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Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

posts about climate and climate change and global warming

Telecommuting – What Do You Think?

Posted by middlerage on March 1, 2013

So telecommuting is ALL OVER the news, what with Marissa Mayer telling her minions to get back to the office. I’ve seen compelling reactions from both sides of the fence over this move. On the one hand, most companies in Silicon Valley are moving towards telecommuting, on the other hand observers are saying the amount of malingering at Yahoo was unique and makes those workers stand out from their Silicon Valley peers.

On the one hand, Mayer is a “race traitor” for being a mom yet invoking a family un-friendly policy. On the other hand, Yahoo is swirling in the toilet bowl of unproductivity and devaluation.

What do you think?


It’s a tough one, and I don’t have an opinion, so much as a bunch of semi-related thoughts inspired by the debate. As a climate scientist I think telecommuting is a great way to combat carbon emissions. As a regular Joe, I find I really need the formality of a workspace to be productive. It’s just a personal thing.


Being middle aged, I see older folks who just have to print documents and read the physical copies. And I see youngsters who do all their reading and creating and editing in the virtual world. And I empathize with both. Often I can do most work on the computer, but occasionally I need to sit down with a paper copy and a red pen.  There’s real value in poring over hard copy, just as there is real value in walking into an office. In a building other than your house.  But I also hesitate to pontificate a one-size fits all rule. I am sure there is somebody who can work a highly productive fourteen hour day in their bathrobe.


Speaking of bathrobes, one Yahoo telecommuter opined that if they have to go back into the office do they also have to read email at home in the evening? Or shouldn’t that barrier be re-erected as well? Excellent point.


One thing that scares me about telecommuting (cheapskate that I am), is how much responsibility for materiél will be shoveled onto the worker? I’ve always been indignant that soldiers have to pay for their uniform out of their first paycheck. With a $0.75 trillion pentagon budget we can’t buy the boots of a soldier who might die in them? I have friends who are mechanics – they buy all their own tools, and have to cart $1000s worth around to each new jobsite. It seems unfair – especially when, in my field, I’ve always been provided with the necessary tools.

In the early days, telecommuting was novel, and a way to attract talent: “We want you! So we’re gonna pay to outfit your home office and install some serious hardware. And we’ll pay for the broadband!” But if companies learn they can get credit for supporting the environment AND reduce office costs, will they start requiring telecommuting? Then it’s just a slippery slope to requiring us to outfit our workspace.


Of course the family friendly activists are up in arms too. That seems like a tough argument to make (not that I don’t support them, but…). If you telecommute to save on daycare, then are you doing work? Or child care?

On the one hand, it’s your choice to have kids. On the other hand, why does a work day have to be 8 to 5? Couldn’t it be 8 to midnight, with hour-long, child-centered activities interleaved?

(So here’s where I get preachy) I suppose the perfect employee is a couple – no kids, who work from home, buy their own office equipment, and use government health insurance. They answer task requests all day. Then in 50 years, the population crashes, and CEOs can sell their wares to tumbleweeds.

Posted in Climate, observations | 5 Comments »

Commuting Part II – A Crazy Idea!

Posted by middlerage on January 31, 2013

[Update: Nieuwguyski shows he’s just as mental as me. Make sure to read his comment for extra crazy good ideas.]

As I commute to work each day, I see the same sight we all do – packed multi-lanes of interstate filled with single occupant cars. And I think of the same old tired tropes the environmental movement trots out (and remember, I’m an enviro-weenie, so I am self -indicting here): ‘Mericans need to carpool! Americans have too  many roads, and too many cars! We need to take the bus! Let’s get funding for light rail! Have you been to Europe!? (Japan, South America, insert favorite-foreign place) – why they live NEAR their job. They walk to work!

But I say, None of that is going to work. We need to embrace ourselves, our uniqueness.

And what is that uniqueness? Land! We’re spread out! We need cars. And admit it – vanishingly small numbers of us live in the same place as our co-workers such that carpooling makes sense. Plus, our doctor/dentist/daycare is NOT within walking distance, and we need our own car to run to the doc on lunch hour. We are the way we are. So let’s find a solution that works for us.

At first I thought of motorcycles, but nah… that’d never work for a host of reasons. Then I got crazy.

How about a tiny, enclosed, one person electric commuter car with four wheels? With a reasonable top speed, say 70-80mph. It wouldn’t require the talent and skill of a motorcycle, it would be just as familiar as a car, and it would fit two to a parking space.

But wait! There’s more! Remember we have to embrace our Americaness, and Americans need an SUV to haul kids to soccer or the tuba to band practice. We can’t just go out and buy a single-purpose vehicle! Exactly, that’s why my mini-commuter-mobile would be… Free! Like the internet.  How do you get pragmatic Americans to adopt a game-changing environmental movement? Remove the barriers! Exxon, Shell, Google, and Apple are gonna buy us the cars in exchange for carbon credits. Keep the SUV you paid for, but during the work week use the micro-electro-dart.

Work with the war you have, not the one you wish you had. Or something.

Posted in Climate, Environment, wtf | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

The Sobering Existence of Third World Countries

Posted by middlerage on December 15, 2012

A Facebook friend alerted me to this article in a journal on human rights: In The Twilight Zone

The article concerns UN discussions about international treaty to combat global warming, and how low-lying, under-developed countries are on the front lines of disastrous climate change. This section popped out at me, and aptly illustrates the concept of an uneven playing field:

[…] during the very first UN climate talks I covered, in Bali in 2007, I stumbled onto two representatives from Bangladesh crying on the steps outside the conference centre. They were distraught that they were unable to keep up with counterarguments from developed countries’ impressive legal armoury.

Heart breaking. File under Sea Level Rising.

Posted in Climate, Politicks, short ones | Leave a Comment »

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