Weak green conviction

Like a Texas twister suddenly appearing on the horizon, the so-called Green Revolution has hit the IT industry, hard and fast. Verdant vendor messages are sprouting as frequently as the mercury hits 90 degrees in an El Paso summer.

Hopefully, this time of apparent concern for the environment will last longer than previous examples of abundant corporate eco-friendliness.

Historical precedent says it won’t. Sad to say, but environmental issues usually come near the top of governments’ and corporations’ priority lists in waves. Society’s awareness about such things as a thinning ozone layer and melting ice caps seems to ebb and flow, with collective concern rising about every two decades. For a stretch of a year or two, green is trendy — it’s on the news, it’s in the papers, and politicos and CEOs are suddenly talking about pollution and clean water.

Past examples of this phenomenon dictate that these times of awareness recede as quickly as they rise up. It would be easy to say that this current stretch of green activity won’t last any longer than the previous ones. After all, much of the rhetoric we’re hearing from vendors seems to be marked by a relative lack of conviction.

At a recent media briefing conducted by a large global telecom services provider, for example, reporters, including myself, listened as the firm’s spokesperson tacked on a brief message about the company’s green-oriented efforts, which concentrated on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. One couldn’t help but get the sense that this PowerPoint slide wouldn’t have made it into the presentation if every other IT vendor and service provider under the sun wasn’t tacking on a similar slide to their presentations.

It was also somewhat disheartening to hear, by way of a carefully worded and somewhat ambiguous response from the spokesperson, that the outfit’s green agenda wasn’t really being driven by any overt customer demand. It’s hard not to wonder how big a priority this will really be in the long run if clients aren’t clamouring for it.

Despite such questionable conviction on the part of many vendors, the fact that planetary concerns have once again pushed their way to the top of corporate and political agendas can only be a good thing. With each wave of awareness, our society’s appreciation of the Earth’s fragility, and our responsibility to ensure the planet’s health, seems to deepen.

A century ago, smokestacks and the pollutants they spewed were largely viewed as good things, as they symbolized progress and our ability to tame the elements to our will. Eventually, however, successive green waves turned the tide on such thinking, to the extent that such a point of view is regarded as laughable by the majority of the population.

It appears that, in our time, the same process will take place around things such as server power consumption. Slowly but surely, the IT community will collectively realize the benefits of bringing it down. And regardless of the motivation — be it monetary or environmental — the only thing that matters is that it happens. Here’s hoping it will.