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Can a Teleconference Save the Planet?

A recent article in the New York Times should send chills down the spine of CEOs everywhere. The Times reports that in recent tests, Boston company Rapid7 found that a number of business teleconferencing systems are highly vulnerable to hackers, who could exploit security holes to eavesdrop on company meetings, many containing classified information. With cyber-war and virtual espionage beginning to be seen as legitimate security threats, businesses should definitely be concerned about security holes, and online security experts should have little trouble finding work in the years ahead.

Yet beneath all the worry about security is some good news: Teleconferencing has become a commonplace feature of the modern work environment. This is not just good news for CEOs looking to cut costs, the greens should be rejoicing at this development as well. Prior to the teleconference, large companies were often forced to gather their spread-out staff in one central location for important meetings. These trips often involved long flights, which—as any green knows—burn up a healthy share of fossil fuels. Virtual conferences have allowed businesses to replicate these meetings at a fraction of the cost, and a fraction of the environmental impact as well.

Hint for young greens: flee the NGO world like the plague.  There is almost nothing here for you — or for the planet.  Instead, get into tech and work on software and hardware that make teleconferencing and telecommuting more attractive to business.  Instead of starving as your meager Greenpeace paychecks go to pay off your student loans, and toiling long years to achieve — well, in most cases, very little — you will get rich and do more for Gaia than all the sustainability campaigners at all the universities in the land.

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  • Kris

    “Hint for young greens…”

    And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

  • a nissen

    Designer Fashion Shows too says today’s WSJ.

  • Anthony

    “Teleconferencing has become a commom work feature of the modern work environment…. Get into tech and work on hardware and software….” They (the innovative young) may not improve the conditions for life (sustainability) but their bankrolls and commercial productivity will probably expand WRM.

  • Anthony

    Misquote @1 of WRM needs correction: “…commonplace feature….”

  • Richard Treitel

    Better yet, develop immersive telecommuting environments that get a few million cars off the roads instead of a few dozen planes out of the skies. When I can do the equivalent of walking over to someone’s desk and tapping them on the shoulder without needing to physically leave my living room, and when my supervisor can do the same to me without leaving his (yes, that’s the downside), the company will be a lot less insistent about me being physically present.

    Imagine a world with less road congestion, fewer mass-transit pork projects, less road rage, fewer speeding tickets, smaller parking lots, less smog … oh, and cheaper oil as demand drops instead of rising.

  • WigWag

    More teleconferences and telecommuting=less need for high speed trains.

  • Lorenz Gude

    Well, you can’t beat in person, but I get a lot of emotional contact with my family from 13,000 miles away in Perth Western Australia via Skype. I’d say it reduces the ‘tyranny of distance’ by at least half even in the personal realm.

  • Jim.

    Best thing about this– people can live where they like, instead of being stuffed into an overpriced rabbit hutch in a city. Businesses can locate where they like, instead of being forced to choose between one or two of the (ever-changing) “best” overcrowded and overpriced urban disaster areas.

    Upsides all round. 🙂

  • Matthew James

    Where to start! Teleconferencing in itself will save millions of trees in just one year. It will also save millions of gallons of fuel each year since participants don’t have to travel.

    We often forget that new technology often breaks down some of the more expensive traditions – for example, having a piece of paper for everything – now we store things digitally online.

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