IT Sits By, Watching Our Environment Die

Don Tennant

If the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taught us anything, it's that we're hopelessly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the threat that we pose to our own environment. The lack of a fail-safe response to this problem is a symptom of our communal tendency to put environmental concerns on the back burner-a malady as present in IT as anywhere.


The cure for this malady, like so many others, lies in educating people so that problems can either be prevented, or quickly and effectively addressed when they arise. In the IT sphere, we're inundated with green IT pitches from vendors, and we sit through the requisite green presentation at just about every IT conference we attend. But has any of that truly prepared the IT profession to tackle the formidable environmental challenges that confront us?


According to the recently released findings of a March study commissioned by the Career College Association (CCA), there will be a growing demand for workers with green expertise, but few people are receiving the education they need to prepare for those jobs:

Nearly 94 percent of American adults believe people would be at least somewhat likely to consider pursuing green-related education if the federal government were to provide a financial incentive; however, only one percent have already obtained or are obtaining education for green jobs. The national survey found that more than 70 percent of American adults are familiar with the idea of green jobs. However, a much smaller percentage have seized on the numerous opportunities presented in the field today.

The president of CCA is Harris Miller, best known to IT professionals as the former president of the Information Technology Association of America. In his CCA role, Miller is an advocate for green education:

Green jobs can be the wave of the future, but for our country to achieve that goal, we must educate the workforce about green job prospects and the training needed to break into this field.

The problem in the IT realm is that opportunities for green education and training are nascent at best. True, positive steps have been taken. Among them:


  • The IT trade association CompTIA in March began offering a green IT certification.
  • According to CleanTechnica.com, IBM in April partnered with Columbia University in New York to provide free software and tech support for green IT classes.
  • IBM last year began a collaboration with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Neb., to develop an associate degree program in green data center management.


No doubt, other baby steps can be cited. But we have yet to build into the framework of our education system's IT degree infrastructure a focus on the environment that would not only concentrate on conserving energy and natural resources, but enable the IT profession to help develop fail-safe plans to prevent, and effective measures to deal with, catastrophes like the massive destruction of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem. Until that changes, IT will continue to sit by as helplessly as everyone else and watch our environment die.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 2, 2010 11:24 AM Professor San Murugesan Professor San Murugesan  says:

I don't think "IT Sits By, Watching Our Environment Die." There have been several welcome developments and progress towards improving sustainability of our environment in general through IT. IT is being recognised as an enabler, or a means, to address environmental problems.

This week (1-7 June) is First International Green IT Awareness Week (http://www.greenitweek.org/).

Readers may look at the blogs at, and offer their comments:

  • Harness the Power of Green IT, by San Murugesan


  • Green IT: It Can Save Your Money and Our Planet, by San Murugesan


  • Taking an Enterprise Approach to Going Green, by Mike Rosen


  • Green IT Awareness Week: Are You Aware?http://blog.cutter.com/2010/05/28/green-it-awareness-week-are-you-aware/   -- This has links to several resources some with free access.

Professional societies and enterprises have begun offering short courses/training programs. We have a few such programs in Australia. Some universities have started offering subjects on related topics under various names: green IT/computing, environmental informatics, energy informatics, etc.

Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK now offers a master's course on green computing (www.leedsmet.ac.uk/inn/ 090924_6790_Green_Computing_ Web.pdf).

In my editorial note on 'Making IT Green' (IEEE IT Professional, March/April 2010, http://tinyurl.com/yczg9bo), I wrote:

"We thus need to educate IT professionals and students about Green IT and its prospects. Many IT professionals and senior IT executives don't know how or where to begin when it comes to implementing Green IT. Furthermore, there's a disparity in the level of Green IT understanding across companies, IT professionals, and IT users. Realizing this, a few universities and training institutes have taken the lead and started offering courses on Green IT. ...  I expect other universities and training institutes will soon offer similar programs." 

I guess, we'll be seeing more courses at all levels soon.

Jun 2, 2010 7:00 PM Kathy Gross Kathy Gross  says:

Have any online programs sprung up from the obvious need for this new academic area? Also, do you know of any Federal funding programs for pursuing "green" education or certifications?

Thanks so much for your help!

Jun 3, 2010 10:41 AM Cassidy Moss Cassidy Moss  says:

So writing on the wall is we will have Green Business Mgmt Degrees. I personally hope they print the degrees on 100% recycled paper with a green hue



Jun 4, 2010 12:04 PM Sick Dog Don Sick Dog Don  says:

IT is a dead field anyway and why pursuing IT education for ??  Do you want to be unemployed ?? get the hell out of this field.. US companies at this time only interest cheap labor H-1B workers only.. Bye...

Jun 6, 2010 1:52 PM Drunken Economist Drunken Economist  says:

Ah, Mumbai Don is at it again with this 'IT' thing. First it was:

1/ Move over all you IT folks in the US for the 'best and the brightest' from overseas. Either that or retool with the latest fad acronyms every 5 years, like...

2/ Now it's 'move into the Green IT so that you can be a useful slave' and clean up our mess. Mess being equal to Boomer debt and negligence. The oil slick being the latest Boomer fiasco.

So, let's all be nice slaves and do what Mumbai Don wants, because he wants to enjoy a nice white sandy beach in about 15 years, okay?

Seriously Don: You guys won. No American wants to get into IT, so why don't you have your Indian friends take up the slack on this one?

Oh. I forgot. Most of 'em are OFFSHORE. Well. Tell you what Donny.Boy: Suck it.

Me, I'm taking a contract in China.


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