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Talking about climate science at SAP TechEd in Barcelona

Posted on 23 October 2019 by BaerbelW

I work in the IT-department of a German manufacturing company where I help maintain the company's installation of the SAP business software. SAP is a global IT-company headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. Each fall, SAP organizes a large technical conference - the TechEd - in Las Vegas, Barcelona and Bangalore. These events are comparable to scientific conferences, offering keynote speeches, lectures, hands-on sessions and vendor exhibitions all happening at the same time in different tracks. Several thousand participants come together each year at each of the three locations for three days to learn about many aspects of the SAP system we deal with on a day to day basis, or stuff we need to know for things to come.

TechEd-Hall8

In addition to working as a developer, I've also been active in the online SAP Community for several years, asking and answering questions and writing blog posts every once in a while. Therefore I was happy to be able to join SAP TechEd in Barcelona this year, which I could combine with a two weeks vacation at Spain's Costa del Sol. And while my husband and I flew to and from Malaga for our vacation (not having realized that it would have been possible - if timeconsuming - to get there by train), I decided to take the train from Malaga to Barcelona and back to at least not add another flight to my itinerary.

By now, I'm sure you are wondering why I'm writing about attending this conference as it doesn't really have anything to do with climate, right? Well, there are a couple of reasons to write about it. For one, SAP is trying to make the conference as sustainable as possible, by offsetting its CO2-emissions, including those incurred by the participants' travels (we were asked to fill out a questionnaire for that). For another, in Barcelona, they handed out reusable water-bottles which we could then refill everywhere at the venue and by doing so, contribute to the "Fill-it-forward" project. I also heard, that SAP decided to not have some of the large convention area laid out with carpet as that would have been thrown away after the 3-day event, causing a massive amount of waste which now was avoided.

In addition to the long planned conference program with its many sessions taking place in lecture halls and hands-on rooms, the SAP Community team for TechEd offered so-called "Unconference meet-ups" where participants could book a 30-minute slot at a table seating 8 people (or more!) to talk about a topic they were interested in. These sessions were then added to the official meeting planner so other participants could see them and add them to their personal agendas. Although I had read the blog post about these neat sessions in SAP Community, I hadn‘t been aware that they really could be about (almost) any topic and didn‘t necessarily need to be technical in nature (as most turned out to be). While chatting with Jerry, the unconference organiser, on Tuesday or Wednesday, he mentioned that I could even do one related to climate change. With that he – obviously! – had me hooked and he could fill another slot on his whiteboard!

Unconference Schedule

For my meet-up session I had chosen the title "Let's talk climate science in order to end climate silence“ - inspired by my similarly named discussion in SAP Community which I had started earlier this year. I didn‘t really know if anybody would show up for a climate chat at 9:30 on Thursday morning, so I was relieved once the first people took a seat and that we ended up with a full table of 8 to talk a bit about climate change. I kicked things off by explaining why I‘m deeply involved with the topic and we then touched on a couple of items In the 30 minutes we had available:

  • SAP offsetting TechEd‘s CO2 emissions
  • what the consensus among climate scientists is about
  • why most people don‘t realize that the consensus is between 90 and 100 percent
  • what individuals can do to help mitigate climate change
  • resources like Skeptical Science or Project Drawdown where people can find trustworthy information

I‘m really glad, that Jerry made me do this session and that he snapped a picture of the meet-up:

UnconferencePicture: Jerry Janda

Offering this session on - almost - the spur of the moment makes for a good example of where an unexpected opportunity might present itself to talk with others about climate change. As I like to be prepared for such eventualities, I had even brought my "climate scarf" featuring Ed Hawkins warming stripes to Barcelona - and quite a good thing, that I did!

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  1. Congratulations, BaerbelW , on the spur-of-the-moment mini meeting!

    The meeting looks much more Spartan and much more cheerful than the sour-and-dour expressions photographed at the recent long-planned & lavish assembly of "old white men" (in embarrassingly small numbers!) at one of the faux-grand Trump buildings in the USA, for climate-denialist propaganda purposes!

    I was intrigued to hear about the "throw-away" carpet idea getting banned.  Naively, I had thought that there was no such thing as single-use carpeting.

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