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  • Greening through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability
  • Rob Harle
Greening through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability by Bill Tomlinson. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, and London, U.K. 210 pp., illus. ISBN: 978-0-262-01393-2.

Greening through IT is well written, incredibly well researched and most timely. There is no doubt now that the planet is in trouble and that our present energy-consumption levels, waste (both personal and industrial) and pollution levels are far too high to allow life to continue as we know it. How long it will take before catastrophic changes occur is a matter of speculation—some say 10 years, some say one hundred! Whichever, these time spans are minuscule compared to the time it has taken earth, and all the various species (including humans) to evolve to this point. One of Tomlinson's main arguments throughout this book is the inability of humans to understand long time spans. As he points out, we are going to have to improve this faculty and implement long-term changes that consider future generations.

This book is almost like a workbook for the development of a truly sustainable future. There are "numerous opportunities for people to make the way we live more sustainable. Helping people and institutions discover, understand, and act on these and other environmental possibilities is the primary goal of Green IT" and of course this book (p. 10). The book is suitable for all levels of readership, including older schoolchildren. The arguments presented are based on scientific facts and sound statistics but presented in such a way as to be easily understood by non-scientists and nonacademics. Tomlinson and associates developed a virtual ecosystem in 2006 called EcoRaft, which enabled children to work together to restore damaged ecosystems (p. 118).

There are nine chapters, followed by an excellent reference section and an index. Chapter 1, "Introduction to Green IT," introduces the whole concept of using information technology and devices to help achieve sustainability. In a really fascinating example of how IT can work, this chapter relates how the fishermen in Kerala (southern India) started using mobile phones to communicate with each other and their commercial buyers. As the case study shows, their approach resulted in a complete streamlining of the fishing industry, no more wasted fish, more profits for the fishermen and lower prices for the consumer (p. 1). This chapter is a little long winded, tending to repeat information, which is then repeated again further on in the book.

Chapter 2, "Environmental Horizons," describes most of the main challenges facing humanity. Here the author deals with such facts as the extinction of species, world population explosion figures and so on. In Chapter 3, "Human Horizons," the discussion turns to how we approach, understand and act on the various challenges facing us. The topic of Chapter 4 is "The Role of Technology," especially computing and communication technologies, and the way this knowledge and its associated devices can help or hinder sustainability.

Chapter 5, "Survey of Green IT Systems," introduces the various ways in which IT, green and otherwise, currently impacts global sustainability. Such devices as smart electronics that control engines to maximize fuel efficiency are discussed. How IT can help mitigate deforestation, manage food production more efficiently and many other similar issues are discussed in this chapter. The focus of Chapter 6, "Green IT and Education," highlights [End Page 178] what is perhaps Tomlinson's greatest contribution to sustainability, outlining his efforts in education. He is associate professor of informatics at the University of California and as mentioned above has developed IT education systems for children and also for adults. This chapter discusses these tools and many other facets of educating all individuals in the importance of moving toward sustainability.

Chapter 7, "Green IT and Personal Change," looks at how all of us have to change the way we live to bring about sustainability. Trackulous, a web-based application, can help in this regard. How we can get together with others to share ideas, work in groups and establish networks to increase the overall awareness of the enormity of the problems facing us so they can no longer be ignored...


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pp. 178-179
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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