Information Management

Information Management in a Changing Climate

In case you haven’t yet read it, the latest October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarises the imminent implications of global warming of 1.5C. It makes for sobering reading, especially when factoring in the American Psychological Association’s report with Eco America on the psychological impacts of climate change. Eco-anxiety. It’s a thing.

However, in information management as in our personal lives, we can still play our part to help minimise the effects of climate change and support sustainable innovation.

Consider being prepared by planning for the worst while hoping for the best. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans help us focus on highest value organisational activities and identify the information needed following an incident. It’s expected that in Australia with increasing incidence of floods, energy failings, storms, fires, high temperatures affecting outdoor work, and risk of pandemics/disease that most organisations will already manage effective plans, and these may not be managed by your information management (IM) function.

Consider seeking out to personally such plans these on an annual basis at minimum to ensure that information and knowledge elements are addressed to help your organisational activities to continue during increasingly frequent climate-change driven incidents. Consider reviewing and acting on guidelines in the Australian National Strategy for Disaster Resilience to support preparedness at an individual and organisational level. Publications such as the UK’s National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies also makes for both fascinating reading on high likelihood and impact events such as pandemics and also communicates risks in a way that can aid discussions with stakeholders.

Maintenance of an organisational risk register in addition to an IM function-specific risk register helps identify, communicate, and agree with leadership the most effective means of mitigating or managing risk relating to information management. Of course, not all risks are equal, it’s important to priorities high impact risks and evaluate their likelihood. Review of future fire and flood map predictions for relevant geographic areas increases the likelihood that organisational and offsite records storage will be as shielded as possible from rising sea levels, flood and fire risk at minimum. Flood and fire-proofing of highest value physical and digital information may be worthwhile. Provisioning staff with laptops instead of desktop machines supports working from home in case of business disruption or pandemics when staff will be encouraged to keep away from offices. Setting up a communication cascade with team personal mobile and emails (if mobile networks are overloaded) enables us to contact staff and cascade messaging. Continued efforts to drive digitization of high-value paper records not only reduces paper usage to keep more trees available to soak up the planets CO2 but reduces bills on energy expenditure for transport and air-conditioning for storage, and of course saves resource costs and time to find and retrieve information.

Consider minimising individual and organisational use of single-use plastics and unnecessary travel while embracing internet-aided conferencing tools and digital-first technologies to reduce pollution. Eco-anxiety is in part caused by the powerlessness we feel as individuals to avert the extinction of humans and other species, along with the frustration at paid representatives of all stripes acting to the detriment of the planet and future generations of all species. At a local level, actions/inactions include ongoing support for polluters and failing to build a local renewable industry and capitalise on our prior taxpayer investment in Australia’s pioneering clean energy hubs such as the University of NSW’s Professor Martin Green ‘father of photovoltaics’ solar invention sales predicted to exceed US$1 trillion by 2040 – job and profit benefits of which are now largely going to China. Making our voices heard helps governments and companies make long-term sustainable decisions, invest in a renewable clean future, and help our country and others lead not lag in renewable energy efforts to help reduce the worst effects of current climate change.

One of the most effective ways to be prepared is to be armed with facts and learn from recent history. For example on 10-May-19 the Queensland State Archives is hosting ‘Governing the Flu on Queensland’s Anti-Epidemic Measures’ outlining measures implemented during the height of the last major global pandemic a century ago which infected around 500 million people globally killing 50-100million – – it looks to be an interesting talk.

Also find inspiration from individuals such as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who seems uniquely placed to cut through the emotion and speak frankly to voice what scientists have been warning for decades.

Edit: this article was originally written for the Records and Information Management Professionals Association ahead of widespread fires in Australia at the end of 2019 early 2020 and global pandemic – so I hope it was of value to some members!

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