All the members of the Calliope network are conscious of the current environmental challenges, and some years ago now the network unanimously adopted a policy to offset the CO2 emissions generated by the interpreters we recruit.
For the last two years we have contributed to the association One Tree Planted. In 2018, we supported its campaign to replant trees in California in the wake of the devastation wrought by summer fires, and in 2019 we donated to a tree-planting campaign in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which had suffered terrible deforestation.
However, in March 2020, as a result of the new coronavirus outbreak, international conferences ground to an abrupt halt. The interpreters who would usually have provided their services at such events were forced to cancel their travel arrangements. It was those journeys which would normally have served as the basis for calculating – and offsetting – our annual carbon footprint.
So, what did we do?
The immediate impact of the pandemic gave us no choice. To continue to support our clients and provide interpretation solutions, we switched to distance interpreting.
Distance interpreting is a mode of interpretation which relies on videoconferencing platforms and extensive IT equipment. To meet the technical requirements involved, we have all had to acquire powerful computers with at least i7 processors, high-quality webcams, and microphones worthy of a recording studio. We have also had to ensure that we have a back-up system in case of any faults or outages. We are therefore over-equipped with IT equipment, and are also consuming significant amounts of data when we use the aforementioned cloud-based platforms.
There is a growing realisation that digital devices are not environmentally neutral. On the contrary. Manufacturing IT equipment requires rare resources. Using it requires a great deal of energy. Disposing of it is problematic.
At Calliope we have been reflecting on how we can be as responsible as possible, in line with our commitments and priorities.
First, we are continuing to contribute to an environmental fund, as in previous years. Given that we had no way of calculating our emissions for the exceptional year of 2020, we decided to maintain our contribution at the same level as in 2019. We chose to support the same association as before, this time contributing to planting trees for the chimpanzees of Uganda. This is a joint initiative of One Tree Planted and the Jane Goodall Institute to protect wild flora and fauna.
This decision was motivated by the fact that deforestation was more widespread than ever in 2020, particularly affecting forests in key tropical regions, such as the Amazon, the DRC and South-East Asia, even though we know that those forests are essential for preserving biodiversity and storing carbon. The area of virgin forest that was destroyed last year is equivalent to the size of the Netherlands.
In parallel, we have launched a series of tips to foster the judicious use of digital devices, advice which we are offering to our clients and suppliers, as well as the interpreters in our teams.
Because working remotely also has an environmental cost, and because we all have a digital carbon footprint, let’s be responsible citizens of the world. We urgently need to take action to protect the planet, whatever our profession.