Shortly after Al Gore won the Nobel Peace prize in 2007 for his work with the UN on climate change, he stated “We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”
Thus, when SAP announced that Al Gore would be the key note speaker for Sapphire, I was truly excited to hear his message about the environment and about sustainability. SAP certainly has tried to take a leadership position about sustainability, not only from solution perspective but more importantly as a corporate citizen.
Let’s take a slightly different approach to this topic. If I was Al Gore and I was preparing to be the key note speaker at a technology conference, what would I talk about? Al and I have a few things in common – we are both horrible public speakers for one, and we are both democrats.
I clearly would have articulated a message about the juxtaposition of 2 environmental disasters, one man made and the other from mother nature.
The current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the world’s worst man-made environmental disaster of all times. Every 2 to 3 days that the spill continues, the equivalent of another Exxon Valdez spills into the Gulf. If you haven’t researched the spill yet, just type it into any search engine. The first thought that came to my mind was the old hamburger counter at McDonald’s which used to keep track of the number of hamburgers served – today it just says ‘billions served’. Most of the websites show a running counter of estimated gallons of oil spilled – it is now approaching 21 million gallons. That might just equal the amount of grease that we have consumed from those hamburgers. The response to the spill requires the cooperation of government, businesses and the public to fully understand the serious technical challenges of stopping the spill and of course remediating the devastating environmental impacts. This spill could continue for another 2 months. When the first hurricane rolls into the Gulf, the effects will be horrific.
The second disaster is of course the eruption of the Icelandic volcano that resulted in the highest disruption of air traffic since WWII. This eruption was smaller in comparison to Mount St. Helens and to Mount Pinatubo, but the location above the jet stream was a significant factor in its impact. In addition, the second eruption resulted in a major melt-away that caused dramatic cooling of the molten lava, triggering a tertiary explosion of highly abrasive, glass-rich ash. This could actually have a temporary effect on lowering the average global temperatures, but the technical community is not in agreement on this yet.
Like Gore, I don’t have any answers or pieces of wisdom. As with any natural or man-made disaster, I feel a sense of emptiness and helplessness. What can one person do to help during the time of a crisis, other than just criticize those in charge? For one, I would speak about it at a technology conference in front of 10,000 people.