N.B. This post was migrated from oli-hall.github.io to oli-hall.com on 18/04/2019
I posted a few months back about leaving my previous job, and seeking to rediscover balance in my life between work and, well, everything else. That's still very much a work in progress (tl;dr I'm not good at balance), but in the mean time I've been contemplating what comes next. I've realised over the course of my past couple of jobs that meaningful work is very important to me - whilst some people can be content doing interesting things with nice people, for me, if the overall direction of my work/the company I work for is not meaningful, I will never feel fulfilled. This search for meaning in what I do has meant I've increasingly struggled to find jobs that feel 'right' as a software developer - much of the work my industry does is based around rapid, unsustainable growth, extracting profits, surveillance, buzzwords, and more.
That's not to say there's nothing worthwhile in the software industry - it's an enormous industry, and there are no doubt meaningful challenges still to be found out there. Nevertheless, I have increasingly struggled to balance my own desire for meaning with the day-to-day realities of the industry I work within. To that end, the main option I've had in my mind has been starting my own company/working for myself. Whilst I wouldn't view myself as a natural entrepreneur, I feel that the easiest route to the fulfilment I desire is to make my own opportunity.
Fight for our Planet
I have also been passionate about climate change and the environment for some time. I have wanted to contribute more actively on this front for some time, but have not really seen an opportunity to do so. This juncture - where I am considering working for myself - seemed an ideal opportunity to have my cake and eat it - to tackle both in one fell swoop. However, a major problem remains - how can I as an individual contribute? This is one of the principal problems I've been grappling with over the past few months. One of the biggest issues is that modern society doesn't properly account for the cost of climate change - it's an externality, a hidden cost. It's very hard to sustain oneself trying to tackle a problem that society does not put a price upon. Many of the problems are societal and political in nature, making them far thornier to tackle.
The sheer scale of the problem is also incredibly daunting, and seems to be growing day by day as we uncover more evidence of the likely effects and severity of the issue. Some leading activists in the field have compared the effort required to successfully keep climate change within reasonable limits (e.g. the 1.5-2°C advocated by the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement) would be comparable to the military mobilisation of World War II - every major power in the world focussing their entire economies towards this single cause.
To that end, I started to wonder whether there was anything I could directly do - maybe I should just try and get a high-paying job and earn to give - maybe that's the best way I could contribute. However, searching through jobs, I couldn't bring myself to give up and go back into conventional work, and ignore this problem, however ill-suited I may be to tackling this directly. I've also been inspired by the ongoing Student Climate Protests, and the courage of figures such as Greta Thunberg - who has stood up and told the world, to their faces, that we need to change, we need to do more. Can I really live with myself in the face of that, if I just go back to work, and throw some money towards the problem?
To that end, I've decided for now that I will contribute whatever I can towards fighting climate change. I don't know exactly what form that will take - activism, starting a company, advocacy, organisation, all of the above - but I cannot stand by and do nothing. We need to work together to change the world, and I'm going to do what I can. I don't have a way of making money, I don't have a long-term plan, but I feel I have to make this work. I'm fortunate enough to have the flexibility to do this, so I would be remiss not to.
I have some initial thoughts on what I want to start with, but I don't want to share those until they are ready. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and don't be afraid to do what feels right, even if you have to go against the grain.