That’s the ballpark estimate for how much of the climate changing carbon that will be emitted on my behalf, for my flights to the Nonprofit Technology Conference.
It’s a long way to Washington DC for me. It’s over 14,000 kilometres from my home on the west coast of Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand’s northern island.
Living close to the sea with a coastline threatened by rising sea levels is another reason for my concern. If we don’t reduce (or limit) the level of carbon in the atmosphere, I’ll likely suffer. As will my children. And their children too.
Some of my South Pacific neighbours are already finding sea water rising perilously close to their homes.
Knowing that my flights, in whatever small way on a global scale, contribute to climate change isn’t something I can truthfully ignore. It’d be easy to brush my insignificant contribution under a handy carpet. After all, my flight is hardly unusual. Why should I do anything about it?
My first response was to consider planting a small forest on our section. Then call it Washington DC forest as reminder of my obligation to the planet.
Before looking into this in any detail, my sister – who is an environmental planner – dissuaded me. Any trees not planted in certified scheme won’t guarantee carbon is locked away she said.
Giving $100-120 dollars to a certified carbon sequestration scheme would be easy. A one-off payment and my carbon problem is wiped.
It was only after talking with my friend and mentor Andrew Mahar, that I’ve decided how to discharge my climate responsibility.
As an inspirational leader Andrew never shies away from tackling difficult social and environmental challenges. Currently he is supporting a multi-faceted social enterprise in Timor Leste (the recently liberated nation in the Western Pacific). Prior to this he set up and led Infoxchange, a highly successful Australian nptech social business.
The WithOneSeed initiative supports subsistence farmers in East Timor to reafforest their land. Donations from people living in industrialised countries to pay for trees and other essential support. Incomes rise and carbon is locked away. Knowledge transfer is occurring alongside this through education and technology programmes.
As soon I talked to Andrew, he laid down a challenge: Don’t limit the carbon you offset to what you’re generating through a single trip: what about the carbon emitted to support your everyday computing habits?
Much as I’d rather not think about this, it’s true. Immense quantities of pollution are caused by coal-fired power stations that feed the data centres owned by Microsoft, Facebook, nameless cloud providers and others. When we watch YouTube videos, listen to music and live our digital lives, we are contributing to global warming.
WithOneSeed have a handy App that can help anyone interested to determine how much carbon is emitted by their digital media habits (on phones and tablets at least).
The personal story from Andrew, and a better understanding of my daily data usage in context, has allowed me to zero in on a global issue all too easy to ignore.
So, I’ll donate to WithOneSeed to offset the carbon. Not just for my flight, but for my daily computing too.
As I get ready to travel back home to New Zealand, I’m thinking not only of what I’ll take back the communities I work in, but also about the unseen impacts of my personal technology choices. I guess that is what individual social responsibility is all about.
Do you know what impact your technology is having?
Acknowledgement: my trip to Washington DC is only possible with support from NetSquared/ TechSoup, @goodresearch, @nzdrug, and my fab partner Roz. My evolving storify is at: http://sfy.co/rPzq
Making choices about what to attend is a lot harder when attending in person, than it is when joining online.
A major obstacle when ‘attending’ the online version of the huge three day conference is not so much choice of sessions, but the timing. As the annual techfest is hosted in one large US city or another, it means the morning sessions start at a ridiculously, early hour.
Nevertheless I managed to catch some sessions when I’ve registered in the past. These have been both relevant and irreverent.
Skip ahead two years, my involvement in the NetSquared community is taking me to Washington DC.
The #14ntc conference (13-15 March) is secondary to the main reason I’ll be in town. Either side of the conference I’ll be workshopping, learning, chatting and plotting with fellow NetSquared ambassadors, other NetSquared co-organisers from across North America, and some of the TechSoup team.
After many conference calls, FB updates and online sessions, I’m really excited at the prospect of swapping notes with my fellow regional ambassadors Maria, Excel and Mel. We’ve lots to share about how tech/ web is being used by communities in West Africa, Central America, and Europe.
As well seeing the monumental sites in Washington DC, I’ll spend a few days in San Francisco on my way home. I’m particularly looking forward to chatting with the irrepressible Beth Kanter, on her home turf.
My trip is only possible because my wonderful partner Roz will tend to the home fires. I’m chuffed at sponsorship from @TechSoup, and support from my bosses at @goodresearch and @nzdrug.
If you want to see which of the 100- plus sessions I end up joining in, I’ll share a few pics and notes about what I do, see and hear. See my storify story or follow #SBinDC.
Spontaneous. Serendipity. These two words are still echoing in my mind from the wrap-up session of the Engage Your Community (EYC) unConference.
At our closing session last Saturday we asked all the co-learners to shout out words about the day. These ‘s’ words really did capture the spirit of out time together.
It may seem a terrifying prospect to start a learning event with a blank agenda. We didn’t know what would be covered. Who would talk. If people would jump in to learn together.
But jump in everyone did. There seemed barely a wasted minute. Discussion about using tech and the web for community was loud and continuous.
Included in the list of topics covered were Google tools, accessibility, basics of web design, responsive design in wordpress, Chalkle community learning and online collaboration. The full agenda is recorded on the front page of the EYC unConference wiki.
The final session was an experiment: we called it speed geeking. In a fast and furious session people learnt about wikis, blogging and URL shorteners.
The topics for this session were chosen through an impromptu voting exercise, and the ‘presenters’ volunteered to speak on the fly. The format had people moving every 10 minutes between the three topic tables.
Our motto for the day was that no burning question would go unanswered. We’ll have to await for the report on the evaluation forms people filled in to see if we achieved this.
As one of the co-organisers, I left happy. My litmus test of success was whether I enjoyed myself and learnt things, and seeing if people stayed until the end. I maybe biased, but I’d say all were achieved.
Our volunteers on the day – Keith, Eileen and Justine, all NetSquared Wellington stalwarts
Massey University for hosting us
Microsoft NZ and Wellington City Council for sponsorship support.
When we debrief about the event next week, our agenda includes the question of when to run another unConference. I’ll report back after we talk. If this is something that you’d like to help with, don’t hesitate to raise your hand.
Our workshop leader — who who is part designer, part educator, and hails from New York — guided 20 of us through a day-long learning experience where we paid close attention to the language of Wellington city.
After discussing the way language can shape behaviour in many, varied and nuanced ways, the workshop participants where charged with closely observing and recording words in Wellington.
Once we were grouped together and sharing our perspectives on the language we’d found (both implicit and explicit), it was possible to read a narrative into the city that isn’t evident when you rush by. Or look at just individual words.
Each of the four groups who workshopped their ideas (using tools adopted from UX approaches to content strategy) revealed different hidden undercurrents or themes.
I was delighted at the conversation about Wellington that emerged from team Headquarters of the Verb. Not only did we reference creativity and nature, but also participation and giving. You can see the concept map we created above.
Even if we didn’t talk at length about the mechanics of websites, the learning Liz facilitated has application. Two main things remain with me:
be alert to hidden, unintended meanings of language
take time to see your city, site or user experience from a fresh perspective: turn things on their head (so to speak).
As I’ve long been interested in place-making (particularly as advocated by David Engwicht of Creative Communities), the stretch from observations about the city to the web were entirely credible (if not somewhat unorthodox). Liz referred to the Project for Public Spaces, whose examples reminded me of heated discussions about situationalist tactics from my protest days.
Will I pay more attention to language around me, everyday? Probably not. However, I can see myself being attentive to unintended meanings, associations and language at particular key junctures of web content projects I’m working on. And I will definitely stick to one of Liz’s parting shots: “Get outside your comfort zone”.
An unConference is unlike your everyday conference. Until the day, we do not know the details of what is going to be covered.
The programme is co-created by participants at the beginning of the event. Everyone attending can run a session.
These can take a myriad of formats: presentations, case studies, interactive workshops or even inviting others to respond to your particular challenge or problem.
While there is not a pre-determined agenda, there is a structure and a theme. At the EYC unConference, on Saturday 22 February at Massey University’s Wellington campus, we’re splitting the day into five sessions, each 50 minutes long. There’s difference spaces available for each session.
Our theme is: finding and using the best of what the web has to offer for people working to make the world a better place.
It’s a crazily broad topic which could touch on everything from resizing images, creating mobile apps, database selection through to high level social media engagement strategy.
Ahead of the event, people registering will have chances to share ideas of the specific topics they want to cover.
Ideas are already bubbling away. One of our co-organisers wants to run a speed geeking session: he envisages people rotating around 3-4 rapid fire presentations on essential web tools and skills. As we’ve access to a theatrette at Massey University, we could open the doors for people to share a favourite #nptech video.