A comprehensive literature and issue review of the ecological disruption caused by maintaining resource-hungry virtual worlds such as Second Life, by Leigh Blackall.
Worth reading in full as it refers to the blogosphere discussions on the topic, as well as to significant articles.
“Indirect impacts of Second Life on sustainability issues relate more to content and the possible influence this has on people’s awareness and appreciation of sustainability issues. On the one hand there are several content projects like the eTopia Eco Village being developed in Second Life that present models and ideas for more efficient resource use, less energy waste, less pollution, and better building design; but on the other hand there are messages implicit in all of these, and throughout the Second Life operating system itself, that arguably reinforce problematic cultural assumptions and behaviors that are fundamentally disrupting sustainability from the outset. Things such as perpetual consumerism, futurism, comodification, culturally inappropriate symbolism, and an inherent preference for human design over established ecological systems, are all prevalent in the Second Life program, including the many user generated models within it.”