How to reconcile your career with climate action?

  • Does anyone else feel helpless that they aren't able to align their job with efforts to stop the runaway train of climate change? Sometimes I look around at work and think, "what are we all doing here?" while the existential threats of the Earth loom ominously over our heads. The need to keep a roof over my head is preventing action.

    What can we do?

  • @capilano that's a totally valid feeling. Personally, I find that you can do your best to encourage positive climate actions from within a company but it is helpful to have an external outlet as well. Finding like minded people to talk to about it makes me feel better

  • @capilano I've definitely been feeling this lately. A big issue I'm having at the moment is getting my family to be more conscious of their habits as consumers. Cringing as I write this but my dad's response to my nagging is that "I have more important things to worry about like putting a roof over your heads and food in your mouths". To me, the looming threat of the crisis at hand IS the most important thing to worry about. Obviously in a different way to you, but this is another example of how the need to keep a roof over your head is preventing action. I think the big problem here is that taking climate action can be seen as inconvenient and more expensive.

    Like Eric said, you can encourage action from within your company. Perhaps a good way to do this is highlight actions that can be taken in your workplace that have the potential to be money saving without inconveniencing the user. Any specific actions like this that you can think of for your work place?

  • @kvigonic even though the situations are different, it's pretty crazy that it's almost the same language (roof over head) being used. Just goes to show that for most people, climate action is secondary. You're totally right though that it's the giant elephant in the room. When you don't feel like it's affecting your daily decisions, environmental factors get thrown to the side.

    I'm starting to think that making the true environmental costs hit people's wallets is the only way to motivate actual change. Carbon taxes are one example of how that might work. I'd love to learn more about other similar approaches

  • @kvigonic "Perhaps a good way to do this is highlight actions that can be taken in your workplace that have the potential to be money saving without inconveniencing the user. Any specific actions like this that you can think of for your work place?"

    good point. one that's jumping to mind is to have low-flow toilets or lights that automatically turn off. the tough part is probably that those might cost more upfront. it takes some foresight to see how they could pay back over the long run. I've heard some ideas about groups that will front the cost of efficiency upgrades like that. In return, they share in some of the savings that come after the costs are paid back. seems like something that could work

  • I'm all for marginal improvements in existing big companies, but I'd also like to point out that there are plenty of companies/jobs that are trying to directly tackle climate issues. So you can work to help the environment AND have a roof over your head. For example, the startup accelerator "Elemental Excelerator" only funds companies that do this. I got my job (at Kevala, which [shameless plug] is hiring) by perusing their list of ~100 companies

  • @teddy have you found an advantage to working within a specifically environmentally focused accelerator? It looks like Kevala helps to visualize grid infrastructure and energy data. Have you been able to engage other startups within the accelerator to leverage your project?

  • @ericvanular Yeah, we have a pretty good relationship with other startups in the accelerator! I pulled some data from Utility API (an EEx company which allows people to share their electricity usage), because we model electricity usage (and grid utilitization) at the house/neighborhood/city/utility level. I went to some tech talks at Stem (a battery storage company), and work with someone who used to work there. We also got connected to some customers in the Hawaii government, because EEx is based in Hawaii and Hawaii was the first state to commit to 100% renewables.

    Our CEO does more of that kind of stuff (I'm just a software engineer), but yes, I would say that it has been overwhelmingly positive for us.

  • @teddy cool stuff. Is the idea that through better energy management with software/data, you'll be able to optimize the processes and reduce emissions?

  • @teddy maybe some of the other Elemental Excelerator companies could benefit from being featured here

  • @capilano

    Sometimes I look around at work and think, "what are we all doing here?"

    You're making money that you can then spend on this crisis outside of work 🙂

    This is a guess, but I think that it makes sense for each individual to specialize for work, doing what you're best at. If you can make a lot of money at work, then turn around and dump a ton of your money into making the planet better, that may end up contributing more to the solution than directly working on it for a living (assuming you're not inventing some revolutionary solution).

    As an example, I'm going to be much better at making money doing software development than I would be a politician trying to fight climate change. I can then use some of the money I make at work to donate to political campaigns that support the fight against climate change.

    If I'm being honest, this feels like an excuse to some degree. But, I think it's worth considering that most of us may be more useful by indirectly contributing (via dollars) to the solution than directly.

  • @capilano what about your individual actual impact on climate change? Do you mind sharing your CO2 balance with us? Is it positive or negative? What measures did you take on your level in the way you feed, heat and transport your body, to be mindful of our planet?

    You can do something about climate change on your level without having to change jobs.
    Now, if you feel called to change jobs, you should follow that. It's not the need to keep a roof over your head that prevents action, it's fear. Life is impermanent, and I believe that it's worth taking risks in life, and even go through very difficult moments, than to never live at all because you want to stay comfortable. Living an authentic life provides one way more warmth than any building in the world. Being less esoteric, and more practical, I think there is also a way you can make money by working a better job, or change your lifestyle so that you can still have a roof over your head, maybe just a less expensive one. I know a few people who live in yurts or small cabins in intentional communities, very simple lives, very inexpensive, with lots of nature, lots of time to work on their projects.

  • @l42 I try my best to minimize my individual impact. I have a positive balance. Without going into details, I do most things that I feasibly can to help in my day-to-day. The problem is more the feeling that most others simply don't care or are systematically encouraged not to care.

    @mattm your idea is a good one, though I'm still going to look for something more direct that can be done

  • @mattm your idea is a good one, though I'm still going to look for something more direct that can be done

    In that case, for my own examples, my company rents their commercial building, so I emailed the owners and asked about the feasibility of putting solar panels on the commercial's just wasted space otherwise. They were interested, but ultimately said they couldn't, because of "roof membrane warranty issues".

    Collectively over the years, we put pressure[1] on the owners to add a bike room, and they finally added a bike room this summer. That allowed me to bike to work during the good weather. Only a few people (out of hundreds of employees in the area) participated, so that still needs work, but the reality is that most people live outside of biking distance from work.

    Within my company, we take batteries to a recycling facility. That's been a thing since before I started and I really appreciate those aren't going to a landfill.

    We've also tried recycling pieces of K-Cups for those Keurig coffee machines...this lasted a few months, but ended because frankly I think it was just too much work (you have to cut the plastic off the top, throw that away, dump the grounds, rinse, then recycle the plastic cup). The better solution, of course, is using a regular coffee machine and not a Keurig, but that has other practical issues...

    I'm still looking for more reasonable things we should encourage around the office, but hopefully these few examples encourage others to give it a shot, too!

    [1] Previously we just kept bringing bikes into the office, but they didn't want that and kept delivering warnings. Our city has a bike theft problem, so most of us aren't comfortable keeping bikes outside. They eventually met us halfway.

  • @mattm Kudos, sounds like you're doing everything you can in your day to day.

    Would be interesting to see if there's a way to put positive organizational pressure on the larger scale decisions of the company towards an environmental direction

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  • There are more jobs out there than what you'd expect to find. Try paying more attention on the offers you're already getting. My last smart-grid software job was from a chat with a recruiter that didn't understand nor promote the opening as cleantech or climate change fighting, but it had an energy saving impact.

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