Letter from the Director: June 2018

The academic year has now come to a close and we hope it was productive and enlightening for all. As I alluded to in my December 2017 Director’s note, we suspected this spring was going to be busy and it certainly was.

We hosted our third Earth Day celebration as part of the Cambridge Science Festival; co-sponsored the Climate Changed symposium, exhibit and design competition with the School of Architecture and Planning; continued our monthly Environment-Sustainability lunch talks; co-sponsored the on-campus screening of two important documentaries; helped to organize the One Sustainable World spring party on campus which had 13,000 attendees; updated the ESI agenda; published the first ESI video; and and much more.

We also continued developing the four program areas I described in my April 2018 note – nature based solutions for climate change, mining and the environment, plastics and the environment, and future cities. We are now engaging with a number of organizations, foundations and companies on each of these four areas. Examples of ongoing activities include two UROPs who will be working in Peru to develop solar-powered drones for monitoring deforestation; three faculty groups working to produce a comprehensive agenda for addressing microplastic pollution through material science, sensing technology and modeling methods; ongoing conversations with mining companies; and several projects linking development, human settlements and sustainability.

This summer we will be undergoing a transition. We are four years old and it is now time to move from startup mode to major expansion. The first meeting of ESI’s External Advisory Board – another milestone in our busy spring – confirmed our trajectory and encouraged us to continue expanding to serve the clear needs and interests of the MIT community. We are looking forward to this next phase. One element of this shift includes an organizational restructuring. We have hired Sarah Meyers as ESI’s new Education Program Manager and Laur Fisher as Program Director for public engagement on climate. Their responsibilities will include the Environment and Sustainability Minor, a new MIT climate portal and other major projects. These additions will substantially enable our expansion in important ways and we are delighted to welcome Sarah and Laur aboard!

We will be losing Amanda Graham in July as she departs MIT to join the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth College. We wish her the very best and expect she will become a valued partner for us beyond MIT working to make a more sustainable world. Amanda’s long service at MIT, previously with MITEI and for the past two and a half years with ESI, has been instrumental in positioning MIT to address the challenges of our environment.

Have a good summer and see you in the fall (mark your calendar – our annual welcome back event is on September 7!).

John E. Fernández, Director
June, 2018
Cambridge, Massachusetts