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Amazon Employees Pledge to Walk Out as Part of Global Climate Strike (docs.google.com)
159 points by jbegley 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments

Is this a Silicon Valley thing? People becoming far too attached with what their company is doing. Even if I had been working there for 5 years, I would never bat an eye at anything my company did in it's own name -- I'm my own person and have my own beliefs, why should I expect a multinational enterprise to buckle to my feelings? If at any point I felt like my company was doing something that went morally against what I believe is right, then I would straight up leave. The thought that I'd get up and go to my manager to complain at how the executives could do something as atrocious as go against my moral compass sounds impossibly childish. Then, on top of that, virtually skipping work so I can complain even further, I'm surprised no one gets fired on the spot.

I'm not concerned with whether or not this was sanctioned or expected, or if these people will lose their jobs or not, I just can't connect with this idea of assimilating my personal views into a corporation's identity.

What, then, is your comprehensive alternative?

We probably, at this stage, need to approach this issue with a certainly level of moderated-panic, and attempt to address it on al lines across all levels.

It stands to reason that if the general population can influence corporate decision making that might have a knock-on effect to cause companies to influence government decision making.

I'd hazard a guess that Jeff Bezos ability to influence government policy far exceeds mine by orders of magnitude.

>We probably, at this stage, need to approach this issue with a certainly level of moderated-panic, and attempt to address it on al lines across all levels.

What does this mean? I have been hearing the terms "global warming" and "crisis" for almost 20 years now, yet it is almost always followed up with talk -- talk about how others could change their lifestyle choices, talk about how organizations can change how they function, talk about how we can talk even more to the right people. Very rarely have I ever seen a plan -- a formulated, step-by-step guide on what people or organizations must sacrifice in order to bring about a better future, and even less so people who actually act on that plan instead of simply reiterating it to anyone within earshot.

I would absolutely not be surprised if this event, which some consider to be "necessary" on any level, does nothing to impact Amazon to change anything to improve the climate situation -- as far as they can see from my perspective, they see 900+ employees, some of whom are probably part-time and not getting paid anyways, with no actual plan of how global warming should be solved with respect to Amazon, but want to feel good for a time, feel as though they are making some level of actionable change on the world, until their time is over and they go back to work while they patiently wait for

>one of the most innovative companies[0]

to come up with a plan themselves. I've seen it time and time again, it solves nothing, achieves nothing. And I'd bet it all on black that this earns them nothing but contempt from their supervisors/managers.

[0]: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1joUIg5O5pRS_R2OqXoJzbuCX...

If I had to weigh what you are doing here against what Amazon employees are pledging...

I'd have to say what you're doing here is having a few magnitudes of order less impact on climate change.

You talk about talk in your opening paragraph, yet these people are actually trying to do something so I am not sure why you are so against it? It doesn't matter if they are part-time, full-time, janitor, Lead Designer, or the office coffee boy. Climate change affects them and they are trying to take action in getting Amazon to listen to them. They are doing much more than you and I discussing it on HN.

> Very rarely have I ever seen a plan -- a formulated, step-by-step guide on what people or organizations must sacrifice in order to bring about a better future, and even less so people who actually act on that plan instead of simply reiterating it to anyone within earshot.

Perhaps you've heard of the Green New Deal?[0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal#Models_for_impl...

I believe you have neglected to response to the most important part of my comment:

What, then, is your comprehensive alternative?

You ask for an alternative as if there is a solution already being proposed, and yet, I see none.

I can definitely understand that perspective.

Perhaps my earlier comments were too harsh, given I definitely feel defeated with regards to climate change. My current approach is to simply not care, as the added stress of caring didn't help and didn't do any favours to my general well being.

It's all looking like a lot of too little too late. But, fortunately, at my age, I'll probably miss the worse of it.

We probably need to simultaneously drastically limit carbon emissions and draw down atmospheric carbon / remove CO2 from the oceans. And I can't see how that's going to happen prior to things getting a lot worse.

Having said that, we did act collectively to implement the Montreal Protocol[1], so there's a bit of a precedent for acting at this scale... but there were fairly straightforward alternatives to ozone depleting gas.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol

No offense taken, I've been downvoted a lot and I can understand people have very passionate beliefs on issues of this scale, I'm also passionate in my belief that talk, protests and walkouts, while they have an impact on awareness and of course the right people being aware of the issue may get us somewhere, does not get us anywhere in today's age.

Everyone knows of global warming, I don't want to see more talks, more protests and more blame, I want to see plans being enacted, laws being enforced, the world actually improving, but that's not what I see in this Amazon spectacle.

Yeah, I reckon that's probably what everyone wants to see by this stage: actual changes. So I see these walk-outs and protests[1] as a sort of throw ya hands in the air cos won't somebody fckn do something already sort of action.

(For what it's worth, I didn't down vote any of your comments. I typically up vote anything I engage in, and usually only down vote comments that are shallow or abusive).

1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-15/students-walk-out-of-...

Use the three boxes... Soap, Ballot, and Ammo... in that order.

>Is this a Silicon Valley thing?

No. It's part of the planed 20/9 global CC strike, that was initiated by kids outside of US.

>Then, on top of that, virtually skipping work so I can complain even further, I'm surprised no one gets fired on the spot.

I believe it would actually be illegal to fire employees for this. US employers generally cannot legally punish employees for striking.

But at-will states can word it so they were not fired for it. There would be many ways these employees can be dismissed and it would never be labelled for 'striking'.

I think I made a similar statement in regards to one of the Google walkouts. It's incredibly weak and childish. Quit and prove that money isn't your true god if you actually believe it matters.

>Is this a Silicon Valley thing? People becoming far too attached with what their company is doing.

Given the severity and near-certainty of climate change, it makes sense to try and drive multinational enterprises to do better. Should they just instead give up and go, "Eh, fuck the planet up, whatever"? Do you have a better alternative for driving large entities to make a positive change?

A corporation's identity comes from someone's personal views. Many folks think that someone should be the workers at the company, rather than, say, the CEO or a PR dept.

Many times one works for a company whose values partially align with theirs. Maybe they have good charitable work, or they are engaged with open source. But they also have things that you disagree with -- maybe they don't treat their workers well in some way or another, maybe their parental leave policy is poor.

So, you try to change the company as step one -- let's get a better parental leave policy! Then, if you aren't getting traction, and your labor is valuable, you have leverage and can continue to try and invoke change. If change still won't happen, then you can walk.

It's better, I think, for people to provide a moral compass to the companies they work for, then to ignore it and hope that the behemoth will just make a good decision.

Probably you're just not giving yourself enough credit. Your employer probably prefers for you to work for them instead of quitting. A strike is basically a negotiation tactic and the company can make a counter-offer. You can negotiate all kinds of things as conditions of your employment, especially together with your co-workers.

When the options are a) leave and have no job, or b) leave and go to another company also doing little to mitigate climate change, people are looking for option c.

Isn't option c to start a company that does what you believe in? A lot of social purpose companies seem to be doing pretty well these days.

If you dislike fossil fuel companies, build one that obsoletes their business model (e.g. Tesla). If you dislike mining operations for employee mistreatment, start a company based on fair trade products (e.g. Fairphone). And if you care about these causes, support them with your wallet and evangelize them.

People say these companies are too big to compete with, but they used to say the same thing when these companies are created. Feel free to strike, but remember you can also vote to your feet, your wallet, and your labor.

Definitely a good strategy!

If you believe that climate change poses an existential risk then it isn't just a view that you may hold. The actions of your company along this front would represent a threat to your health and safety. You would be suicidal in a sense to not try to use your leverage (striking) to change the policy of the company. Maybe they can replace one person but replacing 900 people would be a huge disadvantage.

Belief that climate change is inevitable is not just a view, no, but believing that my company can do anything within it's power to have positive enough effect on climate change that is anywhere near noticeable on anyone that doesn't know what my company is doing, is. If I'm looking to blame someone for the effects of global warming on my health, my employer is last on my list.

Well if you worked for a monopsonistic giant like amazon the calculus changes a bit.


Do you have a reference for that 50C summer within the century or is it just made up? It's way higher than I've heard of unless they'll live in a place that's already getting almost that hot anyway - in which case they can obviously already cope so it doesn't matter.

It's very hot in Florida where I live, but I have 0 expectations that the company I work at could have any measurable impact on a global issue of this magnitude, and Amazon doesn't get much closer.

I disagree. If everybody held the opinion that their actions wouldn't amount to anything, nothing would ever change. Climate change is the single largest event that will occur in our lifetimes, and we all need to help pitch in to stop the raise in global temperatures.

Amazon definitely could. Silicon Valley, as a whole? Definitely absolutely could.

>The employees are also asking for zero contracts with fossil fuel companies that use Amazon’s AI technology to help them accelerate oil and gas extraction,

This type of stuff will be the bane of large companies migrating to cloud. A lot of large companies are involved in defense initiatives, law enforcement, fossil fuel extraction, mineral extraction etc. If they have to worry about what latest moral crusade will try to get you kicked off the cloud platform, they will be a lot more reticent about migrating to cloud.

In addition, if you were a fossil fuel or car company that makes gas burning vehicles, how confident are you that one of those people that is walking out to try to get you kicked off the platform, won't try to be a "hero" and use their insider access to try to sabotage your operations or leak confidential data? I mean if the cause is worthy enough, all sorts of activities that would be illegal are considered justified. I mean if a person thinks they are literally saving the planet from destruction, sabotaging an oil company's cloud infrastructure seems like something that they would at least seriously consider doing.

I think Amazon and the other cloud companies need to come down hard and state unequivocally that cloud services are not fodder for political crusades, and they will allow all companies that are conducting legal business activities, to be able to use their cloud.

> If they have to worry about what latest moral crusade will try to get you kicked off the cloud platform, they will be a lot more reticent about migrating to cloud.

Equating climate change activism with all other forms of social justice is a common trend I see. They seem so different to me–the difference between empirical reality and ideology. While the outcomes of climate change will be ideological–save climate refugees or preserve competitive advantage and wealth–the immediate concern of attempting to mitigate the impacts of climate change are relatively rational.

> if you were a fossil fuel or car company that makes gas burning vehicles

Have you tried putting on your role-playing hats and empathising with some of the points being made on the environmentalist side?

The problem with most climate change activism is that it’s hyper-targeted against the offender du jour and all of the others are largely ignored. It’s a global-scale problem that demands global-scale solutions; the vigilantism isn’t doing anything other than providing a straw man for the opposition to knock down.

The problem with most activism of any kind is it is done in a response to the actual authorities on the subject doing nothing to help. Activism almost by definition is done by people who can't directly make a change and just want to bring attention to a problem. That means focusing attention on one thing.

If the people who could solve the problem were trying to solve the product, activists wouldn't be necessary. As long as activists are involved, there's going to have to be a narrow focus excluding most of the problem.

Then by all means you should show Sierra, 350, Sunrise, ER, and all of the other folks out there how to do it better.

I mean this sincerely: I’ve been deeply involved in political and civic activism for the past couple years, and have learned a ton, especially from other people—but I also find it deeply frustrating when seemingly well intentioned folks offer unspecific feedback on how the significant investments of time, money, and energy I and others around me could be spent activisting better.

The goal is policy change, and that requires convincing people to vote for things. The path that makes that happen is education, policy advocacy, and ultimately gaining political office.

Direct action, however, tends to put more emphasis on the activists themselves as the problem instead of whatever their platform is. This is only useful when it demonstrates a sufficient commitment by a large number of people, which can demonstrate wide popular support— rallies, peaceful protests, etc. that involve enough people to potentially change the outcome of an election.

My problem is really with the publicity stunts done by a small number of people. From outside, it looks like an egotistical act and, if not dismissed entirely, hurts the reputation of everyone doing useful work in the same field. Antagonizing people is a poor way to convince them of anything.

As for why I don’t go into politics myself, it isn’t my calling and I don’t have the temperament to be successful at it. I believe I’ll do more concrete good in the world by being kind and helpful to those I meet in this journey we call life than by trying to force my concerns to the forefront of attention.

It seems more and more of a trend for movements to cling onto each other for validation. Unfortunately it seems to deeply undermine individual struggles and ultimately water down the (very important) messages.

select * from users where supports_climate_change = true


select * from users where supports_climate_change = true AND supports_cause_b = true AND supports_cause_c = true

Ultimately you get way fewer users...


>... he clearly doesn't expect it to be under water in the next few years.

Most people who actually understand climate change also don't expect beachfront homes to be under water in the next few years. It's a slow death/dramatic change of our planet, something that will take place over the next few generations, not the next decade. And if you - or anyone else - thinks it will only impact the poor, you're grossly mistaken.

There's less death today than there was 100 years ago due to improved healthcare, food availability, clean water, etc. As things change in the world there will surely be some adaptation, some migration, some new technology solutions, etc. But I predict two things. First, the developing world will continue to pollute more and release more greenhouse gases as they industrialize. And second, that there will be less death in 100 years than there is today.

Most folks pushing climate activism fully understand that for the most part, only the poor will be effected. That doesn't lessen the argument at all, and to imply "Well, since it won't affect rich people, it doesn't matter" is borderline maniacal.

More than one major national politician has talked about the potential end of the human race within the last year. I don't think it's helpful to get into an argument about what exactly constitutes "most folks" but let's not pretend that the doomsayers aren't treated credibly.

I'm torn on this. I think it's good to police flagrant fear-mongering and all other forms of predation on our worst qualities. But we also got here by people and systems preying on other bad qualities like complacency, laziness, helplessness, and blindness to shifting baselines.

Perhaps more to the point: our world is stuffed to the rafters with complex adaptive systems--both man-made and natural--themselves threaded together by positive and negative feedback loops, punctuated equilibria, and participants trained on making decisions under these conditions.

We don't know which threads will snap, nor when, nor where. We don't know how the other systems and participants will react to the ripples. We don't know if, how long it will take, or where disrupted systems will settle into new equilibria.

In the face of uncertainty on this scale, I think there is some value to catastrophizing. We do this with uncertainty all the time. We imagine threats (both banal and catastrophic) to our systems and game them out. We make plans and run exercises. I'm not sure it's a bad idea, per se, to be gaming out dead-end scenarios.

> But we also got here by people and systems preying on other bad qualities like complacency, laziness, helplessness, and blindness to shifting baselines.

This is not how I would characterize the last 300 years of our efforts as a species.

I'm not exactly sure how you would characterize it, so I'll just project into the space you didn't see fit to fill. We are an endlessly-(infini|adjec)tive species. I have a Whitmanesque love of our species' best and worst qualities.

Characterizations are not mutually exclusive.

There's no catch clause in the universe's code to stop our most-impressive inventions from ultimately killing us, our most-creative disruptions from sundering our societies, or our most endearing traits from tucking us neatly into the geologic record.

Rich people can afford to insure and rebuild on disaster-prone, but otherwise highly desirable, property.

I lived near a barrier island that would get hit with hurricanes each season, and every 5-10 years a storm would devastate it. Despite that, property owners would rebuild their several million dollar vacation homes exactly where they last stood, but raised just a little higher than the last time.

I don't blame them, it's an amazing spot in the summer.

Nah, fossil fuel companies will just create subsidiaries that will be in charge of all their IT infrastructure... or just contract it out.

Are Amazon employees going to demand that Amazon not do business with companies that do business with fossil fuel companies? How many layers down are they going to demand?

(Disclaimer: I used to work at AWS.)

> won't try to be a "hero" and use their insider access to try to sabotage your operations or leak confidential data?

We do have examples of that. Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

SPC Manning, in particular, was particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to her dysphoria and her chain of command's inability to recognize this problem and mitigate it. And Wikileaks recruited and turned that asset.

Snowden was certainly regarded as a HUMINT asset by someone, but he's more the self-motivated ideological case that you're talking about.

In both cases, the penalties are much more severe than a private company can bring against an employee, so it's realistic. At the same time, I'm honestly surprised that there weren't more. There are a shitload of government contractors since the usual requirement is a clearance and a pulse.

> I mean if a person thinks they are literally saving the planet from destruction, sabotaging an oil company's cloud infrastructure seems like something that they would at least seriously consider doing.

It's the classic insider threat scenario. And so Amazon does have strategies to limit what rogue employees can do, as selling corporate clients on cloud services would be a nonstarter without it. I didn't have broad enough knowledge to speak to how effectively they're able to mitigate the threat.

> I think Amazon and the other cloud companies need to come down hard and state unequivocally that cloud services are not fodder for political crusades, and they will allow all companies that are conducting legal business activities, to be able to use their cloud.

I don't think you can crack down on people like that. They'll just go dark.

And my read of the senior guys is they're genuinely sympathetic to these causes. Maybe one response is, "you say you want urgent action, but you're engineers. You know that it's the slow grind that delivers solutions, not the sturm and drang."

It's interesting to speculate what would happen if an employee did leak customer data... many companies have gone through crises you'd think would wreck their reputation forever and the market turned out to be shockingly forgiving.

Or maybe we'd find out that private clouds are actually quite economical, you just get some standardized racks and run various management services. Hell, you can even resell excess capacity just like how Amazon got started.

If they got caught seems like a CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) charge would be brought.

"There's no cloud: it's just someone else's computer (and it's run by people who hate your guts)"

Thankfully for the world, only in the US does climate science seem to have been quite so politicised. I've never quite understood how that was achieved so successfully, as whenever a significant UK denier has cropped up in our media, they just sound like an ignorant idiot. It leaves little doubt they've not even tried to understand the scientific advice, and most will dismiss them accordingly.

The right in the UK and the rest of Europe may not be doing enough to mitigate the problem, but very, very few of them are denying there is a problem. Or trying to associate those agitating for more action with political or moral crusades. A majority of voters, of all political hues, seem to agree with the need for more dramatic action.

To the greater point, all companies will have to adjust to a low or zero carbon world. If they don't they can expect greater action from activists, regulators and governments, and changes to what constitutes legal activity. Even the London stock market recently adjusted the categories companies were in - to make it easier to identify those firms people might increasingly want to divest from for being fossil related.

Continental US hasn't warmed as much as the rest of the world. In Europe we have seen and experienced extreme heatwaves and droughts in the last decade. https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/record-summer-heat-bakes... The US on the other hand hasn't had temperatures increase that much and has even had many unusually cold winters.

>I think Amazon and the other cloud companies need to come down hard and state unequivocally that cloud services are not fodder for political crusades, and they will allow all companies that are conducting legal business activities, to be able to use their cloud.

HN, please don't turn the following in to a flame war. That said...

How does this fit in with companies that de-platform organizations that they see as promoting extremism? There have been some high-profile cases where services like Patreon, CloudFlare and YouTube have banned people who weren't breaking the law, but were doing something management found politically unacceptable. This is interesting because YouTube is run by Google, who also offers cloud services.

I’m not a lawyer, but a lot of these crusades smell like tortious interference[1]. A lot of people just don’t know their rights, but if a third party, which I imagine includes an employee acting in a personal capacity, interferes and causes your AWS contract to be dropped you have a solid cause of action against them. And unlike a lot of activists, Amazon employees may well be worth suing.

And this is a good thing, because reliable contracting is foundational to a developed economy. If you can’t rely on your contracts being honored over arbitrary non stipulated issues then your operation becomes massively less efficient.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference

Why can't employees voice their concerns to their companies? I imagine such a large company like Amazon, it would be near impossible to get a direct response without something bigger like this. Companies are groups of people working towards a goal/service/whatever and those people all have ideas on how to make the world a better place. If the company wants to shut them down, sure, but companies have ideologies too and don't always have to play the "neutral" card. Which, IMO, climate change shouldn't even be a political issue.

Selling an idea, even one we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt is always going to be a political issue. There's no getting around the fact that nobody is born with an innate sense of statistics.

> Selling an idea, even one we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt is always going to be a political issue.

So is allowing corporations in the first place, that is also not a result of some innate sense of perfect knowledge of everything surrounding the issue.

Too many companies, too many people in them want the cake and eat it, they want societies to uphold their responsibilities towards them, but not the other way around.

It seems like that reasoning would put everything into the bucket of "political issue". I feel like it is more intertwined with forcing people to change (gas cars to EV) OR removing a flow of money (oil industry).

That’s because everything is political—including choosing to be apolitical.

I think your unfounded suspicions amount to FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. You have no evidence that people concerned about climate change would be more underhanded or less loyal to their employer than other employees. A company has no reason to fear working with another company because its employees exercise the right to free speech.(+) Claiming such a fear is rational... Well, I think you can see how that would cause people to shut up because they are afraid of being seen as a liability and fired. That would be bad, wouldn't it?

A similar situation existed in many Western countries during the Cold war. Communists were afraid to speak their mind because they would be labelled Russian spies and they would be blacklisted. There were of course lots of people that spied for the Soviet union though. But crucially, only one (that I know of) were a devout Communist. All the others were spying for monetary reasons.

+ - Last I heard an American senator recently proposed that the US should stop selling crowd-control equipment to China. If a politician can propose that, why can't an employee propose that Amazon should not host oil exploration companies?

You see to be confusing "political crusade" with "effort to respond to the scientific data showing that current carbon usage is unsustainable and a significant threat to civilisation".

I think that's precisely the point.

You've conflated a few different ideas there under the banner of 'moral crusades'. Law enforcement and climate change issues have very little in common. Your initial quote calls out "oil and gas extraction" - we're not talking about like, making more efficient cars, we're talking about literally pulling more carbon out of the ground so that someone can chuck it into the air.

The distinction is between "something that someone probably should care about" and "something that everyone must care about".

Climate change mitigation should itself be a 'defense initiative', given the impacts that sea level rise and increased weather variability will have on national defense over the next decades, as well as the increased level of conflict in hotspots around the globe [1].

[1]: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/3/150302-syria-...

It's deeply depressing to see climate-related activities portrayed as political crusades, moreover on this forum!

CC is not some subjective moral agenda we could disagree on. It's a scientifically proven disaster that had already happened, and have been known and ongoing for almost half a century now.

> It's a scientifically proven disaster that has already happened

Ok, then where are the thousands of people dying? Where's the "disaster" part? Proclaiming something to be a disaster when the average person can't even tell something is wrong without being told something is wrong is the problem. "It's a disaster because our computers and scientific instruments have predicted it to be so!" doesn't carry much weight. People need tangible evidence that impacts their bottom line.

If you are in the Bahamas right now and you told someone "Hurricane Dorian is a scientifically proven disaster that has already happened," they would believe you, because they can see the carnage with their own eyes. They can see that their house is missing. They can see trees torn out of the ground.

Say the same thing about climate change and they'll think "huh, this summer didn't seem any hotter than when I was a kid. And last winter we still got tons of snow like we always do." and they'll write it off as hyperbole.

>where are the thousands of people dying?

Currently, mostly in India, Africa and Middle-East.

>People need tangible evidence

And we'll have plenty of that, if even the most conservative/optimist projections will materialize. Patience.

> And we'll have plenty of that, if even the most conservative/optimist projections will materialize. Patience.

Right, and when we do, that will be the fire under humanity's collective butt to mobilize and act. It might be too late, it might not. I have faith that we will pull through.

Not to take sides here, but every earnestly held political belief is seen by its passionate supporters as a known, proven fact.

I think the people need to come down hard on these companies. Nothing else works. Collective action gets the goods. Business disruption is necessary to get the rulers to change their ways.

if you think that people fighting to preserve organized society on earth from the reality of climate apocalypse is "the latest moral crusade" or a "political crusade"...

you're wrong.

> The employees are also asking for zero contracts with fossil fuel companies that use Amazon’s AI technology to help them accelerate oil and gas extraction

To me, it seems like activists spend too much time focusing on the producers of things like fossil fuels, and not enough time on the consumers.

I have nothing against companies which are producing fossil fuels, in general, since they are usually producing a product that has at least some genuine value in many cases. If everyone stopped drilling for oil immediately, it would certainly have incredibly negative consequences. I do have a problem with people who are excessively using these types of products, since they are creating waste that damages the environment - if everyone stopped driving their car everywhere and instead biked when they were able to, it would certainly have a very positive effect.

Be interesting to see if Amazon supports the employee strikes as much as google - I think with google a lot of the strikes and walkouts were supported by management and/or no consequence. So it was a "strike" but everyone got paid still.

Is Amazon this progressive as well? Ie, will it pay everyone if an employee was needed but unavailable?

Amazon seems far far more cutthroat than Google. They'll get PIP'd and thrown into the pressure cooker as punishment until they quit.

Managers at Amazon are arguably under more competitive pressure than their reports; no one is going to fire their top performer for participating in a climate awareness march.

It's far, far more likely that the "strike" will be ignored than that it will result in anyone be disciplined or terminated.

Antecdotally - the folks who have organized internal things like this at Amazon generally continue to work there. The folks who did the same at google seem to have gotten fired.

Google wasn't completely supportive. Four months ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19802057 and today https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20918941

I am not a googler so I don't have a deep knowledge but some employees are also speaking of retaliations because of these strikes (mainly the leaders).

If I were their manager I'd want to handle it like any other absence. If an employee has a history of unscheduled ghosting, whether for protesting, watching soap operas or whatever, treat them the same. If it is scheduled or otherwise arranged with a supervisor, no problem. Politics need not enter into it.

That sort of misses the point of protest via a walk out. You can’t have civil disobedience without the disobedience.

Even without legal protection for industrial action, the whole point of striking is that the employer can't handle it in the normal way because there are too many of them. Do they all get a written warning and then fired next day they do it? How does the company operate with an important part of its workforce suddenly gone? That's why strikes are a thing, they overwhelm the protections that exist against isolated absences.

I'm not sure 941 Amazon workers globally are that powerful though.

Do these people really think there is no environmental impact to creating these "zero emission" vehicles? That the materials aren't destructively being mined for the minerals used in the batteries and solar cells? That the engines and vehicles aren't themselves shipped multiple times huge distances by cargo ships using carbon burning engines? That the sunk environmental impact of existing vehicles is worth throwing away? That natural gas shouldn't even be considered?

I mean, a lot of these "green new deal" types of initiatives are short sighted at best, and harmful at worst. Wind, solar and nuclear power should all be on the table. Why aren't we talking about desalinization and water pipelines for hydrogen fuel?

>Why aren't we talking about desalinization and water pipelines for hydrogen fuel?

Because for these types of people, the goal isn't to enact any measurable change on their own. It's to make others feel guilty for not coming up with a solution.

Good for them. So much focus on "what we can do" with the climate crisis puts the onus on individuals, instead of industry.

I like that they go further than just "use EVs to deliver packages" – but instead also calling on AWS to not enable or help accelerate Oil and Gas company extraction. Although I'm sure this one will fall flat, because there's too much money involved.

>”...to not enable or help accelerate Oil and Gas company extraction.”

I don’t think that makes any more sense than say “not selling goods and services to individuals who own ICE propulsion cars”. Or won’t sell items manufactured in Chine due to dirty energy and lax enviro controls in manufacturing.

I’m not sure what the research says but is buying something online (+ one day shipping) more or less environmentally friendly than going to a store?

I bought a pencil sharpener on Amazon this past Saturday and selected next day free Prime shipping. The shipping notification I got on Sunday was that my package was scheduled delivery number 126 for this one driver. If that's normal, then it sounds a lot more efficient than me driving to the store and back for one item.

It's probably better because the delivery trucks can make multiple stops. Chances are that when they deliver something to you, they are making multiple stops in the area. And the delivery companies put a huge amount of computational power into optimizing routes and making sure they don't drive any further than they need to.

And you think those items on the shelf at the store were delivered by trucks one at a time?

The people going to store almost certainly went in cars one at a time. Although some large portion probably combined it with other errands.

Amazon: Factory > Warehouse > Delivery Driver > You

B&M Store: Factory > Warehouse > Store > You

Obviously that's generalizing quite a bit, but intuitively it seems that the major difference is the final step. On average a delivery driver is more efficient than you making a trip for just yourself.

Being on a shelf at the store doesn't help that much, I think. Most of what I buy gets delivered in one trip out and back... by me.

I suspect there big environmental impact will be any changes in the quantity of things we buy, moreso than if we drive to the store or not.

It depends, where is this hypothetical person living? I live in the middle of a city, the store close to me serves the thousands of people living in my square kilometer. Because of scale, the truck that transports new goods to the store has a low carbon emission per customer.

I have friends who live way out of town. If they have a store it serves maybe twenty people. Instead of dividing the truck’s emissions by thousands of people you just divide it by twenty.

If someone has to get in their car at all to go to the shops I would say it is likely to be more carbon intensive than a delivery service with high utilisation. A shopping center in general would be generating a lot more emissions per product than a warehouse.

On the other side often things bought online come with a lot more packaging. I think Amazon is trying to cut down on this by having suppliers where possible use a box for a product that is durable enough for shipping without having to put it in another box.

It mostly depends on the cost of the last mile (or last 5 miles).

In a dense city, most of the last mile will be served by foot walking to a store which would have lower emissions (zero) compared to a delivery vehicle.

In the suburbs, the last mile to a store will likely be a detour by car from wherever you wanted to be. So delivery probably has a smaller footprint than storefronts (since the delivery vehicle is likely doing deliveries nearby anyway).

I don't think it's that simple, because the frequency of the shipments and amount of goods shipped would also decrease (although not linearly) since there are less people to account for. If both systems are equally optimized, would there be a difference?

That said, in practice the "economy of scale" argument still applies and the inner-city store will overwhelming produce less carbon, besides the fact that a rural area may imply an increase in the distance good are shipped.

There's also the consideration that by living in a city you likely live closer to an airport or transportation hub, so the last leg of any shipped goods (in a semi truck and/or delivery vehicle) is going to be shorter as well.

I would love to know the organizers' opinion on whether these various uses of AWS "accelerate oil and gas extraction," i.e. whether they would be allowed on AWS:

-The engineering of drill bits or other equipment that could be used for oil wells, but also for water or geothermal wells

-A business consulting firm running payroll, marketing, or accounting for an oil company

-Personal internet services for offshore oil workers

-Telemetry for drilling or pipeline monitoring equipment

-Geology research by a university that is likely to be used by oil companies

It's remarkable to me that in the original article and in all these comments so far, there's no mention of energy use by AWS.

AWS is market leader in public cloud, which is probably the fastest growing class of energy consumer. Already overtaking traditional industrial energy consumers such as steel.

Assuming this market trend will continue, what can AWS realistically do to mitigate their impact?

AWS, like google and like Azure and every other cloud provider already does everything they can to minimize energy consumption because it is in their economic interest to do so.

In fact I would think the best thing industry can do to reduce energy consumption is to move their data to a cloud provider. It takes far less energy to cool one large room with servers from a dozen companies than it does to cool a dozen server rooms with private on-prem servers.

This all seems correct, but insufficiently proactive, at least not enough to satisfy activists.

For instance, though it may not currently be economic, how about pre-cooling using renewable energy. Locating data centers next to hydro / geothermal sources? Larger UPS? Load balancing across DCs with available renewables? Other mitigations to get ahead of the issue?

They should also join the Extinction Rebellion on October 7


However unlikely it is, it would be awesome to see the Amazon warehouse workers join in solidarity.

In other news, Amazon announces over 900 new job openings.

941/647,500 (the 2018 Amazon employee total)

Probably because if they reversed the numbers in the article, it wouldn’t sell. “646,000 out of 647,500 Amazon employees will not pledge to join protest!”

If it's anything like the Google walkout, the number of participants could be greater than the number of signatories. And the number of supporters will be greater than the number of participants.

Walk out into the car park to drive home?

This (unfortunately paywalled) article from the Economist raises a lot of points discussed in this thread: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/08/22/what-companies-...

There's something really interesting going on with the flagging in this post. There are several on topic, polite discussions that have been flagged to death. (Along with some replies which, rightly, have been flagged to death.)

Maybe it's just folks expressing political views with the flag button, but it's interesting to see it used so dramatically here.

Edit: Either someone did something or a bunch of vouching happened, because a lot of comments have come back.

That's unfortunately what HN comments has become, a popularity contest where instead of replying to views you disagree with using counter arguments, you just downvote them and if their statement particularly offends your sensibilities, flag them.

Honestly, downvoting - especially as implemented here in HN where it fades out things - was a mistake. I do not understand why people still insist on it and ask people to not use it as a "disagree" button (and flagging as a "super disagree" button) when many years of evidence show that despite any effort, it will be used as such.

I can understand (even if disagree) with Reddit-the-company wanting it to stay there because it increases "engagement" with the platform (regardless of the engagement's quality) and thus gets more ad revenue, but why anyone else (and any site that doesn't monetize such "engagement") would insist on downvoting is beyond me (and i especially do not understand people acting as if the topic itself is some sort of taboo to not even be discussed and treat its existence as unquestionable dogma).

Agreed, I wish there was no downvoting, it's long run its usefulness in this forum

The better option would be to get rid of political BS entirely. I am incredibly sick of hearing each side scream into the wind while the other screams back. This was originally mostly a tech forum; it's grown to a size where it needs to be only a tech forum. People can go to reddit if they want to scream about politics.

That's a position that's ok if and only if you are ok with the status quo. It is, in itself, a political stance.

Now, screaming into the wind is also far from ideal, but I think the answer shouldn't be "Ignore politics because I'm fine."

There are a ton of places where tech intersects with politics, whether that's in climate science, gender, mental health, medicine, art/culture, public transit (and other public shared resources), copyright, privacy, safety, etc. Strictly restricting the discussion to tech doesn't erase those intersections between tech and political domains.

Except all the issues you just raised are primarily things about which one side cares. The cares of the other are ignored or, in the rare case they are visible, flagged down.

What? These aren't boolean propositions. Each of them has a pretty complex set of connections with tech, across a variety of subdomains and interests....

Maybe a better way to describe it is as a venn diagram. If there are circles with "lefty" things and "righty" things, you took (as HN tends to do) the whole lefty circle. That includes things in the center, but not those on the right.

Ah yes, the "lefty" concerns of privacy, safety, medicine, public land use, and intellectual property and how they intersect with tech. I somehow always manage to forget that the "righty" folk are disinterested in discussion on how those topics might intersect with tech.

Again, these issues aren't binary, they aren't left v. right, there's much more to understand than just two fixed points. I didn't even dive into any specific issues. Public resources could mean parks or it could mean the Bureau of Land Management, eminent domain or subsidized bus fare. Safety and privacy could be a discussion of the TSA, or gun rights, or immigration, or facial recognition.

Those are obviously concerns that impact a wide group of people, across many different political ideologies.

You are seeing something that isn't there.

You cherry-picked stuff from the center of the diagram. Stuff like climate "science" and "gender" gets posted a good bit; these are things of which the left has made issues. My point is that the whole left circle - issues important to the left and important to both left and right - are posted and discussed. Issues important only to the right are flagged down. Right-wing perspectives on political posts are flagged down. To take an example, very occasionally, I see a mention of guns that includes a right-wing perspective. Even if it's politely stated, flagged down. Example, something like: "The arguments about taking guns lowering mass shooting-rates does mot affect the right because priorities are different. The right is willing to tolerate some death as tragic but a fact of life to maintain rights, and mass shooting death rates are vastly below other public health issues any way."

Such a comment would be flagged down. A comment taking the opposing point-of-view, even much less politely, would be supported. Comments with vulgarity and rudeness are also tolerated only from certain perspectives. This disparity is particularly galling because low-ranked comments become greyed to the point of un-readability, and flagged ones don't appear at all by default. I couldn't care less about the internet points, but HN ought to leave un-popular opinions visible.

Your image of the old days is inaccurate. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17014869

The issue is a lot of tech companies, especially the larger ones are in larger metro areas that tend to lean left, and staffed by those who went to very left leaning schools and as a result lean further left than most. Combine this with a bit of elitism and you get what we have today.

A set of professions guided more by feelings that knowledge and reasoning. Not to mention an ever increasing inability to actually have a civil conversation with someone you disagree with. I'm relatively center/libertarian/classic-liberal and I seem to feel it from all sides at times.

Maybe it's just folks expressing political views with the flag button

I would hope said individuals would lose their flagging privileges if they demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate flagging. The purpose of flagging is to report posts in violation of the site guidelines, not to express disagreement; that's what down-votes are for.

Posts can't be downvoted on HN iirc, only comments.

Those that flag these types of posts are often the first to scream about their right to free speech, while loving places that bootstomp it like /r/The_Donald, freespeechextremist, smugglo, pleroma.social, etc.

In those communities, there are tons of posts and comments along the lines of "if I'm wrong about x debate me!". When you reply citing multiple research papers, you will get banned. There is no room for challenging views on these caustic sites.

I went through and vouched for the reasonable looking comments in this thread. (You should be able to do so as well, unless you've lost your privileges to do so.)

I was about to say the same thing. I was in mid-reply to someone as I saw their post was flagged and has since been taken away. I am not really sure what is going on.

Per HN guidelines, if you think there's some kind of organized abuse, you should report it to moderators [instead of discussing it here].

My humble opinion is many people here are fed up with climate discussions, and see them as off-topic. On the other hand, a vocal group (which as a disclaimer, I belong to), seems to believe not talking about climate change is currently akin to a Jewish family in 39` Germany not talking about the National-Socialist party.

The two groups communicate with each other almost as effectively as my 3 and 5 yo kids.


This is a very cynical take - even if the employees that will be going on strike aren't following best practices for reducing their environmental impact, at least they're doing something (never mind that many are likely taking other action to reduce their environmental footprint).

No Sir, some of the protestors by virtue of their socio-economic stature have carbon footprints that are comparable to african villages. All I am asking is, if you are vilifying an entity in order to save the world, where is your personal sacrifice.. how many of them are willing to forgo climate control for themselves and their family to "save the world".

I will take the bet that 10% of them would not put themselves through a week of North Western winter making their sacrifices.

I wonder how many of these 941 employees will go out of the office with an unrecyclable plastic lined cardboard coffee cup, documenting their exploit and "activism" on all the major social media with their brand new iPhone 11...

At this point, "doing something" is most likely worst than doing nothing at all.

I assume, the whole narrative is above such insignificant details as direct and indirect costs of producing "green energy?"

Not sure what you mean but Amazon is doing a lot of research into things like drone deliveries and robotic vehicles which can be powered from renewable energy.

Fuel costs money. Ultimately delivery efficiency is better for business and for the environment.

They also are encouraging all deliveries to happen on a given day of the week so they can be batched up and logistically planned better.

Seems like things are moving in the right direction.

Why are you assuming that?

Amazon's entire retail business model is built upon oil(specifically drivers moving individual packages to consumer's homes).

Great! The more people strike, the more we'll get the kind of change we need.

It's worth emphasizing that these Amazon employees aren't acting on their own -- they're taking part in a global climate strike: https://globalclimatestrike.net. Even if each person or company acting individually can't change anything, a large enough movement like this may make change possible.

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