I know that me personally, given all the challenges that we have to live with on a daily basis during this crisis, if I was not working on something meaningful, I would be in real trouble trying to maintain my level of performance and engagement at work. Luckily though, we as software developers have a tremendous amount of freedom to choose what we work on and with who. I believe that the challenges that we are going through now and the restrictions that have been placed on our lives by the pandemic has made a lot of us think a little deeper about what we really value. Despite COVID-19 being a clear immediate danger, we need to keep in mind that there are plenty of other issues lurking in society that are more permanent and on the same scale as the virus.
One such issue is climate change. Climate change has the potential and likelihood to rock our lives more consistently and to a greater degree than this virus has. Choosing to focus your skills to fight climate change would not only give your work more meaning, but it would help us avoid future scenarios that would be repeats of the type of disruption we are living through now.
Fighting climate change as a software developer can happen in many different forms. You could find a job, like I did, working for a company directly involved in mitigating climate change. You could work on a personal side project or support an open-source project that somehow contributes to fighting climate change. With your current company, you could also push for the greening of the technology or tools that you use.
Probably, the most impact you could have fighting climate change is by finding a job working for a company or organization that is fighting climate change as a part of its mission. This field is growing and there are a lot of opportunities. When I made the decision last year to find such a job, it took me less than 2 months to do so. If this is something that you are considering, I created a step-by-step guide to finding a job fighting climate change a software developer to help you. Recently, I also came across this post discussing the same issue and offering additional resources.
I know that switching jobs is a big move and requires some sacrifice, but I can tell you from personal experience if you plan and go about the process thoughtfully, you will find work easier than you expected and you will find like-minded peers that share your passions and motivations beyond technology and software development.
An easier leap to make than switching jobs would be to either develop a personal idea that somehow fights climate change or support an open-source project that does so.
I am certain that we are all creative people and ideas for new projects abound. Personal side projects can tackle climate change from any angle, anything helps. For example, a few months ago I discovered that Siemens was supporting the Adani coal mining project in Australia. There was a lot of pressure on Siemens to cancel their involvement, but they refused. I was furious because I had just bought several new Siemens home appliances and this was not the type of company that I wanted to support. I did not want to forget this rage, so I thought about creating a browser extension that would highlight the Siemens name on any web page that I visited with a pop-up reminding me of what they had done. I know on some level this is a silly idea and maybe not that useful to the general public, but the bigger goal is to grow this extension beyond Siemens to highlight the most egregious offenders by providing us with a constant reminder of how these companies have behaved. I have other ideas that are not fully flushed out, but I think I can turn this into something useful. At the very least, it is something very visible that shows Siemens that I will not let myself forget what they have done. I believe that small drops of resistance eventually lead to larger changes.
This extension is something that I continue to work on and it helps me to channel my frustrations and passions. I even learned a few things working on it.
If you are not driven to create a project on your own, there are plenty of open-source projects that need support. You can find some of these on Github of course, but keep an eye out for reputable organizations supporting open-source solutions, like the Linux Foundation with their LFEnergy project.
There are even organizations and groups that have sprung up to help direct our climate-change-fighting energies as software developers yearning to write and apply code towards the cause.
In case you are more inclined to become politically involved, there are groups like Extinction Rebellion that need help with finding solutions to some very challenging technical problems. Check out this interesting talk given at the Chaos Computer Club's 2019 36C3 conference where the solutions for Extinction Rebellion's sysadmin, systems and security architecture are discussed.
As software developers, we have influence over the infrastructure that runs our code and the tools that we use to develop and run our projects. One thing we could advocate, for example, is the hosting of our applications in data centers powered by clean energy. Two such hosts are Flokinet and Data Center Light.
Finally, what we can be doing personally to fight climate change can also be applied to our office environments. If having in-depth discussions about climate change and the solutions that can be implemented at work is too much for you, you can simply remind your co-workers that certain actions are wasteful, like leaving the lights on in an empty office or the company supplying the employees with water from single-use plastic bottles. Remember, all actions add up.
Unfortunately I am not smart enough to come up with a mind-blowing idea that will help us fight climate change, but I hope that I am able to motivate some of you to take both large and small steps that are tangible and lead you to live more fulfilling lives that are in line with your personal values. What I have outlined here will help you do so and it will also directly help us avoid future scenarios similar to this pandemic that may have lead you here in the first place.