I’m writing this on Earth Day, 22 April 2019. This is a change from my usual blog but bear with me. Lately I’ve been spending much of my time contemplating climate change, its rate and its likely impacts if left unattended. None of those potential impacts are very encouraging. Many of them are horrific. Therefore we must seriously change things if we are to avoid the bad news in favor of some less bad news 20 years from now. The problem is that my personal changes won’t make much difference. Nor will yours. But together, with millions of other earthlings, we might be able to move the future to a better place than where it’s headed now.
Exactly a year ago I wrote a blog entitled TELEWORK AND UNNATURAL DISASTERS: BREXIT. Today one or other of the versions of that disaster is almost upon us — or not. The United Kingdom and the European Union have been talking past each other for the past year. As a result the UK might just fall out of the EU with no formal political arrangements of any sort between them, an unnatural disaster indeed.
The UK’s prime minister is at odds with parliament. Parliament is at odds with itself. Both are at odds with large parts of the populace. The EU doesn’t particularly like the UK’s exit plan Brexit. There appears to be a growing part of both the populace and the government to say: “Oh, just forget it! We’re staying in the EU.” But, as I write this, the governments, at least, have to make some sort of formal decision by April 12th. Stay or leave and, if the decision is leave, what’s the deal? Very complicated.
What are our chances of making the grade proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPPC)? The limit to global warming proposed by the IPPC is 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level. The world is now above 1.05°C and climbing. The latest report by the IPCC calls for elimination of additional greenhouse gases (GHGs), mostly CO2, in our atmosphere by 2060. Or else!
The or else implies a variety of unfortunate climate events will occur as the atmosphere and the oceans warm. We are already experiencing some of the effects with the warming at the 1.05°C level. These include drought; forest fires; flooding; crop failures; deaths from heat exhaustion; melting of glaciers and polar ice; and rising ocean levels, to name a few. Oh, then there’s also the polar vortex plaguing us in wintertime while polar temperatures are significantly warmer than normal.
After a very tumultuous year I want to wish you a very happy, satisfying and productive next year — and thereafter. Onward to 2019. Here are some things to think about for the new year.
If you haven’t already, try to expand (or start) formal teleworking in your organization. As the world economy starts to slow down it is time to think about ways you can increase your competitiveness and versatility while also reducing operating costs. Contemporary technology almost transparently enables close coordination among team members and between teams, regardless of the physical location of their members. As more than one manager has told me in the past: “I didn’t get this at first. In fact I resisted it. But my experience as a telemanager has shown me that I spend significantly less time in those tedious administrative tasks and much more time in getting the job done with my co-workers.” That, and the fact that trained teleworkers tend to stick with their employers — and take less sick leave — is what makes those bottom-line-checkers smile.
Way back in 1974, after we had completed the first successful quantified test of telecommuting, I was stunned by an announcement of the president of the test company. He said that, while the project was a great success from several points of view, the company would discontinue offering telecommuting to its employees. When I asked why he said: “Our company is non-union. We’re concerned that, if the company allows telecommuting from these satellite offices, the unions will be able to recruit the employees at one office after another. Before we know it, because of NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) rules, the company will become unionized and we don’t want that.”
A few months later I was part of a panel discussing the possible impacts of telecommuting. One of my fellow panelists was the head of strategy for the AFL/CIO. At one point he turned to me and said: “You know, this telecommuting is a terrible idea.” When I asked him why he thought so re replied: “Well, if a company’s employees are scattered all over the map, how the hell will we ever get them organized?”
We have what turns out to be a standard dilemma: The fear of becoming organized on the one hand vs the fear of not being able to organize on the other. Telecommuting/telework were in the middle. Continue reading Unions for Teleworkers?→
As I have commented in the past, we seriously need to do something about climate change, each of us. On 6 October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest special report. The bad news is that the IPCC lowered its bad-things-will-happen threshold from 2°C (in the earlier report) to 1.5°C. By, say, 2030.
That is to say that, if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030, then global warming and effects will likely be even worse — and sooner — than was forecast in the earlier IPCC report. By the way, those temperature numbers refer to increases from the temperatures before the industrial era began. In 2015 we arrived at the 0.87° point. So we need collectively to begin today to diminish or eliminate all sources of global warming, most of them due to human activity, by 2030.
If we don’t eliminate those sources in time, particularly by 2050, a number of unfortunate events will occur. Some of them have already happened at least once. They will also worsen in proportion to the increase in temperature. Those unfortunate events include: major storms, flooding, drought, rising ocean levels, melting glaciers, crop failures, human migration, disease spreading and extinctions, to name a few. All of these have occurred to some extent in the past year or two.
No single option will act to solve this global problem but several options are available that, adopted with sufficient intensity, may keep us below that 1.5°C limit.
As I leaf through my old (i.e., last century) presentations I thought, why not share them with the readers of this blog? So here’s one of them, circa 1992, in PDF format. It’s about 4.6 megabytes in size. You can download it here.
This was our general presentation to prospective employers of telecommuters. In 39 slides it covers the historic technological and societal forces that are acting to make telework not only desirable but inevitable for many types of jobs at least some of the time. It also tries to allay the fears of managers about losing control of their employees by showing results of actual telecommuting experience in both the public and private sectors.
Since the presentation was general in nature we used it primarily for introducing organizations to the concepts of telework and telecommuting. Detailed presentations came later, after we were able to incorporate the specifics of an organization’s culture and environment into the material.
Although the material in the presentation is from the 1990s the ideas in it are just as applicable now as they were then. Even more so since the technology behind telework has progressed to the point today where interpersonal communication is as good as, and in some cases even better than, face-to-face, regardless of the locations of the participants.
To round out the presentations, here’s one, in Spanish, presented to the Minister of Labor of Argentina. It’s both history and some thoughts about the future.
Development of Policy on the Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff: that’s what we called our research project at the University of Southern California, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in 1973. That was a good title for winning a grant from the scientists of the US government. It wasn’t a good title for explaining our research to almost everyone else, especially the business and government organizations that we wanted to use for testing the concept.
The focus of the research team was to assess the possibility of substituting information technology for the daily commute to and from work by millions of information/knowledge workers. I decided that a catchy name might seriously help in recruiting participants. So, that October, I produced a portmanteau word: telecommuting. It was a combination of the words: telecommunications, commuting and computers.
Today I had an iMessage exchange with my astute grand-niece about climate change, ending up with thoughts about change dynamics. This was triggered by her comment that she was confined to the house because of the miserable air quality in Seattle. Now Seattle is not one of the places that frequently comes up in discussions of air quality. Yet, for the second time this week, Seattle’s air quality was comparable to Beijing’s (112 vs. 151 today; a few days ago Seattle was more polluted than Beijing).
The reason for this? Forest fires in British Columbia and smoke therefrom drifting down to Seattle. Advice to all, but especially to women of childbearing age: Stay indoors!! This is what was annoying my grand-niece. It is also what is annoying many women around the world as global warming aids in the ignition of forest fires. The west coast of North America has had a disastrous fire season so far this year, attributable to climate change.