I see that the saintly, and surely soon-to-be ennobled, Greta Thunberg, with her dad, has made it to the Americas in a flash boat so that she can keep up her no-flying promise. This is no ordinary boat, of course, and – unsurprisingly – is not available to ordinary folk like you and me. We have to make do with video technology such as the excellent zoom.us (which, for the clarification of doubt, has its own carbon footprint *).
This raises the question about why Greta isn't doing the same. Video-ing into the UN surely makes the point with greater force that pitching up in person like everyone else (especially all those politicians)? Surely a missed opportunity to re-burnish her credentials. It's not that we don't know what she'll be saying.
* The JISC Greening ICT Programme Project How Green Was My Videoconference? tested the premise that, by replacing travel, video-conferencing is a means of saving money and time. The researchers note that
"It is also seen and marketed as a ‘Green’ technology because of the greenhouse gas emissions that are saved by not travelling. But there appeared to be little empirical and objective justification for this assumption. The production of the materials used to make the equipment; its manufacture, transportation and distribution: all have a carbon footprint. The support of the equipment and the production and distribution of the electricity used to power it also contribute to the carbon embedded in the equipment’s use. The project sought to establish the carbon costs of travel and therefore the savings made by not travelling; and to evaluate these against the carbon costs of the equipment’s deployment and use."
The report drew a number of conclusions including the following (some of which are blindingly obvious):
- Videoconferencing can save up to 25% of business travel for an educational organisation
- It can save staff time and travel costs, leading to greater efficiency and productivity. It benefits individuals by giving them more time, more immediate access to people, less stress, and a better work/life balance. It can be an enabler for equality, giving equal access to meetings and events
- Videoconferencing is a green technology whose use has a positive impact on carbon emissions… unless it is purchased and deployed, but never used
- Large videoconferencing studios have a lifecycle carbon footprint of 2,682kg CO2 over five years life: cancelled out by 131 miles car travel replacement per month
- Minimal installations have a lifecycle carbon footprint of 202kg: cancelled out by 10 miles car travel replacement per month
Sadly, but not surprisingly, I ended up with more questions than ever ...