Sustainability informatics is an inter-disciplinary research field focused on the role of computer and information sciences in enabling human society to thrive for the long term on planet earth. We take a deliberately broad definition of sustainability, covering five inter-related dimensions:
Personal – sustaining health, well-being, and human dignity
Social – sustaining a just and equitable society
Economic – sustaining the flow of resources and capital
Technical – sustaining physical and computational infrastructures
Environmental – sustaining healthy ecosystems and a stable climate
Computer technology leads to many threats to sustainability, from the erosion of privacy and trust in the networked society to the consumption of non-renewable resources in the creation and disposal of our digital gadgets. But computer technology also offers many opportunities to generate the large-scale changes needed for sustainability in the 21st century. Through data analytics and computational models, we can improve our understanding of the dynamics of sustainable systems, and through virtualization, we can replace resource-intensive activities, such as the movement of people and goods.
The Sustainability Informatics group at the University of Toronto collaborates widely with colleagues in related disciplines, including the School of Environment , the Centre for Global Change Science, the U of T Transportation Research Institute, and the Munk School’s Environmental Governance Lab.
Current projects include: