As someone with a mostly leftist mindset (if I decided to categorize myself) I’m generally distrustful of big corporations, and I’m not surprised when I hear about some new scandal or environmental catastrophe perpetuated by one of the world’s corporate giants. That’s right, BP, I’m looking at you. But I try not to generalize all corporations as evil, Mr. Burns-esque terrors, because at the end of the day there are corporations out there that are trying to do right by their people and the planet. Costco is one. Bridgehead, one of the coffee shop chains here in Ottawa, is another. And I have to admit that I’m beginning to respect Google more and more for their apparent attempts to be one of the good guys, too.
One example of this is the new Google initiative Skybox for Good, which I heard about on the radio this week – coincidentally on Ottawa’s Live 88.5, which is Canada’s “only carbon-neutral radio station.” This initiative is providing satellite images captured by Skybox to non-profit organizations, which can then use that data to study climate change, manage IDP camps, and so on. It’s a great idea, and something that is so easy for Google to do without risk or loss. According to the WIRED article linked above, the initiative is still in its beta, but will be expanding in the near future.
The other initiative that I find really exciting is actually an engineering contest called The Little Box Challenge. I only learned about it last weekend because an engineering friend of mine is entering the contest. As you can find out on the challenge’s official website, Google is offering $1 million for a compact inverter that can convert solar power to alternating current for use by cars, home appliances, etc. The catch is that the inverter has to be about the size of a tablet, which as my friend explained to me is not an easy thing to do (otherwise someone would have figured it out by now). If an engineering team can create a viable, efficient design that passes Google’s tests, that might be the massive leap we need to move past our dependency on fossil fuels. And Google will of course profit from the design.
Because, after all, Google is still a business. Their purpose as an entity is to make money, grow and develop, and them make more money. The great thing here is that the higher-ups at Google don’t need to promote green energy or innovative design, or share information with people that can help improve our planet. They could just keep making money off their current technology and have a ball. The fact that somebody at Google recognizes the value in moving toward things like efficient solar power – not just for Google’s bottom line – gives me a little more hope that we might be able to save our planet before we destroy it for good.
I tip my hat to you, Google. Just don’t disappoint me down the road.