Note: a year after I published this letter, we have moved from concept to app. Install and use our app (a PWA or progressive web app) by going to this URL on your mobile or desktop: https://fab.earth.
Ever since 1980, I have spent a whole lot of my waking hours in front of a computer, writing and writing about Oracle PL/SQL, or teaching others how to use the great language. It’s been a good life, but it’s 2018 and (a) I am about to turn 60 years old and (b) it is now beyond clear that human activity on planet Earth is causing the extinctions of many species — and many of those are sentient (thinking, feeling individuals who love their families and solve problems).
I find this intolerable. I don’t want the last wild elephant to collapse and die while the world is captivated by the finale of Game of Thrones. I don’t want the last bit of coral reef to bleach and die while everyone is ooh-ing and ah-ing over iPhoneXXX.
And I sure don’t want to have to say to my granddaughters “Sorry, I was too busy writing code and then enjoying retirement in Florida to try to stop this.”
I have been thinking hard for the last several years about how I want to live my life in the Anthropocene, what actions I can and should take. I have been changing the way I live to explore ways to reduce the harm I do to the planet and our many co-inhabitants.
I have now figured out what I want to do and I am publishing this open letter to my friends in the Oracle Database community (and beyond!) to ask for your help.
I have an idea for an app (yes, yes, I know…. :-) ): an app that I believe could make a difference, potentially a world-changing difference. I need help to create a “first draft” of this app and take it to established, widely-supported anti-extinction and climate change action groups. Then hopefully they/we can “run with it” and start to make change happen.
We certainly have no time to lose.
The app is called fabe, and I go into detail on it below. But first I will get right to the point. I want to put together a small team covering the following areas of responsibility and as quickly as possible put together an alpha version of fabe:
- Database design and development We currently plan to use Oracle Database and related technologies to implement our “alpha.” I plan to stay focused on overall conception, program development and outreach to environmental groups, so I need someone else to head up this area.
- UI/UX design + logo: This app needs to be simple, intuitive and pleasing to the eye, ear and fingertip. Believe me, no one wants to depend on moi to design anything.
- Application development (using APEX): I am very pleased that Vincent Morneau has volunteered to head up this area of work, and I am sure he will be happy to have others assisting him.
- External data sources: there are already many large and effective groups who have compiled useful databases about endangered species, action alerts and more. A big part of fabe’s success will depend on accessing those external data sources and helping groups build REST APIs to their data.
- Video / animation: Humans need more than just text these days. They need video. So I’d like to produce a small number of videos to tell the fabe story as part of our initial release.
We intend to open source all the code produced for fabe, but will probably not do so in the initial build-out phase.
I am starting up a gofundme campaign to raise money to develop and grow fabe. Please check out and consider contributing. But for the time being, we will all be volunteers.
There are many reasons to be pessimistic about the future. But there are also some very good reasons to believe that we can turn things around, or at least slow things down.
I, for one, would be very pleased to be able to say on my deathbed that as a result of my actions (and those of millions of others), elephants or tigers or vultures or frogs or bees were able to survive in the wild for another generation or two. And if my impact can be even longer and deeper and wider than that, ah the joy I will feel of a life well-lived, full of meaning and purpose!
So far as I can tell, fabe could facilitate precisely those kinds of outcomes.
Please read below and if you are interested in helping (or learning more), get in touch at forallabeautiful.earth.
fabe: For All, a Beautiful Earth
When we truly care about climate change and all the creatures that walk, fly, swim, and slither along with us, then the most important thing each and every one of us can do is to reduce our consumption and be mindful of the footprint we leave behind.
The simplest way to think about it is this: we should try to consume only what we need, not what we merely desire.
Why? Because consumption kills.
Every product that comes from a factory (smartphone, car, clothing, etc.) requires thousands of other factories, millions upon millions of gallons of water, untold amounts of plastic and waste, on and on. And all of those things require the deaths of countless living creatures— many of them sentient, like us.
You could almost think about every product having two prices: the monetary cost and the life cost. And you know what they say: “Nothing’s free.”
That’s the bad news. The good news is that every single one of us has a “super-power”: to “alt-consume”.
The less we consume (and the more we consume in less harmful ways), the less need there will be to produce things. As production decreases, habitat destruction, poisoning of water and oceans, and more all decrease as well. Plus, we save money, so when we do consume, we can buy higher quality products that do less harm and last longer.
We may not be able to completely stop climate change and extinctions at this time, but surely we can and should do everything we can to slow down the process as much as possible. The very good news is that making change like this is entirely within each of our own control. We don’t have to convince CEOs or Presidents to change their policies (though that would be great!). We can start the change right now.
Of course many people are doing just that: taking action in their own lives to do the least amount of harm possible. Which is fantastic — and I admire and respect them greatly.
But it’s not easy: our society is organized almost completely around consumption. Plus, it is hard to see the broader impact that our own individual change is having or could have. “So what if I don’t eat meat? The same number of cows will still die.”
To make the most of our individual actions, we need to act with intention and purpose. We need to plan out how we will live in the world. We need reminders and tools. And we need to know that we are part of something bigger, much bigger.
What we hope to achieve
fabe is an app that simultaneously helps you reduce consumption and joins your efforts to a worldwide movement of millions of people doing the same thing. Before getting into any of the details of how it would work, though, I would like to tell you what I want to achieve with fabe.
Our first priority is to slow and stop as many human-caused extinctions as possible, especially of humans and other known sentients. Extinction means gone forever. Extinctions happen in the normal course of events, but surely they should not happen just so humans can enjoy cat videos and the like.
Our second priority is to ensure that future generations of humans are able to lead sustainable, healthy lives. Climate change and environmental degradation are having a terrible effect on people around the world, with worse yet to come. We must take action to ensure our children and grandchildren are able to survive and thrive.
Our third priority is to end the mass brutalization and killing of domesticated sentients, such as pigs and cows. Yes, pigs and cows are sentient creatures, solving problems and caring for their families, just like us. It is flat out wrong to treat fellow sentients the way we do. The least we can do is treat well and with respect the animals we are going to eat.
Our fourth priority is quite different. It is to saturate our lives with purpose and meaning. We want our lives to be about more than simply getting through the day. We feel the greatest joy and satisfaction from helping others.
Our guiding principles
I will elaborate on these soon, but hopefully they are reasonably self-explanatory.
- Do the least harm possible to other living creatures.
- Consume what is needed, not what is merely desired.
- Respect, conserve and protect water, the source of all life.
- Take direct and positive action to heal our planet.
That last one is a bit vague. To clarify, it means: go out into nature and with our own bodies and our own time, take action to fight invasive species, help in recovery of damaged natural areas, plant new trees, etc.
Specific applications of these principles include:
- Choose the lowest possible level of technology and energy to get the task done.
- Buy used, not new. We have all paid the price for creation. Now let’s get the most out of our “sunken investment.”
- Avoid packaging, especially anything with plastic. Packaging means it came out of a factory, means waste, means destruction of habitat.
- Reuse plastic whenever possible. If we can’t avoid plastic, we should at least reuse it as much as possible, especially since it is so convenient.
How fabe might work
Each morning, I wake up and think about the day ahead. What goals will I set for myself to do the least harm possible? For example:
- I am going to try to stay out of cars and instead ride my bicycle.
- I‘ll do everything I can to avoid consuming any new plastic.
- I will for sure not buy any processed foods.
Making a few selections in fabe, I add these “ZeroDay” goals to my day. I also scan through the plans of other fabies to see what they are doing, and select a few to add to my own plan for the day.
The app shows me that 2 million other people are on-board for no new plastic. Some share their tips via text or video. 5 million people plan to avoid buying packaged foods. I am amazed and inspired by what people around the world are doing.
And then off I go through my day!
During lunch, I ask that milk for my coffee be brought out in a small cup, rather than in those little plastic containers. Happy to have remembered, I whip out my phone and in a few presses, report my contribution to healing the planet. fabe informs me that I am one of 570,000 people today so far who avoided consumption of new plastic.
Maybe we don’t always get to “zeros,” but that’s okay. Reducing “parts” of our consumption is good too. Along the way, we do a lot less harm — and fabe helps us understand just how much.
At the end of the day, I go back over my goals and check off those that I met. I catch up on some of my favorite fabies, and see if they came up with any new ideas.
Finally, I read about a group in Mexico working hard to save the axolotl salamander from extinction. Populations are trending upwards.
I feel more hopeful than I have for a while, knowing that I am part of a global community of people who care — and care enough to take action — about all living creatures on the planet.
I am determined to work harder tomorrow to consume even less and make our planet more beautiful — for everything and everyone living on Earth.
So What Do You Think?
Do these thoughts resonate with your view of the world, and what concerns you? Do you think fabe has some possibility of success? Would you like to help or be informed of news about fabe?
Then please do visit forallabeautiful.earth.
You can also contribute financially to helping make fabe a reality through our Chuffed campaign.