Greening through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability

Environmental issues often span long periods of time, far-flung areas, and labyrinthine layers of complexity. In Greening through IT, Bill Tomlinson investigates how the tools and techniques of information technology (IT) can help us tackle environmental problems at such vast scales. Tomlinson describes theoretical, technological, and social aspects of a growing interdisciplinary approach to sustainability, "Green IT," offering both a human-centered framework for understanding Green IT systems and specific examples and case studies of Green IT in action.

Tomlinson contrasts the broad ranges of time, space, and complexity against which environmental concerns play out to the relatively narrow horizons of human understanding: it's hard for us to grasp thousand- year projections of global climatic disruption or our stake in melting icecaps thousands of miles away. IT can bridge the gap between human scales of understanding and environmental scales.

Tomlinson offers many examples of efforts toward sustainability supported by IT-from fishermen in India who eliminated waste by coordinating their activities with mobile phones to the installation of smart meters that optimize electricity use in California households- and offers three detailed studies of specific research projects that he and his colleagues have undertaken: EcoRaft, an interactive museum exhibit to help children learn principles of restoration ecology; Trackulous, a set of web-based tools with which people can chart their own environmental behavior; and GreenScanner, an online system that provides access to environmental-impact reports about consumer products. Taken together, these examples illustrate the significant environmental benefits innovations in information technology can enable.

Annotated Bibliography on Sustainability

This annotated bibliography must be incomplete, simply by the nature of 'sustainability studies' which is expansive and evolving in new directions. When possible annotations will come with keywords which you can use to search for similar articles or issue areas. Sustainability studies is also an attempt to unify multiple disciplines and fields of research and thinking, so for each article there may be a number of relevant directions an instructor or researcher can come to the material. For example, in the case of ocean acidification, we might think of this in terms of chemistry, human factors (sociology, political science), historical interactions and conditions of the ocean chemistry (or even histories of knowledge about ocean chemistry), physiology (effects on organisms), art (what would be a depiction of such a change, etc), and many others. I will leave this kind of treatment out of the annotations because it would violate our needs for brevity, and because you, the reader, will be able to see the relevance to your own discipline and work if it has any interesting potential for you.

The complete annotated bibliography: docx


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