On a Saturday afternoon on May 25st, OMGCLIMATE, a community-run, unconference about tech and climate change took place in SoundCloud’s Berlin’s offices. I was one of the people organising it — here’s my write-up.
Why tech and climate change?
And it’s just as well — the climate crisis is a huge, terrifying problem, and for many of us, just thinking about it is overwhelming. We are already seeing the impacts of the climate changing, and the science now demands radical change to how we live and work to minimize the harm we’re seeing — both in terms of harm to the natural living world, but also to the existence of our society.
And if there’s an industry known for it’s talk of changing the world, it would be the tech industry —the term software is eating the world was first coined nearly ten years ago by Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz, and it turns out, with good reason: 7 out of the 10 largest companies by market value were tech companies in 2018.
This massive growth in the tech industry has brought about a heightened impact too — the tech industry is now responsible for about the same share of CO2 emissions as the aviation industry, or shipping — or if you prefer to think in terms of nations and states, more than Canada, or Australia, any European country, or States in North America.
So, as Cennydd Bowles says, software is heating the world too now.
Why an unconference?
When faced with huge, wicked problems like the climate crisis, there is a job to be done with conferences for sharing existing explicit knowledge, but for the real breakthroughs, unconferences are extremely effective for working out new approaches to try, or get past previous blockers, as described on this post, where the diagram below came from:
How else do we know this though?
Reduce, recycle, reuse… the patterns from OMGDPR
Last year we ran a similar unconference about the impact of GDPR on the tech industry, called OMGDPR. It offered a really good chance to try this unconference format of:
- getting people together
- letting them pitch ideas to discuss
- making a schedule based on the most popular ideas
- letting people work out it in moderated discussion sessions
- sharing back what we learned
You can see more in this write up for last year.
Like OMGDPR, but for the climate crisis
The format seemed to work well enough last year, so we tried the same idea — get idea, vote on them, then break into sessions to discuss.
Once we had a set of tracks for our session, we post them up, you can see them on this google slides deck we used for the event:
Then we let people discuss them, and take notes (you can see a shared photo album of pics from the day here). Each session had dedicated facilitators (see our guidance we shared with facilitators before the event — use as a base for your own!)
After our sessions were finished, we shared back to the group.
Sharing what we learned outside the group
This post is already pretty large, and we wanted to try something new to keep the collaborative spirit from the day.
So, every few days, until we’ve covered all the sessions, we’ll be posting writeups by different attendees about what they covered. You’ll be able to see the status of the sessions being written up on this public trello board tracking the status here, and if you were at OMG CLIMATE, you’ll be able to offer to write up a session through this google form here, and if you get stuck, refer to these article prompts here:
Continuing the conversation
OMG CLIMATE was designed as a one-off for us in Berlin, but there’s already talk of having one London, and in Bangalore later this year, organised by others in those parts of the world.
If any of this interests you — can find other souls who transform how tech works to face the climate crisis, at ClimateAction.tech online slack community — fill in the join form at the bottom of the page.