From the Director

Introducing the first issue of the ESI newsletter!

We hope you will welcome this regular update on the activities of the ESI and important developments on climate change and the environment, human settlements and infrastructure, resources and society, here on campus and in the world. This newsletter will be one of the ways we will connect with you regularly and strategically as we continue to expand our programmatic portfolio and engage with every segment of our community and with our partners far and wide. 


These are trying times; disruptive times. Recent successes to protect our wild lands and natural capital as well as move toward long term stabilization and reduction of global carbon emissions are facing the prospect of rollbacks and wholesale repudiation. The nation’s commitment to climate action is downshifting even while a massive crack in Antarctica’s Larsen ice shelf continues to grow.[i] Only months after its designation, the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah may see expanded mining of oil, gas, potash and uranium threatening a unique American place.[ii] The US commitment to the COP21 climate agreement is uncertain[iii] and many efforts to rescue and archive valuable scientific data from dozens of government agencies are underway.[iv][v] For the foreseeable future we can be most certain of great uncertainty in policy-making despite the constantly mounting evidence of ever more dire consequences of climate change.

Yet, despite the dramatic swing of the federal pendulum away from strong and sustained commitments to steward the environment and tackle climate change head-on, the ESI is doubly motivated. The time is now. In fact, there could not be a better time and we are not alone in this sentiment. Conservative elder statesmen in the US are advocating that the time is right for a carbon tax.[vi] Private investment in clean energy continues to soar.[vii] MIT’s role is unchanged. Serving our country and the world in these trying and disruptive times is needed now more than ever. At the ESI, acknowledging all of this is just the beginning. Massive change means massive opportunity: conditions are ripe for breakthroughs, paradigm shifts, and transformation. In the coming weeks and months, we will do our part by delivering on the ESI mission to advance science, engineering, policy and social science, design, the humanities, and the arts towards a people-centric and planet-positive future.

We look forward to having you join us to mobilize our community, generate opportunities for engagement, and build upon MIT’s deep and unwavering commitment to humane and effective climate action.

John E. Fernández, Director
February 2017
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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We hope you will be interested in this regular update on the activities of the ESI and important developments on climate change and the environment, human settlements and infrastructure, resources and society, here on campus and in the world. The newsletter is one of the ways we can connect with you regularly and strategically as we continue to expand our programmatic portfolio and engage with every segment of our community and with our partners far and wide.  To receive ESI newsletters, sign up at https://environmentalsolutions.mit.edu/contact-us/.

 Each issue of the ESI newsletter will highlight our recent and ongoing activities and those of our partners and friends here at MIT and beyond.  The February 2017 edition features our recent, second annual IAP Hackathon for Climate (the first activity in a new partnership with Conservation International), upcoming deadlines for ESI’s research seed grant and curriculum development calls, Martin Fellows for Sustainability nominations, the People and the Planet lecture series, and more…