Introduction #

The Digital Humanities and the Climate Crisis: A Manifesto (2021) states: “The digital is material. As digital humanists, every project we create, every software application we use, every piece of hardware we purchase impacts our environment. […] As humanities researchers, it is also our role to probe the values, the power structures, and the future imaginaries that underpin sustainable solutions.”

If you consider yourself a Digital Humanities researcher, then this toolkit is for you. Or even if you don’t, digital tools are now so woven into academic practice — from word processing to videoconferencing, from data visualisation to virtual learning environments — really this toolkit has relevance across all the arts, humanities and social sciences, for educators, students, researchers, librarians, technicians, administrators and others. We hope the information and suggestions here will empower and inspire you in your work.

Globally, Information Communication Technology (ICT) contributes 1.8% to 3.9% of greenhouse gas emissions (Freitag et al. 2021). Transport accounts for about 14% (SLOCAT 2021), and research often involves heavy travel for conferences, meetings, and fieldwork. We can play our part in a rapid and just climate transition.

This toolkit is from the Digital Humanities Climate Coalition, and in many places it reflects the concentration of our membership in the UK and Northern Europe. Climate change is of course a global issue, and we hope it will still be of use all around the world. Climate action is always work-in-progress, and we welcome your contributions and suggestions to evolve this toolkit in the future. Areas we are particularly interested in developing include:

  • Coverage. Widening the toolkit’s scope to cover more countries (especially in the Project Planning section).
  • Tools. User-friendly tools to measure impacts or support decisions (especially [TBD]).
  • Quantification. Developing a more digital-native vocabulary of Emissions Factors
  • Case studies. Case studies (especially [TBD])
  • Systems change. Linking individual- and project-level best practice to climate justice activism and broader systems change.

The Minimal Computing section explores how we can reduce the carbon footprint of our digital practices. The Maximal Computing section examines computationally intensive digital tools such as Machine Learning and blockchain, and offers perspectives on when these might be justifiable. The Preservation and Archiving section contains advice around responsible stewardship, and links to further reading relating to cultural heritage and climate crisis. Project planning includes recommendations on designing (or redesigning) research projects, including travel and Data Management Plans. Advocating within the Institution offers tips on how to go beyond individual or project-level sustainability. The Decision Tree section [summary]. At the back of this toolkit, you’ll find a resource table with links to further reading and tools, as well as a brief Climate Change Primer.