These are the notes from Clean Coffee #4. We try to get them out the same day, so they may be a bit messy, and are mainly used as a stream of consciousness link dump for future reference, more than intended to be a coherent think piece. If something doesn’t make sense, add a comment, and we’ll tidy them up.
There was a nice turnout at Clean Coffee today, with one participant even logging on at 5 am from California! After a quick round of introductions, we did the usual round-up of questions and then voted on the ones we wanted to talk about.
Topics we talked about
- Is carbon offsetting sending the wrong message? E.g. that flying is still OK if I offset it? 🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽
- How can we (tech company employees) persuade our companies not to sell to entities that are harming the climate (eg. oil & gas industry)? The common stance seems to be “we’ll sell it if it’s legal”. 🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽
- How can we get more people involved in the climate action movements?🙋🏽 🙋🏽🙋🏽
- How best to orchestrate the (possibly sporadic) collaboration of climate-minded volunteers on tech projects? in a way that allows us all to share in contributing expertise 🙋🏽 🙋🏽🙋🏽
Topics we didn’t have time to talk about
- How might we make videoconferencing a viable alternative to flying and travelling. What are we missing, what do we need to consider? 🙋🏽🙋🏽
- What is the minimum viable sustainability policy you could have if you don’t have one? 🙋🏽 🙋🏽
- How do I fit this into my working practices? Can it fit into an agile team structure? 🙋🏽
- Something that came up in Slack: how can we leverage the designers community to push for greener choices in terms of tools 🙋🏽
- The climate-active people I’m working with do not come from Tech. We have mismatched expectations (ex: Minimum-Viable-Product-and-iterate versus Why-Don’t-You-Just-Finish-a-Polished-App-Immediately). Patient explanation isn’t really working. Fortunately this is by no means the first time Tech and non-Tech have interfaced. Suggestions on how to handle?
- How can you change the perception of the web so that, it embodies some more values we see as progressive and aware of climate justice? (I.e. of course the internet does not on fossil fuels?)
Notes & links from the topics we discussed
Topic 1: Is carbon offsetting sending the wrong message? E.g. that flying is still OK if I offset it?
- There are people in the tech industry working on a Climate Code of Conduct, to talk about the emissions from flying.
- Blanket taxes on aviation are often considered regressive, but people working on policy to account for the fact that most of the flying is done by a relatively small minority like, like the Frequent Flyer Levy from A Free Ride (15% are responsible for more than 70% of flights in the UK)
- Drink driving (or “drunk driving” for US readers) was once socially acceptable, it isn’t anymore. What will it take for a 3-day trip from London to New York, say, to also be deemed socially unacceptable? How much can you realistically achieve during that trip? This report, Mainstreaming Low Carbon Lifestyles from Climate Outreach goes into detail on this, with a long study, and comparing attitudes to smoking.
- In Sweden there is a concept known as “flygskam” — flight shame!
#staygrounded hashtag, celebrities giving up flying.
- There is a UN plan to offset international aviation emissions, known as CORSIA. This report from Carbon Brief provides more background, as well useful analysis.
- Again from Climate Outreach — How to talk about climage change with small businesses
Topic 2: How can we (tech company employees) persuade our companies not to sell to entities that are harming the climate (eg. oil & gas industry)? The common stance seems to be “we’ll sell it if it’s legal”.
- Bad ethics are bad for business: there’s a useful report, People, Power and Technology: The Tech Workers’ View on the role of workers in companies, their attitudes and how many leave as a result of unethical decisions, along with the costs to hire replacements
- Examples of employees pushing for change at large tech companies:
Can you make an economic argument, on people leaving, like DotEveryone says? Look over this thread for a fast summary of the report:
- Another approach for reigning in unethical / poor decisions may be to see how governace works in other places. Deliberation is a tool used in government for contentious decisions:
- Inside agile teams, Consequence Scanning was designed as an agile event, to help people in a team highlight harmful unintended consequences when working on products: https://doteveryone.org.uk/project/consequence-scanning/
- Google has a “googlegeist” survey — they actively raise up the issues in the group. There’s editorialising though — “how about not building AI for weapons systems” hasn’t ever come up.
We also talked about how to protect employees when they ask awkward questions,
- There’s a whole sector, and buzzworld devoted to this: workertech: https://bethnalgreenventures.com/blog/workertech-unconference-exploring-the-future-of-fair-work/
- How much of this is structural ?
- How do you organise if you’re international and/or remotely distributed?
- Is unionisation the answer?
I do wonder if corporate HR responses have become so homogenised, and so focused on managing out “bad apples,” that widespread unionisation is going to be necessary to counter it.
Topic 3: How can we get more people involved in the climate action movements?
“You need more than volunteering.”
- How much of this is green washing ? Awareness versus actual effectiveness
Q: Some of us have heard of drawdown. solutions online or open source?
A: The code for project drawdown is open, but the data isn’t, and there have been issues about people using the name when they’re not linked
Topic 4 : How best to orchestrate the (possibly sporadic) collaboration of climate-minded volunteers on tech projects? in a way that allows us all to share in contributing expertise
tech is surprisingly good at working remotely compared to others (for all the complaints we have about the industry)
- https://www.progcode.org/ have a clear on-ramp for getting people onto projects — this pattern is applied for the bernie sanders campaign, but there are lessons to learn.
How do you discover the projects in the first place?
- Impactmakers is a slack group, which have a big-channel-per-project, aproach, and a bunch of well gardened GitHub repos with issues.
GitHub turns people off in many cases
- Mozilla share their Open Leadership training materials on github, which are good for learning how to work openly.
- We can look at politics — how do they get people to give time?
You need more than techies — duh
Chris Adams and have been trying to think of ways to improve the Clean Coffee format so today we tried something new: to announce the remaining time for a topic we used paper cards instead of filming the timer app on a phone like last time. Interrupting participants to let them know how much time is left can be obtrusive, paper cards offer a softer way to draw attention to the time.