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
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
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.