Clouds & Water (Blog Action Day)

Today is coordinating Blog Action Day 2010 to raise awareness about Water.  It is widely reported (and worth repeating) that scarcity of clean water is more likely to impact your daily life than scarcity of energy, food, shelter or other basic human rights.

Water scarcity has little impact in my daily life.  <shameless plug>While The new cloud servers my employer, Dell, sells consume less power and thereby less cooling water; these efficiencies do relatively little to impact people’s access to fresh water.</shameless plug>

However, waste is a huge impact.  Since Americans are water, food and energy hogs, we are also in the position of wasting disproportionate amount of these limited resources.  I believe that we commit this waste unconsciously without any real gauge on its volume or impact.  Imagine the impact to your driving behavior if you had to fill your gas tank up a cup of gas at a time (64), water your lawn from a 5 gallon bucket (30+) or refill your toilet with a table-spoon (409!).

The key to addressing waste in the land of plenty is to measure and show impacts.  I believe that people abhor waste when they see it.  Our challenge is not to change people, but to show them in real terms the consequences of their choices.

For example, just having an MPG calculator on our cars has changed the way that we drive them.  I am personally disappointed with how little useful feedback these gauges provide, but it’s a start.

One of the things I like about Cloud Computing is that we want to measure and reduce waste.  We get mad about waste: wasted computer time, wasted equipment, wasted power, and especially wasted time.

As we make strides to make computing and information more personal and mobile, I believe we need to include ways to show people data about the choices that they are making.  So next time you water your lawn or flush your toilet, this about what it would mean if you had the haul that water in a bucket up from a well.  Sound crazy?  That’s status quo for more people than those of us that enjoy indoor plumbing.