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Episode 34: We Love Planet Earth

I'm still deep in debug mode when I pick the phone up. Any hope of keeping track of the problem disappears as soon as the Boss starts jabbering.

'They've move the whelp meeting a day forward,' he reports breathlessly.

'Whelp? What the…'

He sounds exasperated. 'Don't tell me you've forgotten?'

'OK. I won't tell you.'

'So you've forgotten…'

'You said not to tell you.'

'Damn it, Joe,' he snaps. 'Saving planet Earth is no laughing matter.'

Now I've got it. He's talking about the We Love Planet Earth program that the company's foisting on us. WLPE is some lame PR exercise to show that we're good corporate citizens who take climate change seriously.

'What WLPE meeting?' I ask, suddenly wishing I hadn't deleted every email related to the program.

'The one we're attending tomorrow, only it's not tomorrow it's today. In 30 minutes to be exact. Send me over your slides and we can have a quick chat before the meeting starts.'


I can sense the Boss's temperature is rising faster than the planet's. 'Yes,' he tells me, his voice rising, 'the ones where you outline how the development team are going to contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.'

'Well, to be honest,' I explain, 'having looked in detail at the science I really don't think that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are anything to do with the current warming trend. I mean when you look at the historical trends…'

'Joe,' the Boss tells me sternly, 'we now have 15 minutes before the meeting. We're expected to have some concrete proposals on the table. We're supposed to have done the work to show that we care about our planet. You can bet your life that the Server team will have done their work…'

'But the Little Ice Age and the Mediaeval Warm Period are…'

'Joe,' he snaps with a certain grim finality, 'don't quote science at me. Just do it.'

Well, they've pulled out the big guns for the meeting. There's me and the Boss, there's Server Bill and his Boss, there's Sandy from the Help Desk and her Boss, and then there's the lovely Pam from HR and a slicked back, tanned but serious looking bloke from Corporate.

'Let's cut to the chase,' the Corporate guy says, kicking the meeting off. 'We have to show that we're serious about tackling global warming. No more kidding around that it's not our problem. It's our problem, alright, and we're going to have to deal with it. So, every department in the company, no matter how high or how lowly, is going to come up with a commitment related to carbon footprints. This is serious.'

He sits back at the head of the table, gives us all a deep, meaningful look and then reaches down to the print-outs that have been distributed. Two separate lots of paper in fact. For a moment he seems confused. 'I thought there were three groups represented here today,' he says, turning to Pam.

'There are,' she confirms, 'Help Desk, Server Infrastructure and Internal Development. It looks like the Development group have forgotten to distribute their presentation.'

All eyes turn to me and the Boss. 'Well you see…' the Boss stutters, red faced.

'As part of our commitment,' I explain, 'we've decided to reduce our paper usage. In the past we would have had more copies of our presentation than we needed, and for what? What right do we have to cut down the rain-forests so that you can have copies of our presentation?'

Mr Corporate waits a second and then nods approvingly. 'That's excellent. Very excellent in fact. I like that a lot. The rest of you,' he gives them a stern look, 'you should be learning from this.'

Pam beams me a smile. The Boss visibly relaxes. On the other hand I think Server Bill is about to leap across the table and throttle me.

'OK,' says Pam, 'do you have your presentation on USB? I don't see a lap-top…'

'Do you know how much energy those projectors burn?' I demand accusingly. 'Why, one hour's use of one of those projectors kills a baby iceberg. It's just shameful.'

Pam snaps the projector off guiltily. I sit back and bask in the Al Gore glory of it all.

So we sit back and listen to the proposals the other two teams have put forward. The Help Desk are only going to flush the toilet once a day. They'll put whale song as the standby music (which, I realise, will cause callers to hang up rather than hang on).

The Server team declare that they're going to change the refresh cycle from three years to four — so they'll keep using older machines rather than buying new ones. For a fact I know they were going to do that anyway, simply because they've run out of hardware budget. The bastards. They're not taking any of this seriously. They also commit to reducing power consumption by consolidating physical servers to virtual machines. Again, the bastards were doing that anyway because the virtual systems are easier to manage.

Then it's our turn. By this point the Boss is squirming in his seat because he doesn't have a clue what it is we're going to do.

'Well,' I say, by now quite happy to be the company Al Gore despite not swallowing any of the alarmist rubbish that he peddles, 'we've decided that from now the majority of our development is going to use the Java programming language. Java, as you all know, is named after the island full of tropical rain-forests. Java is the greenest of the programming languages, and is especially well-known for being Polar bear-friendly.'

Mr Corporate turns to Pam. 'This is seriously good stuff,' he tells her. 'Think of the PR potential in this.'

Bill, the Server guy, chips in. 'We're going to follow suit, and all our Server scripts will use Python, named after the snake of the same name. By writing programs in Python we'll be protecting the species at threat from global warming.'

'What's more,' I add, 'all our programs will use only low-powered code, so that the computers that run them won't consume so much energy.'

'Wow!' says the Corporate guy. 'You guys really do love Planet Earth'.

I sit back and sigh. To hell with CO2 emissions, when it comes to BS emissions we're just world class…

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