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Gone Carbon Negative already? We have, please hurry up
by Prof. Mark K. Smith

I’ve never really fancied travelling into space. But I came very close once. Two weeks before its tragic last flight, I flew on Concorde to New York. It was a remarkable experience for two reasons: the plane was rather small and somewhat elderly (made in 1974 I recall) but more dramatically, it flew at 60,000 ft – more than twice the height of a conventional commercial jet.

So high, in fact, that you looked down on the atmosphere – above was ‘nothing’, just black and white, but below was a beautiful, wonderful dazzling jewel.

I spent most of the very short flight (about 3 hours) mesmerised by the World I had - momentarily, anyway - stepped off.

I guess it is a similar experience for people who genuinely travel into space – seeing their finite home in an infinite ‘nothingness’.

So, to the environment, our jewel:

As a child I was fascinated by small things, I was given an ancient brass telescope by my dad and I went on a mission to study the things I could not see with my naked eye. Tiny beasts, the beauty of a pollen grain, the cells of an onion skin, the literal back of my own hand – even my own hair – as big as a log, with all its own micro beauty. It still puzzles me why all small children are not bought a microscope as their first present (well not quite first – but you get my drift).

To study the very small is to understand the vast, unimaginable complexity of an ecosystem such as the one we live on (as an aside it is why I am so irritated when people use words like ecosystem to describe their [not really very] complex businesses, in my mind I have given them a microscope and a pollen grain and told them to sod off….).

That microscope set my path into the ‘natural’ sciences (what an unnatural science is I cannot imagine...) which is the most modest of all the sciences – as we basically don’t know that much. Maths has its numbers, Physics has its laws, Chemistry its ordered tables, Biology has it all – the whole nine yards, and I often felt as small and insignificant as a pollen grain in a universe of infinite complexity.

So lockdown got me to thinking. As a person I am carbon negative. Yup – I produce more power than I consume. How so I hear you say? Well I have a solar panel array that produces 4 times the power I use, I have air source heat pumps which take 1 unit of power and turn it into 3.5 units of heat. I drive an electric car (not one of those – I’m not a poseur, and the build quality is terrible 😉). I do not have a printer, I buy groceries loose, I recycle cans and glass and when I get cold I put a jumper on. I eat organic food, no meat, no fish (fish are friends), have long hair and wear sandals. Basically, I am that bloke you’d probably hate. Oh but I still drink, so maybe not…

Now that’s me, and I don’t boast about it (except just then, sorry) so here’s the thing, ContactEngine is also carbon negative. Hugely carbon negative. Amongst many things we optimise mobile workforces and we get people together on video calls. Every truck roll we save for just one of our US telco clients saves them around $140. Now some of that cost is just the cost of failure (salary, insurance, time, etc.) but lots of it is saving unnecessary truck miles – we literally save millions of them. Now add to that the COVID seismic shift towards home working – whereby we now broker conversations in various industries between our clients and their customers on video calls – we can begin to work out the thousands of tonnes of CO2 we save (more boasting coming up – in the last 12 months my solar panels saved 3133 kg of CO2 which is the equivalent of 143.43 trees being planted).

As people wrestle with how to address home working, they seem to be ignoring the environment again. ContactEngine will be publishing all the elements that make us carbon negative and will stick a CO2/tree planted ticker on our website soon.

And I’ll leave you with a quote from my only hero – Charles Darwin – who once said: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

So please, please hurry up.

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