Green I/O
#4.b - Chris Adams - An overview of initiatives and latest trends in Digital Sustainability
July 18, 2022
In our April’s episode, we went to Berlin and meet Chris Adams, an "environmentally focussed tech generalist" as he likes to describe himself. From the early days of Rail Europe to the Green Web Foundation of which he is the executive director, Chris has always been passionate about environmental topics. In the Digital Sustainability field, Chris is such an old-timer that we decided to split our interview in two parts! In this second part, we discussed Digital Sustainability in general, past trends as well as expected developments. Chris also shared with us a mountain of references and people to follow in order to learn more about how to green the Web and beyond.
In our April’s episode, we went to Berlin and meet Chris Adams, an "environmentally focussed tech generalist" as he likes to describe himself. From the early days of Rail Europe to the Green Web Foundation of which he is the executive director, Chris has always been passionate about environmental topics. In the Digital Sustainability field, Chris is such an old-timer that we decided to split our interview in two parts! 
In this second part, we discussed Digital Sustainability in general, past trends as well as expected developments. Chris also shared with us a mountain of references and people to follow in order to learn more about how to green the Web and beyond.

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Transcript (Automated - Human-reviewed version expected in August)


[00:00:00] Gaël: Hello, everyone. Welcome back. I would say to this fourth episode of Green I/O, part number two. I still have the chance to be with Chris Adams. We decided to split the episode because we had so many interesting topics to discuss that we wanted not to make any compromise. So last time I checked, Chris is still the executive director of the Green Web Foundation. And if you want to know everything about him, just listen the first part of this episode, and now I'd like to welcome Chris again for the second part. Hi, Chris! 

[00:00:36] Chris: Hi Gaël. How are you? How are you today?

[00:00:37] Gaël: Wonderful. Wonderful. Back in Latino young. So if you hear some birds singing in the background, that's perfectly OK. Biodiversity is still up here pretty

[00:00:49] Chris: well. If you hear a garbage truck going fast flat, then yeah, that's not quite as pretty, but there will be a little bit noise, I think. But I'll do my best to try and catch it and close the windows if I do hear them coming, OK.

[00:01:00] Gaël: Oh, that's okay. I've been there one week ago. I know exactly where you are, and it's still a lovely neighbourhood in Berlin. So I really enjoy thanks for having me there and welcoming. And thanks for the barbecue as well.

[00:01:14] Chris: You're welcome.

[00:01:15] Gaël: So beyond green hosting, I know that sustainable design is also keen to your heart. You've signed the sustainable Web Manifesto and in a CAT talk you spoke about having a gold approach Gold standing for G O L D. Could you elaborate a bit?

[00:01:34] Chris: So gold? The reason I kind of like shared gold as it were, was large because I was inspired by the success is people have had in the accessibility world. And in the accessibility world, there is a pneumonic kind of like acronym, which is poor, which I believe that stands for perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. And, uh, I'll just run through these and then kind of speak about gold so perceivable with this idea that if you build a digital service, you want it to be perceivable using more than one sense. So if someone is blind, it can still be perceived in another way. So maybe there's a screen reader which can read something out to someone. So that means there's your thinking about perception in multiple ways operable is the idea that, yeah, you might assume a mouse. But if someone doesn't have, say, motor control, or maybe they're holding something at the time or they've recently injured themselves like maybe you've broken your wrist and you have to use your other wrist, there's like an idea operability, making it easier to work there and then understandable is pretty clear. If you if you can't understand an interface and you can't really use the interface and then robust is this idea of making a interface, which basically degrades somewhat gracefully and might work in, say, low bandwidth connections or might work in less than ideal connections? This was actually be really, really useful, and these principles were basically the underlying basis for what people end up using when they basically grade websites for their accessibility and because they can be graded. You ended up seeing groups like, say, the public sector, mandate this in their contracts, and you've seen people start to encode this in scenarios where it's part of how they purchase things, for example, or even in cases where where people are shut out from using services, they've been able to successfully sue companies to say It's unfair that you're doing this. This is wrong and we can point to examples of, say, like Domino's pizza, where people were basically where Domino's Pizza's website was sued because blind people were not able to access the service and order their food right. So we figured we need something like that for digital sustainability and you need something which is kind of memorable. And the whole idea of poor was actually kind of handy for people because it was something you could ask for developers. And it was easy to present in a in a deck. So I came up with gold largely to kind of capture some of these ideas. So gold stands for green green energy green inputs open as an open source and open data and open culture so you can actually see where the improvements are possible. Lean in terms of not using more than you need to and distributed in terms of, well, there's got to be multiple ways of accessing a particular service and ideally from more than one provider as well. So that was kind of gold, because I figured that it's a memorable thing that you can use and it allows you to think about pay digital service like Am I running on green inputs, for example, like are the inputs as green as possible? Open is like which parts are open that I can I can I I can look into or I can see or I can actually see where there is scope for improvement and likewise lean and distributed in the same way. Like am I relying entirely on one provider who might be doing things which I disagree with, or my organisation, which might not align with my organization's values. So that was kind of the way that why was actually sharing this largely as a way to kind of see if it might work. If it's a way that you see what sticks and see if anyone picks up on it, really,

[00:04:56] Gaël: I do hope it will. So, Chris, we decided to focus almost another full episodes on what is going on in the digital sustainability field. You are one of the older experts in digital sustainability, so I would love to get your insights about Web sustainability. In general, it's evolution. What are the main trends you've noticed since two years? What should we expect in the forthcoming news?

[00:05:23] Chris: Okay. All right. So, first of all, um, this is kind of amusing. I was 40 this year, and I'm one of the older people in this in this society that says everything about the tech industry and how it has a strange bias towards, like, you know, like dudes dudes in their twenties essentially right. So, yeah, there is a I have been, uh, involved in this for a while, basically. And I think since graduating, I've been kind of drawn to this. The thing your question about are there any trends that you've seen? I think there is. And I think even this term digital sustainability wasn't really a term that people were using that much until maybe two or three years ago at the absolute earliest. Um, you now are seeing a lot more interest from organisations who have basically figured out Yes, Well, I guess the power has to come from somewhere, and there is a person who I have a lot of respect for. His name is K d. M. At the new design congress. He speaks about sustainability, speaks about technology. He's basically says technology is a environmental, social and political accelerant. And I think this is actually really interesting, too be aware of in this kind of context, because I think the one of the trends you see is people looking at the environmental impact of I I c t or I T. But not necessarily being that confident talking about what you use it for. And most of the digital sustainability stuff is almost entirely inwardly for focusing. So we might talk about Okay, let's let's talk about like, making a I really, really efficient, right? And let's take the example of you know, we're going to use AI to drill for oil and gas. All right, so we'll talk about Isn't it great that we can make a really, really efficient model for drilling for oil and gas? Or isn't it great that we can use renewable energy for drilling for oil and gas without really talking about? Are we sure that drilling for oil and gas is consistent with whatever kind of values were trying to actually incorporate into our work in the first place? Now that part there, a lot of technologists have only seen as outside their pay grade or or beyond there beyond what's in there kind of sphere of influence. And I think this is the thing that you are starting to see a little bit more of right now but hasn't really been addressed so much. And the reason I referred to this is the science is really, really clear on this and when we did some research into this, we basically found that if you look at the kind of deals that are announced by some very, very large organisations, if they're going to if they're going to do a deal with a big oil company to help accelerate this stuff, just the carbon emitted from that alone is like the same carbon as Facebook in a single given year, right, and that's a lot of service. So I think it's important that we we are able to move away from just looking at the inside stuff and looking at okay, what do we use it for when you talk about like not just innovation but decisions basically, But to go back to the original question? Yes, there is absolutely an uptick in appropriate people being interested in digital sustainability, and you can see this from the big cloud providers having these tools. But you can also see it from this kind of explosion of companies now offering digital sustainability or some kind of transformation, where before they would only talk about, say, digital transformation without thinking about this kind of aspect of it.

[00:08:44] Gaël: So you've got a point Chris about it, because it seems that for a lot of technologies, they enjoy some kind of neutral position. Do you believe in this position like this neutrality position?

[00:08:56] Chris: I don't I think it's really I think it's very convenient to not talk about any of this. And because it means that basically, you get to open up to more customers, theoretically, right. But I think that if you're interested in this, it's worth asking yourself. Well, why am I interested in this whole idea of digital sustainability in the first place? And why am I putting these kind of specific and artificial limits on how I think about this stuff? Because I think that given the state that things are in, we can't not talk about this and just assume that it's totally okay and I there and I think in many cases you basically do see it because a lot of the time it's pretty good for business to be able to sell something like digital sustainability. You can make really good arguments about how you're saving money. You can talk about how you're saving carbon. You can talk about how, by using green energy, you're saving lives because it's like nine million peoples whose lives ended early each year from just like the particular and all the kind of poor air quality and fossil fuels you can Even you can say, Well, it's great for us, a retention with your staff, you can make these arguments at the same time. It's not really touching on what you're choosing to enable. With this and a lot of time, it's because right now if you're going to kind of say, Hey, I don't think we should be doing this a lot of the time We don't really have any kind of really common or well used ways to really have these discussions in a way which some people might see as kind of career limiting, and I think this is actually one thing. This is probably the next part of this, and the organisations are able to start interrogating and engaging with the subject. I think they're going to have a do better by actually actually having some of the brightest and best people who are really, really quite informed about this whole field. They're probably going to be attracting those kinds of people. But you do have this kind of inertia right now, or people saying, Well, you cannot move too quickly on this because we're set up one way and it's OK for us to talk about this as long as we save money. But the thing is, if you look at the numbers, the numbers actually don't Even there was a bigger prize by moving away from things like, say, a fossil based society. If you look at, say, the I A e A, which is the international energy agency these folks talk about, OK, well, what we need to have a transition in line with the science and they say Well, over the next day between now and say 2030 you're probably going to need something like $300 billion of continued investment in the existing oil and gas fields that you do have just to maintain some kind of production or to manage that decline carefully, because over time all these kind of all these reserves will decline because you're getting stuff out of there, right? But they say, Well, there's maybe 3, 300 billion per year between now and 2030 Then they said. But if we're going to shift away from this fossil based society, then you're looking at something like three or four trillion investment each year between now and 20 now and 2030 And that's such a bigger prize to go for. And I feel like if you're gonna make it, you're going to look at this stuff, take a slightly larger view and realise that there is this massive opportunity that your many ways closing off if you just focus on this kind of local optimisation of just helping oil and gas rather than help and more advanced humane form of power for this stuff,

[00:12:25] Gaël: does it include the fossil bombs recently mentioned by The Guardian? Because that was very scary.

[00:12:31] Chris: So this is the thing that's actually worth being aware of. So there's basically continued investment in what you and the existing reserves that we have, and I This is not my opinion, this is the opinion of basically the energy industry who have said, Well, if you want to stay within the science, then we cannot open any more or do any new exploration. The only thing we can do is keep the existing ones, but the thing is, they will deplete over time. So if you want to just maintain the same level of production for this, then you will need to continually invest because it's going to get harder each year to get that. Basically, to get those hydrocarbons out of those depleting reserves.

[00:13:07] Gaël: That's a very good point. What about I'm a CEO? I'm a CPO. I'm even a CEO facing the board and wanting to drop part of my today's business to make the case for tomorrow's business, which should be low carbon business and, hopefully, fossil fuel free business. What can I do? And what can I expect from outside help? I would say, Do you believe that we need to wait for some kind of regulation carbon price? Or is it still pretty easy to make a case without waiting for external pressure?

[00:13:39] Chris: I think it depends where in the world you are basically so in, say, America, you now have things like basically coming into law, a requirement to basically disclose the climate risk in your organisation if you're above a certain size. And that means that people who are investors in your company will want to know this, and they will be asking you for this kind of disclosure. And if you don't have this information, is going to be harder for you to raise investment in future. You'll be closing doors, and the cost of capital is going to be higher, which is going to make it harder for you in the long run so you can actually make that argument and say, Well, legally, we have to do this. We're not going to get the investors took it, Get on board for this so you can make an argument. They're quite well. And like this argument is what you see from companies like Oh, Persephone E, for example. In America, they're doing that in Europe, for example, where I am, it's slightly different. We don't have the same kind of regulatory drivers just yet, but we literally just yesterday or the day before we have this basically war in the Ukraine, which is acting as many ways as an accelerant for this kind of transition or saying well, we can see right there in front of us. Europe, for example, is spending. It may be doing all these things from a humanitarian point of view, but if it's buying massive amounts of oil and gas which is literally directly being used to finance the war machine, there's an argument there. The point I'm probably trying to get out here is that different parts of the world will have different drivers in Europe. Right now, we've seen a massive package of investment that's come out, which kind of shows that there is a real direction of travel towards a much more kind of much more low carbon society. So for context, I think the the amount of investment that was announced was something the region of 290 billion in clean energy 33 years ago, which is basically and they said, Well, we want to do is we want to double the amount of solar installed in Europe by 2025. So in 2.5 years, the plan is to deploy three Germany's worth of new solar panels across Europe as a way to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, for example. You can look to like trends like that and say, Well, which are these trends? Do we want to ride? Do we want to ride the depleting one, which is going to make it harder for us to hire people or retain people and not and which is at best, a shrinking market would go for this much, much larger market, which is going to give us much less volatility. It's going to make it easier for us to attract people, and we're also going to feel much better about what we're doing because there are all these other kind of benefits which might not be directly captured inside your organisation but would be helpful for attracting people to your organisation or anything like that. And I actually feel like if one of the things you're struggling for is talent in this world, then doing something to make it really, really attractive for talent is probably a fairly compelling argument right now.

[00:16:20] Gaël: Chris, I'm surprised you didn't mention the recent W three c workgroup regarding sustainability, so I know that the Web is only part of our digital tech word, but it's a big part, and it's the most visible one. Do you believe part of the answer will come from us?

[00:16:36] Chris: Yeah. So I think that we've had previous examples of this, and I think the thing that we have found and we are seeing more signs of people trying to find ways to codify or figure out what to ask for or what to provide, partly because if you're a CEO or a CPO or you manage projects, you need to have some things you can point to, just like how inaccessibility you can point to like the wch, the Web content, accessibility guidelines or the whole kind of poor thing, which is perceivable, operable, understandable and robust, these kind of criteria for describing digital products. There is absolutely a push for that. And in Germany, for example, we see a real kind of interest in the Blau Angle certification, which is basically eco certification for software, specifically, so governments can say we have our own targets that we need to meet. We need to incorporate this just the same way that we need to have accessible software because we need to serve all the people in our country, for example. You do see things like that, and I think it's it's not necessarily a regulation. You are seeing people kind of formalising or starting to agree on these kind of conventions. We don't really have ones which are that used right now. Like Blue Angle only had their first piece of software this year, for example, and there is only one other country in the world Hong Kong, that has this kind of set of guidelines right now released a certification. But France has its own kind of recommendations to follow, and this is stuff which is being built into procurement now. So basically, how governments are going to be spending money for this, so you do see things like it. But the thing you generally see is right now, people don't quite know what numbers to optimise for, and a lot of time they're reaching for what numbers are available, which results in people tracking things like, say, carbon first, because we've had 20 or 30 years of tracking carbon, and there's a huge amount of science pointing to carbon. But that's not the only thing you attract. For example, So I think what you are seeing is organisations leading to this and with the W three c specifically standards or conventions or things like that which are designed at that point, or that people agree on. There is actually a fast track to go from there through to creating an ISO standard which would be available to everyone for free anyway. So it's likely that the changes or the things that get agreed by organisations like the W three C will end up being things which browsers might end up designing for. Or people might be referring to just the way we've seen with accessibility.

[00:18:59] Gaël: And that's very interesting because you mentioned AYSO and the French range of ISA, which is half nor as released recently, a norm, which is eco consumption of website. And that leads me to another question which is You've mentioned the blossoming of a lot of initiatives across the globe when it comes to digital sustainability, but today there is not that much consensus around it. So do you think it's OK? Because it's a phase that is needed where people are creating the tools for tomorrow and you've got competiting tools or complementary tools Or do you think it will actually slow down the process?

[00:19:37] Chris: I think I actually don't know. To be honest, we did a report about this called the fog of enactment, specifically because we feel as in like the organisation that I work for. Our position is that we are in this stage that we've seen 100 years ago with the energy market, because there's lots and lots of parallels here. That right now when you're in a kind of field, which is relatively new, there's lots of innovation. It's also quite technical. There is this kind of face before people arrive at having these kind of particular regulations or normative kind of forcing factors that we referred to as the fog of enactment. This is actually Professor Leah Stokes term. The thing that you can't really have is right now when people don't know what the implications of setting these different standards are. Different ways to measure things. You end up with people kind of competing to kind of put forward their way of, say, tracking impact because it might favour the way they've got things set up. So if you look at something like, say, cloud compute. Write something with, like, say, serverless or object storage, something which gives you a very, very kind of granular way to track the carbon footprint of something like you're paying. You know, you can think about your CO two emissions in terms of just the emissions from you running a particular function for 100 milliseconds. Whether I'm to think about all the all the impact that's going to building a gigantic data centre, building all the H fact to keep the computers from overheating. All this stuff here, then you're going to end up with a metric which really, really favours massively. People who can invest tens of billions into massive data centres all around the world and could provide something like serverless. And that's probably not going to really incentivise or make. There's not going to incentivise things like, say, embodied carbon or re use of computers, for example. So if you had another set of people had competing standards saying Well, actually we think that the embodied carbon is much more important and we think that the embodied carbon should include the actual data centre as well, rather than just the energy. Then you're going to end up with something which favours another group. And I think what we see right now is that there is going to be this kind of jockeying for different groups trying to come up with a metric which tends to favour their existing business model. And I think that's what you've seen in other places. And that's probably what we're going to see here for the next 18 months. And I suspect that a lot of people aren't won't really be to aware of this kind of stuff, and they'll just generally look at these numbers to thinking, Well, okay, I've just got a number that I just optimist that without really being prepared to interrogate what kind of assumptions have gone into this, Because a lot of time we're not really paying to do that kind of humanity soft science, kind of critical thinking stuff. We're paid to make the number, go up or make it go down and like, this is probably the thing that I think is that needs a lot more research right now because the view in Europe that you see from, especially in France, has a massive bias towards the embedded carbon on with electronics, whereas if you look at, say, other parts of the world, there's a massive focus on just the energy so that we don't need to have any uncomfortable discussions about a new generation of smartphones each year are a new generation of hardware every every year. For example,

[00:22:39] Gaël: are you confident that within two years or 18 months we will have okay enough standard to at least measure the carbon emission of a website and apps, including the embedded ones? Or is it just too early for people to agree on something like that?

[00:22:56] Chris: So this is actually an interesting question, in my view, because there are two kind of fields, two schools of thought here that I've seen. So one school of thought is very much like Let's create a standard to make sure we catch all the complexity first, and then once you've got that standard, will be able to deploy that in lots and lots of places. And because we've got a really well thought through standard, the questions that have come up that will come up, we will already have a good answer, which makes it easier to get that kind of adoption across organisations and you can kind of see that approach somewhat in what you're seeing from an organisation called the Green Software Foundation, where there is this focus on making a standard called the Software Carbon Intensity Index, which really has a quite strong focus like that. So let's figure it out and then start working there and then figure out how to implement on that. Then, by comparison, you see in the kind of world of, I guess sustainable Web, for example, where people have taken a existing model which they know to be kind of imperfect. But they figured, well, let's start with this And then, as we keep using, it will find the the problems from useful raise, or we'll keep being raised. And as long as we have some kind of mechanism for addressing those issues, then we'll basically achieve adoption by having an imperfect thing that will improve over time. Basically, So I think I'm I think we already do have some numbers that you can use to give you some idea of where you need to be going, and the thing that it's probably worth being aware of is like is having an awareness of how much precision you actually need for, in order for you to make a decision or for you to kind of back a particular decision about choosing one more sustainable way of working versus another. All right. And we often confuse these two things. We think that, uh oh, I need a lot more precision or a lot more accuracy than I thought I did. But a lot of time, you probably don't. I suspect that we probably will probably have something now that you can use that organisations of basing decisions on already. And I think that you that will probably improve over time as the amount of research does come up. And I think that if people are prepared to basically give credence to numbers than just the fact that people are kind of making a number of making, making better decisions based on numbers means they're going to pay more attention and they will improve it over time. So I think that you do have two schools of thought, and I am slightly leaning towards this idea of kind of rough consensus and working code and then proving that in that kind of improvement, rather than trying to get something closer to having been really specified and then trying to deploy it. The jury is out on this. In my view, I'm not sure which approach will be more effective in the long run, but I do know that right now if you are looking at this, you can start with something like the sustainable Web design model that's been implemented, a number of places. Or you can look at, say, the one bite model used by the shift project. And be aware that there are some drawbacks for that. Or there are some things that there are some areas of contention where academics accompany duking it out. But the fact that you're using some metric and that you you start to incorporate this idea of a metric which is not just engagement money retention, this kind of stuff is actually kind of useful in the first place. And I feel like you kind of need to start with some kind of metric and then realise that your organisation will need to develop some organisational sophistication in making sense of what these metrics mean over time. So I think, yeah, I think we will have that. It's a case of how much precision and accuracy do you actually need in your organisation for the decisions you're basically making? Really?

[00:26:33] Gaël: And I would say to start working better to have average metrics available immediately than just metric, that you will have to wait for you and a half. So it's really a question of starting a momentum. Correct me if I'm wrong.

[00:26:45] Chris: Yeah, I mean, this is this is the thing. There's going to be a limit, right? So depending on how much clout you have to say, Well, we want to use CEO to Js or this sustainable Web design model or the one bite model as a criteria for our sprint planning, Right? So, like we're always going to track this and we're going to break the build. If these numbers go above a certain size right, you could start with something like that. But there may be some other places will basically say, Well, these numbers don't feel ready enough, and I don't see enough large organisations behind it. So I'm going to wait for the organisation which has Microsoft and get hard, blah, blah, blah, blah using this because it's easier for me to then make the argument internally and say, Well, it's not just us using this. It's those big companies over there and they can't all be wrong as well, right? So you do have this kind of This is a kind of deliberate decision about what kind of how much political capital you might be looking to kind of expend to get some of these ideas adopted. It very much depends on how big or how big the project might be. It may be that if you're doing a small project, you can just use some of the existing tools out there right now and provide the kind of caveats and warnings and saying, These are the numbers and this is where some of the things might be either underestimating or overestimating our actual numbers. So if we were going to do something like price carbon, then we should take this into account. For example.

[00:28:06] Gaël: That's why the debate is so important here because beyond the carbon, all the stuff related to water consumption resources exhaustion is completely overlooked in my humble opinion, and this is a debate that we need to have so the Green Web Foundation is doing at the moment to help this debate happened. And what is your view on it, Chris? The

[00:28:25] Chris: thing that might be worth being aware of is that we just come into the end of our first kind of round of a fellowship programme, where we basically had five different fellows from three different continents who were technologists in different roles, like either it directors or developers or bloggers or product managers. People like that, and we basically pay for some other time to research this stuff and blog the things that they were discovering and surface the papers and the reports that were useful in helping shed light on the situation. There is now a group on a piece of soft records of terror where we've been collecting all the papers and all the reports that we've been reading and discussing. And then if you go to our website, you'll see the blood posts from each of the fellows talking about the things that they've been engaging, too. Basically, cover this and I think there's a few people who I probably draw attention to. Specifically Melissa Chung in New York. She's been writing about all these kind of non carbon aspects of this so she's been talking a lot about a lot about some of the environmental justice aspects that use that we've just touched on here because there are impacts other than just carbon. And if you think about the fact that say we're going to be making electronics from things like, say, hydrocarbons and plastics and stuff like that, then we should probably be taking into account the environmental costs associated with extracting that kind of stuff. So she's done research into where this extraction takes place and how those costs are shifted onto people, for example. And dude, there's like, wild examples of, say, cities that we've heard of, like LA being full of oil extraction like oil wells and things, but have been disguised to look like, say, synagogues and stuff like that. And there are massive kind of health impacts for people who are living around there. Because these places these wells are basically being put right next to someone's house or literally on the same ground as a primary school, for example. So we've got some research there, and there's also some work by FICA Jansen, who's in the Netherlands. She's one of the other fellows she's been talking about this idea of data centres as sites of struggle where there are the kind of concentrated use of resources in a very in a particular place has all these other impacts associated So things like a water use, for example. And she points to how in the Netherlands you see a lot of local pushback from company from from local communities who have been unhappy about, say, wind turbines being cited next to them, but also about water being withdrawn at such rates that it has an impact on, say, the cost of water for them or their own supply. And you see the same thing happening elsewhere in the world like, say, Arizona and in North America, where again you see basically large, well organised organisations that are deploying data centres essentially getting kind of priority for water usage compared to people being able to use this for drinking and their own usage. So there are all these kind of resource questions related to this. There's also somewhat from Hannah. Smith has also been looking at some of the some of the other knock on effects when you might disrupt the economy that has been built up around the fact that we've been shipping electric waste. So say parts of Africa, for example, and that people come dependent on that. So even if you stop doing that, then you have this question of what happens to the people who are building a business or relying on that for essentially creating a livelihood, even if it's really, really unhealthy for them to be in unsafe conditions, melting down various kinds of waste to kind of reclaim things like lead or various other chemicals that they can then sell on the market, for example. So we've been we've been allowing people or giving them a bit of time and space to explore this stuff. But to be honest, we don't have really concrete suggestions at the moment. We're hoping to kind of continue researching for this because when we look around, there are some groups that are doing this that are kind of coming up with some concrete recommendations. But they're not in the tech sector there, groups that might be saying things like, Well, if you're going to be buying this, you should be prepared to speak to your supply about Do they have a community benefit programme or do they have, like, zero tolerance clause in contracts? So there is no fear of Reprisals for people who are actually pushing against this stuff in certain parts of the world. So there's a bunch of this, but it is something like we said is in the fog of enactment phase. We don't really know which kinds of regulations or conventions or things like contracts that you might you would use to really have the most impact right now to account for this. But we do know that it's really important. It does need to be addressed.

[00:32:52] Gaël: Absolutely. I really love the title of an eggman. I believe this is gotta hustle. Who wrote the paper for the Green Web Foundation?

[00:33:00] Chris: Yeah, I've really, really enjoyed goes to his work and the thing that I'm aware of this as a like primary English speaker and the English speaking world being basically a little bit behind France in many ways. On this stuff, we commissioned go here to work with us because we really liked some of the work that he'd been doing. But we also did it because we wanted to recognise that there was all this work happening, not in English that more people should see. And we figured by publishing that we could least shine an idea or shine the light on some of the other ways of talking about this that weren't so focused on energy. Even though, like a lot of what we do as an organisation is focused around energy, we figured well, we should be shining a light on all the stuff that's happening that isn't necessarily happening in English. That could help move on this kind of discussion. So we hope that's the first of the reports and were planning to have some other ones around this idea of fossil free Internet and embedding climate justice into into work. But, yeah, Gautier was absolutely fantastic to work with. And if you're looking for a researcher, he's a really good person to follow the work of. And yeah, he's, uh if he's available and he's not already working with us, then I would I would absolutely recommend working with him. He was fantastic to work

[00:34:10] Gaël: with his paper, absolutely flawless, I would say with this 3 60 vision, not focusing only on carbon emission but like this full lifecycle analysis and I would like to ask you to last questions because we are running out of time. I would love to keep the discussion on for two more hours, but that's not the idea of this podcast soap. Recently, I spotted a LinkedIn post where Adam Turner was puzzled by the amount of jobs being advertised in sustainability versus manpower shortage in this area. And this is exactly what you've been discussing for the last half an hour, and I think it really made a point. We need a lot of people to get knowledge even to specialist in this field, but it's still very hard when you don't have a diploma, digital sustainability diploma or not that many courses. So what advices would you would you give to someone willing to specialist in digital sustainably? What training should be followed? Books should be read. Which community should be joined? What are your top picks on this topic?

[00:35:12] Chris: This is this isn't actually that different from when people ask like, say, five or 10 years ago in 2011, said Hi, we're looking for rails developers. Ruben Rolls, developers with 15 years experience. It's not a new thing for us. as an industry to be trying to higher things and without really that much of an understanding of where the skills shortages actually is. I think that when maybe 10 years ago there were people trying to get some of this stuff put together saying Hi, this is going to be a topic So the British Computer Society, they had some work like this before and they even had some training courses, I think and likewise other organisations did do this. But what they basically said was we tried doing this but we didn't see enough interest from member organisations, so we decided to discontinue these and stop running them. So you basically have this scenario where you've got this crunch in terms of skills again and I think that there is now a kind of uptick in interest in this. So I think the British Computer Society are doing something are now designing a new course specifically for this. I know that other bodies in other parts of the world are also trying to put this together. I do some work with the Green Software Foundation and there is a whole discussion around certification of training for this and other organisations like the S D. A. The Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance. They're also doing work with other training and certification organisations to do this. So there is this kind of scramble right now to come up with syllabus is and naming of competency so people can use this stuff. So we do have this kind of massive crunch right now and I don't think there are enough digital sustainability experts right now to meet demand. Which means, I guess it's good news if you want to be learning this because it means your skills will be in demand and people have to pay probably pretty good rates for this. Like for context. Um, I saw Intel have hired a in the last six months. Intel set up an entirely new division for this for basically focusing in this particular field of, like, open source and sustainability and, uh, they were offering very, very healthy salaries for this kind of stuff. So there is a kind of uptick in this, But if you haven't got that, if you haven't developed those skills right now, I think there are groups like say, terror do who are developing this or the organisations have mentioned, but your question was about other books and other things that you would point to. I'd probably say there's like a small number of books which I think are useful. But there's probably a wider section of material which is not necessarily in tech but is actually very, very helpful for addressing some of the problems. We've said that we don't have answers for in the world of 10 energy right now. So the books that you're probably going to look for if you just Googled like sustainability and Web, you'd find a book designed for sustainability. From Tim Frick, you'd find sustainable Web design from Tom Whole Grain. These are two quite similar books that are both actually quite strong. Books. Tim Frick one is a bit older. Tom Tom, Tom Greenwood from Whole Grain Digital. Not Tom Whole Grain God. So Tom Greenwood's book came out last year, and that's probably the newest book that I'm aware of in this field. But there's also ones from I Think, Gerry McGovern Worldwide Waste, where he talks about some of this from a content design point of view, for example. But I would really recommend looking a little bit wider than that. So there is a really fantastic book by John Comey called Numbers to Knowledge where he talks about. And that's basically about how to apply critical thinking when you're thinking about data and numbers, particularly for informing very, very large policy decisions or informing decisions where people spent a bunch of money in a company. And he opens the chapter with his book about how we have this entire discussion in the early two thousands. Basically lots and lots of coal companies that made lots of money by mining and selling coal said the Internet needs Internet has massive energy usage requirements. So therefore we need to mind loads of coal because the Internet runs on coal, and those assumptions caused lots and lots of people to make very, very, very wasteful decisions in the early two thousands. And if you don't know how to avoid these kind of mistakes that we've done historically, you're going to struggle, and this kind of brings us to other people have been writing about this for a while. I really like the content of the work from Alice Bell. She's not a tech sustainability specialist. She talks about the history of climate change. But she's got a book called Our Biggest Experiment, where she talks all about these numbers and all about how we kind of make decisions on this. And I found another book, which I find really helpful again, isn't actually a tech focused book Professor Kimberly Nicholas. She has a book called Under the Sky We Make. I continually refer to her models for talking about some of the kind of emotional and intellectual issues around climate change. Not just how do I make the CO two number go up or down in my sprint cycle, for example? And then there is the stuff I'd really suggest reading from Amy Westfeldt. All of her podcasts are really, really good talking about, I guess, the political political economy that underpins some of the decisions that we might be working with and how a lot of the kind of numbers we end up being exposed to are being shown how they're created and what defaults have put into their and whose interests there have been designed from the very get go so that we focus on. Let's focus on the inefficiency of the computer cloud without thinking about the embodied energy in building all these data centres, for example, or things like that.

[00:40:42] Gaël: It's very interesting because basically what you say 2 to 3 books or podcast to understand the topic of digital sustainability, then it's a lot of self training. Stay aware of what is going on regarding standards and frameworks, and you name quite a lot of them. And of course, we will put all these resources on the podcast. But your main advice is, once you've read Tom's book a masterpiece, I must admit, I really enjoyed reading it. It's super easy. Jerry's book. A Big Punch in the face. It's not that enjoyable, but it's very easy to read. And Tim, I must admit, it's on my to do, but I didn't read it. But once you've well, there's a few books. If you're lucky enough to be a French speaker, you've got a bunch of other books that are, unfortunately not translated yet. But when it's when it's done, do not stop here broader your vision read books on the wider topic of climate change. You didn't mention that much the mining operations and how polluting they are, etcetera. But of course, there are a lot of great resources as well. I hope I will be able to invite one of the French specialist on this one pretty soon, and that's that's that's your main advice. Once you've done your homework, we must read book. When it comes to digital sustainably, expand with books that will provide you a wider perspective.

[00:41:57] Chris: Yeah, I'd say so. There's a few newsletters that I find helpful. Um, there's one newsletter called Green Rocks, which is all about the environmental aspects of mining. There's a woman called Ingrid Barrington who has also been writing quite detailed stuff about the kind of mining and hardware aspects of this. Those I think. I think Ingrid is based in New York. I've totally blank on the name of the gentleman who runs the Green Rocks newsletter. But there is a real focus in Indonesia and South East Asia, I think so. That's worth looking at as well. And I probably say that, yeah, that's I don't know any really, really new books specifically on the kind of mining aspects of this right now, you generally need to kind of trawl through reports right now from groups like, say, German watch or electronics watch or the war One wants, for example, who are touching on this. But these tend to not be. They're not aimed necessarily, a technology technology audience or coming from the point of technology is trying to engage with this issue. I suspect that, like you mentioned, there are probably going to be more stuff in the kind of Francophone world that you're going to find right now simply because it's a blind spot that we've had for the last, like 20 years, where people have paid attention, they have not received the attention that they really deserve. I would say

[00:43:09] Gaël: talking about people. Do you believe that there are influences that need to be full or feel like people that you really enjoy talking to or listening to?

[00:43:18] Chris: Yeah, So I mentioned people like, say, Alice Bell, Kimberly Nicholas. I found Maddie Stones work really, really, really helpful. She's basically a journalist who writes about this particular bit of tech and climate. I don't think anyone writes as clearly as she does so frequently as she does as well. Her stuff is absolutely, really, really, really top notch the other person who stuff. I've really liked this woman called Ann Curry. She's doing some work with the Green Software Foundation, and I worked with her when we were doing some kind of trademark work together. But she for the last few years she's been contributing to this white paper every year about kind of tech ethics specifically around climate. The white paper has some really good recommendations and good summaries of what you can do as a CEO or a CPO for this. So her stuff is really, really quite it's really, really good. And she's She also is speaks from quite a few podcasts about OK, these are the ways you might try to sell this. And on them there's a podcast called Environment Variables, where she wrote specifically about selling the idea of digital sustainability internally and what things work and what things do not work. I've heard I found her stuff good, and then finally there's a woman called Louise Crow who's the CEO of my society Now. She has been one of the technical leaders on their climate programme, and I found her stuff really, really systemically aware and really well thought through her background is basically democracy tech. The argument they make is basically the climate crisis is a crisis of democracy because we are essentially giving too much power to a very, very small group who do well out of keeping things as they are whilst ignoring all the needs from a much wider section of people. And I think that framing is really, really helpful when trying to engage in this subject and much more kind of systemic, aware, systemically aware way that you might not be able to if you're just focusing only internally inside your company, who basically are incentivised in many ways to act like essentially an undying sociopath because that's what we incentivise companies to act like. So, yeah,

[00:45:15] Gaël: so true or not paying attention to the environment?

[00:45:18] Chris: Well, yeah, exactly Exactly. If you incentivise companies not to care about the environment and you basically subsidise mining of virgin materials and everything like that, then of course, they're going to act the way they act like there is only so much you're going to able to do by getting all your people inside an organisation to spend a lot of political capital at that point, which is in many ways is going against a lot of the kind of incentives that are already in place for companies you're going to have, Uh, there's a really strong argument for talking about changing of regulation. So you end up with incentives that make it easier to make the case to do the right thing. Because right now, yeah, we If you look at how the lot of the regulations are structured, they do tend to incentivise some behaviour, which we generally would argue is extremely unsustainable and probably putting on putting us on this kind. Of course, we're basically accelerating into this iceberg, and I feel like, yeah, that needs to be addressed. We can't just only talk about, like, the internal facing things. You really do need a kind of systemic view on this, but that's okay. We're not. There are other people working on a systemic view as well, and I think it's really useful to engage with those people and realise there's a world outside of tech that we can benefit from. If we want to achieve any of the change that I guess were driven into, we want we want to see.

[00:46:39] Gaël: I believe there is a word outside of tech that we could benefit from could be our closing word. Actually, that might be your closing words, because that is absolutely true. And that embedded pretty well the discussion we had for this second part of this episode. So thanks a lot, Chris, For being with us today.

[00:46:57] Chris: Thank you very much for having me. I really enjoyed this scale. Thank you. And thank you again for putting on this podcast. It's really nice to have things like this that you can point people, too, who are trying to engage with this subject for the first time and find something actionable to, like, incorporate into their work. So, yeah, Thank you.


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