior Community Builder, with a focus on organising hackathons. Vesna gives presentations at many technical conferences and workshops, and enjoys visiting hackerspaces. Vesna received a Batchelor of Sciences Degree in Computer Science and Informatics from the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. She has three children.

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