Friday, July 13, 2007

Considering the Environment

Someone in the IT department at work had a bright idea the other day. Wanting to show that just because we have the entire value of South America under management doesn’t mean we are not environmentally friendly, he added an image to the bottom of all emails on our server. The message simply asks the employee to consider the environment before printing an email.

This would perhaps be a good plan if anyone read the footer of emails. Unfortunately, this is hidden below about 200 words of corporate disclaimer – none of which is ever read, I assure you – so its chances of getting noticed are slim. Its efficacy is also contingent upon a few whimsical employees who print out emails for very little reason whatsoever. Considering that most desks are not so close to the printer as mine is, I suspect the walk does more to dissuade these fops than any footer. However, it is still theoretically possible that some youngster out there is printing his email four or five times over in the hopes of encountering the girl he fancies at that timeless rendezvous scene of yore: the Fujitsu.

There is yet a more serious objection to the footer: not only is it shown in Lotus on all emails, but it is included when these are printed out. On a standard British A4 sheet of paper, emails print out utilizing 9 ¾” of paper. The new environmental plea adds an additional ½” of text to the bottom of a printed email, which is fine if the email ended at 6 ½” or 8 ¾”, but there is a roughly one in twenty chance that the footer will be printed out on the following page. This happens so routinely that I have decided to start a collection of the wasted pages.

I find this quite representative of the entire environmentalist movement. A strong tendency exists to elevate motives and ‘raising awareness’ over pragmatic concerns. It doesn’t matter how many excess pages are wasted by the 400 workers in my office over the course of a year compared with the potentially saved pages; the footer is implemented because it symbolizes a commitment to green principals and responsible business practices.

The same tendency was at work this weekend at the Live Earth events. It doesn’t matter how much energy was used to fly aging rock stars around the planet, or for that matter how much CO2 was released by the thousands of fans traveling millions of miles – collectively, of course - to see them. What mattered was that consciousness was raised
– or would have been, had anyone actually bothered to watch the thing. From Al Gore’s $20,000 utility bill to hybrids loaded with toxic batteries, consciousness over practice rules the day. The local Green party here in Falkirk stated it best on their signs during the last Scottish elections: “First Vote Green.” They might have get respect if they lived green first.

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