Since the turn of the millennium, the tech industry has spent billions to conjure a seductive narrative that the cloud is more durable and secure than the analog data. They have taught us how to use the internet. We have come to expect seamless and instant access to digital content as if data were unimportant.

The cloud is something to ask about. Where is it beginning or ending? Is it the fiber optical cables that carry our data packets? Is it a cell phone tower? Is it the server in the data center? I have been asking this question as an ethnographic researcher since 2015. The answer depends on who you are talking to. The cloud is the entire information and communications technology network. The cloud refers to a class of data centers called hyperscalers, which make up just over a third of the data centers in operation. The cloud is a metaphor that we use to describe the infrastructures behind the digital sphere.

Many people don't know what the cloud means to Big Tech's marketing, but also how to hide it. The marketing of an immaterial cloud is over in the wake of recent storms. Thanks to the work of activists, scholars, and journalists, we now know that the cloud warms our skies and depletes our water resources. Our communities are polluted with electronic waste. The toxification of our environment is a force that I call the nubecene.

Resistance has not been met by the cloud. Residents in some communities are organizing to oppose the construction of new data centers because of pollution, power grid failures, excessive land use, or lack of job creation. The question is whether it is too late to fix the cloud. There are ways to curb the cloud's increasing environmental impacts. Most of the work of activists has been devoted to answering these questions, but less is asking if the cloud is an unsustainable paradigm. The cloud must come to an end for us to survive.

The Nubecene could be entered.

Data centers are more than one thing. The first data center I went to was not like the sleek cyberpunk technoscape depicted in films. Cold air was pumped up from an air-conditioned plenum beneath the floor as I arrived in a crumbling shell of an office building. A typical data center is 100,000 square feet, but I've been inside facilities that are as large as a university campus. In order to power and cool its computing equipment, the average data center uses as much electricity as a small city and draws energy from electrical grids that are often coal-fired. In the event of an electrical grid failure, data centers use diesel generators in a state of hot-standby to provide power. The carbon dioxide trail can be seen if you look at the footprint of facility construction or the supply chains of server, power supplies, and other equipment.

In an effort to minimize operational costs and reduce their carbon footprints, data centers are increasingly turning away from conventional computer room air conditioners. It takes a lot of energy to cool a computer, so more operators are using freshwater instead. Unlike humans, the thirst of server can only be quenched with treated water, due to the corrosive effects on electronics. Few facilities recycle the water they use to keep the cloud afloat. Others use chemicals to treat the water they cycle through their facilities, dumping the resulting wastewater into local watersheds with unknown effects to local flora and fauna. Data centers are flocking to Arizona's desert, lured by tax breaks and business-friendly legislation, and seemingly unaffected by the catastrophic threat they pose to local populations and the environment. Data centers are using a lot of water to cool their server farms are being asked to ration water Arizona, where I spent six months researching data centers as an ethnographer, is part of a larger trend of data centers near vulnerable Watersheds.

Within the US, New England, Arizona, and Puerto Rico, I worked in data centers as part of my research on the cloud. I helped decommission server that had reached the end of their warrantied lifespan. I magnetized the server's drives to securely erase their contents before stacking them in discard heaps. In the weeks before the waste removal subcontractor's truck arrived to cart them away, I witnessed my colleagues pilfering valuable chips or graphic cards from the husks of these condemned computers. Less than 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled each year. Millions of metric tons of expired electronics with toxic components are informally dumped in computer graveyards around the world, where they are smelted down and recycled.