I just read Charlie Stross‘s rant on reducing his household’s carbon footprint. Summary: He and his wife can live a life of monastic discomfort, wearing moldy scratchy 10-year-old bamboo fiber jumpsuits and shivering in their flat – or, they can cut out one transatlantic flight per year and achieve the equivalent carbon footprint reduction.

I did a similar analysis back around 2007 or so and had the same result: I’ve got a relatively trim carbon footprint compared to your average first-worlder, except for the air travel that turns it into a bloated planet-eating monster too extreme to fall under the delicate term “footprint.” Like Charlie, I am too practical, too technophilic, and too hopeful to accept that the only hope of saving the planet is to regress to third world living standards (fucking eco-ascetics!). I decided that I would only make changes that made my life better, not worse – e.g., living in a walkable urban center (downtown Portland, now SF). But the air travel was a stumper. I liked traveling, and flying around the world for conferences is a vital component of saving the world through open source. Isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Two things happened that made me re-evaluate my air travel philosophy. One, I started a file systems consulting business and didn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on fripperies. Two, I hurt my back and sitting became massively uncomfortable (still recovering from that one). So I cut down on the flying around the world to Linux conferences involuntarily.

You know what I discovered? I LOVE not flying around the world for Linux conferences. I love taking only a few flights a year. I love flying mostly in the same time zone (yay, West coast). I love having the energy to travel for fun because I’m not all dragged out by the conference circuit. I love hanging out with my friends who live in the same city instead of missing out on all the parties because I’m in fucking Venezuela instead.

Save the planet. Burn your frequent flyer card.

12 thoughts on “Carbon METRIC BUTTLOAD print

  1. Carbon burden falls on the end user, though

    It’s the people who choose to use a resource who are ultimately responsible for the externalities, though. If I hire someone to drive me around in a Hummer limo, that’s my carbon footprint, not the driver’s. If Charlie Stross flies from the UK to California to speak at a convention, and draws an audience of 1000, then each of those people is responsible for 1/1000 of the carbon footprint. So I guess the counterpart to “burn your frequent flyer card” would be “see local speakers and performers.”

  2. Re: Carbon burden falls on the end user, though

    That’s not entirely true. The hummer driver still has the option of refusing to take you. If there were no hummer drivers, what would you do instead? My employer might want me to fly to the UK for a meeting, but I could easily respond with, “how about we do a conference call instead?” There’s both demand *and* supply at work here. There are multiple parties involved that might think to themselves, “Hey, this is wrong. I should act differently.”

    Flying, particularly in the US, has become more and more painful thanks to the frugality of airlines, the silly TSA hoops, and the time wasted (on a recent trip to Colorado, I spent 3 hours sitting in a plane on the runway after the flight had been diverted). These days, I eschew the conferences unless it’s something that promises to be *really* good (c’mon Plumber’s Conf, don’t disappoint me). I also don’t bother with the 4-day pleasure travel. If I’m going to go somewhere for pleasure, it needs to be a long enough trip to make up for the carbon footprint and annoyance of air travel.

    Sigh, when are we going to have decent rail transport in the US?

    – dilinger

  3. face-to-face still much better than conf calls & email

    My ‘carbon footprint’ when at home is tiny (and not really suffering for that, I like the 40 minute walk to work). But I’m killing the planet with international travel. And burning the frequent flyer card would be nice. But I still find the high bandwidth f2f communication so much better than the alternative. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m in Sydney, and all my customers are in Europe, US and, if I’m lucky, Asia (only a 10 hour flight then). Aren’t we in the future yet? Where is my teleporter and holographic video conference equipment?

  4. Re: Carbon burden falls on the end user, though

    Hey dilinger!

    Thank you for the Linux Plumbers plug :).

    If you have any suggestions, requests, comments, questions, anything at all that would make it a good/better/great conference, feel free to send us an email at – we would love to hear from people.

  5. Get better, Val!

    Hey Val,

    Sorry to hear of your back issues. Wishing you good health, speedy recovery, and so on! Hope that isn’t preventing you from coming to LPC this year?

  6. Re: Get better, Val!

    I’m not currently planning on going to LPC this year – the back is willing, but the travel budget is non-existent. :)

  7. YES. I finally hit my limit with travel and took 18 months off, no planes, no leaving my city. It was wonderful. I intend to stay put as much as possible for the foreseeable future. It’s so much better. Work-travel is insane.

  8. left coast

    If you mostly fly up and down the west coast, you could probably just take the train instead.

  9. Impressive. The asynchronous approach, which I was introduced to by a linux plumbers talk, looked like it had high administrative overhead (and was implemented with really big memory only indexes); whereas this one seems to just work. A tweak to only put big files (far less numerous with a Pareto law) in the dedup index would be nice for some usage patterns, I think.

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