A calendarial mishap left me thinking that Blog Action Day was on the 18th October when in fact it is, of course, today. It’s 23.00 here as I write this, so I have one hour to write a post and officially get away with it.
So the title of the post is “web standards and the environment”, which at first seems pretty incongruous. To be honest, at second and third it still seems pretty incongruous. But I want to make the case that concerning yourself with the environment is like concerning yourself with web standards.
The old catchphrase “think global, act local” can be perfectly applied to both. We want to see a web that’s so well coded that everyone in every country can get the same experience from it, no matter their browser or platform. To do that we code our own websites according to the latest standards and we take care with testing to ensure there are no glaring discrepancies.
And that is — let’s be honest — a bit of a hassle. It was much easier when we could throw in some tables for layout, with inline styles or presentational markup, look at it only in one browser then put a little button on there saying “Best viewed in Browser X at 800x600 resolution”.
Now we have to wrestle with divs and floats and positioning, with four major rendering engines (and the whole mobile platform to come) and a variety of screen resolutions. We make sure our markup is semantic and we separate our style from it, then add extra layers for functionality. It’s a lot more work.
But we do it because we know it’s the right thing to do; it makes it better for our visitors, and better for us in the future.
Concern for the environment is like that too. It was much easier when we threw all our plastics and glass in the rubbish, when we ran all our electrical products as long as we liked, when we drove the 10-minute journey to the shops.
And it’s hassle to separate all our recycling into separate bags and boxes, to switch off lights and not leave stereos and TVs on standby, to walk or bike the short journeys. It’s a lot more work.
But we should do it because we know it’s the right thing to do; it makes life better for our us, and better for our children in the future.
And soon, like standards-based code, the hassle goes away and it becomes second nature. I no more consider throwing plastic bottles in the bin than I do using inline styles in my code. All my old light bulbs have been replaced with energy-efficient bulbs, as my 1px spacer.gifs have been replaced by padding and margin.
And with the small stuff second-nature, the big changes require less effort and cost. I no longer need to recode my website if I want it to display correctly in a mobile browser; I can just change the stylesheet. Likewise, if I switch to slightly more expensive greener energy now, I won’t be subject to the inevitable increases in fossil fuel charges that are coming.
There are lots of ways you can make local changes now which help prepare for the global changes ahead; I’ve listed only some of them here, as I’m afraid of pushing the analogy too far (if I haven’t already). If you want to find out more, just Google “save the environment” for a number of recommendations.
So, just about done with eight minutes to spare; please excuse me if some of the arguments aren’t quite as well developed as they could be.
You may not believe that the effects of global warming will be as catastophic as some predict, just as you may not be convinced that the use of web standards is quite as important as some experts make out. But in both cases the solutions can yield a number of material benefits to you and everyone else in the short and long term, and in both you know it’s the right thing to do.