Fred Garnett, ACL policy advisor at Becta, has for long been telling me of the need to link information technology to environmental issues and has been exploring this in Deptford through his involvement with the Creekside Education Trust since 1999. His has been a lonely voice, but it would be good to hear of similar work elsewhere. Post a comment here if you have any information on this or know of a good environmental project with adults in the UK. There's lots of potential here for community learning courses and projects, as councils start to promote green policies more energetically.

In Seattle where I 've been for the last two weeks, this theme has a much higher profile. Last week I was down at City Hall to hear presentations from a roomfull of some 120 pupils from five high schools about surveys they had done with maps and GIS to discover issues about their environment and its social impact through the Homewaters Project, a nonprofit body based at North Seattle Community College. This inquiry based system is linked to the Green Map system and supported by the City's Department of Information Technology.

The results and work of the students were impressive and reminded me of some of the North American environmental projects involving adult learners which I looked at for my book, Digital Nations in the making. This was not an isolated example as Jean Godden, Chair of the City's Energy and Technology Committee reminded us.

The building itself was the only green City Hall in the US, using many recycled materials and meets many of the criteria for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification – which is being pushed strongly by a number of cities keen to promote effective environmental policies. It was also a very pleasant environment with a small stream running through the hall and down the steps outside. (See photo).
Aerial view of stream and steps leading down from Seattle City Hall.

There's a lot of information available about energy efficiency to be found on the Alliance to Save Energy's website; and there's plenty of interesting work being done elsewhere in the US. In Massachusetts there's an Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP) Procurement programme, which has available downloadable tools  to show how substantial savings can be made on items like light bulbs and toner cartridges. You can read a Q&A article about the EPP work in e-Gov Monitor, which points out that the savings have been 22 times the cost of running the programme.

With its population of 3.5 million, Seattle has a reputation as being one of the the top 10 cities in the US for quality of life, but don't imagine that it is all perfect! Hills and lakes can make it difficult to move from area to area and the public transport system is pretty poor for some parts. Cars flourish in this environment and congestion on the big roads can add long tedious delays. Number 1 priority for Mayor Greg Nickels is to "get Seattle moving".

As you'd expect in a city with big name companies like Microsoft and Amazon, technology can help a little, in the form of a sophisticated network of traffic cameras for the Puget Sound area. You can enjoy the videos from your armchair back home! The montage below is of traffic roaring across the Montlake Bridge over the canal, which links Lake Union and Lake Washington. At least it was moving this time!

Photos of cars crossing Montlake bridge.
More photos of cars crossing Montlake bridge.

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