The year is ~~2119~~ 2019, and the planet is on fire. What can a mere PHP developer do about it?
It is quite clear that without global political action there is not going to be a solution to the problem of global climate change, but that does not mean action at a personal level is useless or unwarranted. Political solutions will also lead to personal changes, and getting ahead of the curve does not hurt considering we are pretty late to the game.
There are a few fronts on which everyone can have an effect. Personal consumption, politics and advocacy, and funding carbon offsets.
Using carbon calculators like myclimate‘s (fairly simple) or carbon footprint‘s (if you have time to spend) you can check where you can have the most impact on a personal level.
Household heating and energy expenses are fairly tricky to fix depending on your situation. If you don’t own a single family home you are most likely out of luck when it comes to heating, but you can perhaps at least find an electricity provider which offers renewable energy.
Food is a kind of easy one where reducing red meat consumption is the biggest winner, going vegetarian is probably better but more challenging so take it slow. Reducing is still better than doing nothing. It took me about 10 years to go from an omnivore diet to eating meat once every few months now. If you slowly adjust and learn to cook and enjoy other foods you end up not missing it. You can still enjoy it once in a while and actually then enjoy it properly, instead of having a meat fest at every meal where it is so normal that you don’t even notice.
Travel and mobility in general is also something we can fairly easily impact. Nobody forces you to go across the world for a week of vacationing on a fancy beach. After reading the rather disastrous IPCC report in late 2018 I wanted to stop flying, and mostly succeeded this year with lots of train rides, refusing to go to a few conferences which were too far, and one flight which I could not avoid due to scheduling constraints but ended up offsetting instead.
I can see this unfortunately does not apply everywhere, but trains are a good option in Europe. You can get work done, watch a movie or enjoy the ride looking out the window. All without the stress, strip searches and queues of airports. It takes longer and is often more expensive, but the cost of plane tickets is unrealistically low if you consider the environmental impact, so until governments fix that with appropriate taxes we have to be the grown ups.
I think something to keep in mind is that not every holiday has to be an instagramable beach in Thailand or whatever the latest trend is. Exploring your “backyard” is great too, most countries have beautiful places to see if you get out in nature a little. Go check out the nearby forest or tiny river, it will most likely soothe the soul all the same. That should be the point of taking time off, not posting travel-envy nonsense on social media.
Similarly, when it comes to consumerism i.e. all the other stuff we buy, there is probably no easy fix, but one thing we can try is turn off our phones and social media a little. Look your loved ones in the eye instead, have a conversation, go for a walk, hopefully all this will help fill the gap we’re trying to fill by buying lots of junk and piling it up. You most likely don’t need every latest gadget, a new OLED 3D+ 8K 80″ TV, or a big SUV to drive around town. If you need to spend cash that bad spend it on carbon offsets instead to pay for past environmental sins.
Politics and advocacy
Step 1 is fairly simple: Vote. Please don’t waste away your voice. Vote for the candidates/parties who will most likely enact environmentally responsible policies. The most radical agenda the better, because even if they win that will most likely get watered down. You may not agree with all of their policies, but I would argue that whatever your pet peeve issue is does not matter if the planet becomes an unliveable hellscape.
Fixing the environment is the top priority. Only then will we have enough time left to enjoy arguing about other political issues.
Step 2 is to spread the word. Find your audience, find who will listen to you. Even if it’s only your family and friends, just tell who will listen. Make sure they vote at least, and if possible help them change their personal behavior too. That’s what I am trying to do here, and I hope I can have a bigger impact this way than chatting up my grumpy uncle at Christmas’ dinner with the family.
Finance and offsets
Carbon offsetting is in a nutshell giving money to projects focused on taking carbon out of the atmosphere. That makes up for some of your CO2 emissions. Clearly not everyone has money to spend on this, but I would imagine most people reading this do. Developers overall are rather well paid and we should use this privilege and opportunity to help out where we can. Some of the calculators I mentioned above can help you figure out how much to give to compensate for your emissions.
I decided to give $1000 this year to a variety of projects to maximize the odds that it does some good. It’s way more than I would be “required” to pay to offset my emission this year, but I am happy to start making up for the past years flying around to conferences all over the place.
The way I see it, as long as governments do not take this seriously enough, my tax money is not being spent where I want it to, so doing this is like adding some environmentally-focused tax on my income and making sure it goes directly to climate action.
- Awesom.Earth is full of resources revolving around climate change and climate action.
- ClimateAction.tech is a community of tech people trying to engage themselves in climate action, in case you want to try and apply your skills to help out.
- World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency If you still need convincing that it’s time to act.
- Article about the IPCC 2018 report This also described a landscape in 2040 which sounds pretty bad. 2040 sounds far away, but is also not that far. It’s in 20 years. If you are in your 30s or older you may remember when The Matrix came out in the theater, that was in 1999, which is 20 years ago, yet does not feel all that far away. This is all coming for us faster than we think.
- The Planet is Burning – a more romanticized version of climate change and its broader context seen as the Pyrocene, or the Fire Age.
Thanks for reading, and much like you should do whenever you edit a file, let’s try to leave this planet in a nicer state than we have found it in.