Environment

This chapter of the book covers the environmental impacts of information technology, including questions about the environmental impact of IT manufacture, increased concerns over high levels of power consumption, and an examination of issues related to the safe disposal of old IT equipment (electronic waste or e-waste). The use of IT in monitoring our environment, including satellite monitoring and imaging, are also covered in detail. In addition to ITGS syllabus section 2.3 Environment, there are strong links to 1.6 Equality of Access and the Digital Divide. The following resources support the textbook content:

Data Logging

Data logging

Data Logging

There are many applications of data logging technology: from Walrus radio-tracking in the southern Chukchi Sea to Volcano Monitoring and Earthquake Monitoring at Yellowstone National Park. The USGS Earthquake Monitoring page is another good resource.

Satellite Communication

Remote sensing

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing uses satellites to image the earth using technologies other than traditional photography (such as RADAR, LIDAR, or acoustic imaging). Remote sensing has many applications, including monitoring Earth's environment. For example, the Aquarius satellite monitors the salinity of the world's oceans. In these cases the data received is highly useful for developing and improving computer climate models.

Satellites can also find hidden archaeological sites by remote sensing (Wired) - for example, when ruins are buried in the jungle and invisible to the naked eye, building outlines may still be visible to other sensing methods.

Mapping and Virtual Globes

GIS Lesson

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) lesson plans

These two practical lesson plans use Google Earth to help students understand Geographical Information Systems. Students will:
  • Investigate the types of GIS available
  • Learn how to add data layers to a GIS
  • Learn how a GIS can be used to support decision making
Lesson one introduces GIS using online examples: Students then use Google Earth data layers to make a decision about the best place to build a new hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. (This idea is based on Noel Jenkin's idea on his excellent JuicyGeography web site).

Lesson two involves downloading crime data from the Police.uk web site, processing the CSV file, converting the data, and importing it into Google Earth to make a decision about the best place to stay during the 2012 London Olympics.
GIS Lesson

Wild Fire Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

These great resources from the United States Forest Service (USFS) deal with how IT is used in wild fire prevention, prediction, and management.

The USFS main page contains links to the following resources:

Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Two diagrams showing how GPS networks function, from page 243 of the book. Click for larger versions.

Electronic waste (e-waste)

Impacts of e-waste

E-Waste introduction
There are many resources available to teach electronic waste. A good lesson starter is National Geographic's  Test Your E-Waste IQ quiz. Also useful is the video The Story of Electronics (pictured left) which introduces students to product life cycles and the 'designed for the dump' concept (planned obsolescence).

Social impacts of e-waste

To study the social, health, and environmental impacts of e-waste, Greenpeace have two useful photo essays: Poisoning the Poor: E-waste in Ghana and Scraplife: E-waste in Pakistan.

TIME magazine has a similar photo essay about Guiyu in China, one of the world's most notorious electronic waste dumping sites, while the Guardian covers Ghana.

The article High-Tech Trash (National Geographic) is longer and gives more detail, and although quite old now is still an essential read for ITGS students.

Other lesson resources include this e-waste poster / infographic from WellHome (above) which is ideal for classroom displays, and the infographic (left) covering the chemicals found in e-waste and their harmful effects on the human body.





What's in E-waste

What's in electronic waste?

Toxic chemicals in e-waste

The toxic chemicals in e-waste are covered in several high quality resources including National Geographic's interactive toxic computer page and Greenpeace's What's in Electronic Devices?

GreenPeace's Guide to Greener Electronics compares and rates equipment and environmental policies from different manufacturers, is regularly updated.

E-waste solutions

Electronic waste: Solutions

Many computer manufacturers, including Dell, Apple, and Samsung now have equipment recycling schemes. Gazelle is another recycling programme operated by Costco.
E-waste issues

Electronic waste: Related issues

These articles cover an e-waste related issue - that of sensitive data left on discarded computers being recovered and used for criminal purposes such as identity theft.

Resource depletion

Resource depletion

IT Manufacturing: Health and environmental impacts

During the manufacture of IT equipment, large amounts of toxic chemicals are used and produced. These can have significant effects on the surrounding environment and the workers who operate in so-called 'clean rooms'. Use resources include:
Energy consumption

Electrical consumption of IT devices

As more and more computing services are moved to the cloud, concern is increasing over the hidden environmental costs of the energy-hungry data centres that power these services.

Greenpeace issues warning about data centre power (BBC) and Global census shows datacentre power demand grew 63% in 2012 (Computer Weekly) cover the environmental impacts of data centres.

 Redesigning the Data Center (CACM)
  • 'Carbon Cost' of Google revealed (BBC)
  • Cutting IT energy costs for small business (FT) (free registration required)
  • Revision resource

    Lesson resources: Revision Flashcards

    Environment revision flashcards to test students on the key terms. The 'Learn' and 'Test' modes of Quizlet work best.