A grassroots approach

A grassroots approach

Green IT has become a source of despair, not hope. To fill the void it has left, I foresee a world of organic, vegan or fair-trade technology.

A funny thing happened recently: a very, very large IT company asked me to travel more than 20 kilometres on congested city roads at peak

hour to behold its latest green innovation - a videoconferencing suite

that would forever remove the need for such journeys. Sadly, its

powers were not immediate, so after the demonstration it was necessary

for me to return to my office on the very same roads in a second

carbon-spewing velocipede in which I was the only passenger.

As it happens, the venue in question lies at the end of a rather nice

bicycle path that, thanks to vagaries of road-building geometry, is

only 18 kilometres from my office. I mention this alternative to

ensure, as cyclists must, that everyone I know is aware of the virtues

of the activity and the moral superiority I acquire for mounting a

self-powered cycle.

Indeed, such is my attainment of higher status that this distance is

comfortably achievable in less time than the car journey takes at peak

hour. Society, however, tends to frown upon folks who arrive at

meetings breathing loudly, wearing sweaty, skin-tight clothing and

possessed of coiffures crushed into moist, floppy, cornrows by

headwear designed to protect the cranium.

I therefore asked if it might be possible to improve the occasion's

carbon footprint by joining the videoconference from my own office. I

advanced this scenario given my ownership of a rather nice microphone

and webcam and in the perhaps misguided assumption that the point of

the whole shindig was to demonstrate the redundancy of hauling

ourselves through modern metropolises inside metal boxes powered by

liquid hydrocarbons imported at vast expense from politically tenuous

parts of the world.

I'm still waiting for an answer as to whether it is possible to learn

about videoconferencing during a videoconference as it seems the

technology in question can only heal the planet when it is teamed with

identical machines from the same vendor.

That likely response has since become the straw that has broken my

belief system's back, a fracture precipitated by the weight of many

green disappointments. For example, I recently encountered a

breathless vendor urging me to adopt green storage systems that could

save as much as $38 a year in the most optimistic configuration.

Another vendor told me it had gone green by saving 5 per cent of its

previous electricity consumption. And I'm yet to receive an answer

from anyone, anywhere, regarding just how green it is for stuff to be

hauled out of pits and mines all over the world, carried by sea,

shuttled between processing plants and factories, assembled into

computers and other gadgetry using electricity galore, then packed

into boxes that are tossed away without anybody even pausing to admire

the graphic art printed upon them.

Green IT and I are therefore now officially finished. No amount of

discussion about the improvements to the innards of a server or disk

drive can sway me into believing any more arguments about technology

improving the planet's prospects.

I'm now trying to dream up green IT's successor and am toying with the

idea of starting an organic IT movement. This concept is plausible

given that my local supermarket alleges it sells organic sausages,

probably the most oxymoronically conceived product since low alcohol.

Just how one determines that the peculiar polygons of alleged animal

matter speckled through the average banger have avoided modern

chemistry's contribution to agriculture is impossible to divine.

Yet if it is possible to make this claim without attracting the ire of

either regulators or law enforcement, surely organic IT cannot be far

behind. I therefore look forward to purchasing a device whose innards

have been disinterred from a mine whose refinement processes are

entirely free of chemical intrusion.

Nor, for what it is worth, can vegan computers be considered

impossible. Most of California, if one is to be believed, is populated

by folks so modern they eschew foodstuffs to which even microbes have

made a contribution, making an animal-free PC and a herd of meat-free

programmers a real possibility.

Fair-trade computing could also be an emerging field. Any day now an

enterprise software vendor will tell me that their offshore staff are

paid decent wages, don't ever work late into the night and ship their

products in embroidered hemp bags. Either that or hand-painted CDs are

now produced by previously oppressed workers who, thanks to

conscience-assuaging, gift-buying Westerners, enjoy a better standard

of living.

These three ideas all seem at least as plausible, if not more so, than

green IT. But the most likely alternative is, surely, recycled IT.

Cloud computing, after all, is the detritus of a thousand mainframes

ground into intellectual pulp and reconstituted for modern


A nicer fate, one thinks, than much green IT marketing deserves.

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cloud computingsustainabilityGreen technology

Show Comments