Learning Software Development and How To Help our Adaptation to Climate Change

philly blues

A couple years ago I started to get the itch that I wanted to do something else with my life in addition to producing records & making music. At that point I had made many, many records and realized I had gotten a little bored with how I was making records.

I had always been a freelancer and this timing coincided with my wife & I having to make some real choices about our careers going forward. At that time our daughter was 3 and it was clear that two freelance incomes wasn’t going to cut it. My wife found a difficult, steady job and we decided I should finally go to college, earn a bachelor’s degree and find something steady in addition to freelance record production. I had alway wanted to know how to make software and I was becoming increasingly interested in helping with our collective adaptation to the changing climate. So I enrolled at community college of Philadelphia and majored in computer science. I will admit I did not realize computer science is mostly mathematics. I hadn’t done math since failing pre-calc in high school… so learning math again (basics through calculus 2 and discrete math) took a lot of time and late nights and yerba mate and study groups and bouts of “what the hell am I doing?!” to get through. In hindsight, I would recommend taking the free online course Learning How To Learn, getting a study group, and taking all math classes in person (if at CCP, go with Professor Jernigan).

But now, I have spent two years learning software development in Java, database design, and now I’m learning python & swift. Also studying javascript, MySQL, GIS… the list keeps lengthening.

And how does this play into helping with climate change adaptation?

I read Bill McKibben’s book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet a few years ago. This book’s advice to learn how to development communities and work with your neighbors made a big impression on me. I took it to mean that massive upheaval is imminent, it will be difficult, so we better learn to support each other.

As I go to meetups and talk to writers, software developers, and activists I keep asking this question: “How can a computer science major help Philly’s adaptation to climate change?”

I emailed Mr. McKibben and asked this question. He said he would ponder it but did say there is interesting modelling of the impact of different policies: http://climateactiontracker.org/global/233/Comparison-between-Climate-Action-Tracker-and-MIT-Energy-and-Climate-Outlook-2015-assessments.html

I’ll share what answers I find to that question on this site. I did find one researcher, Steve Easterbrook, who is working on a similar question. Find his work here: http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~sme/

I will be transferring to Temple in Fall 2016, and there are many opportunities to learn something helpful there related to climate change and community development:
certificate in GIS
minor in geography and urban studies
minor in community development

Oh, and yes I am still making records. I love music. I love recording. I’ll be making recordings until I’m dead.

Onward. I hope this was helpful for you.


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