Letter from the Director: March 2017

I am so very pleased to announce that MIT now offers an undergraduate minor in Environment and Sustainability! This is a real milestone for learning about our world in an interdisciplinary minor that is open to all undergraduates in every major beginning this coming academic year.

The Environment and Sustainability minor promotes learning and prompts action on the many challenges and opportunities inherent in a changing environment, ongoing and emerging environmental risks, and new ways of utilizing our natural capital while inventing and innovating new technologies and systems for a better world. Learning through the minor will touch on the roles of government, industry and business, civil society and the academy in a forward-looking and positive perspective of a sustainable and humane future.

The minor is comprised of five subjects; two required core subjects and three electives. The two required subjects are newly developed and bring together a group of professors representing all five schools. The three electives may be taken within one of five tracks: Earth Systems and Climate Science; Environmental Governance; Environmental Histories and Cultures; Engineering for Sustainability; and a Cross-Pillar track. Elective subjects may be selected from a listing of dozens of existing and several new subjects from more than twenty departments and other academic units.

While having this minor approved as part of the regular curriculum is a major development for MIT and the ESI, it is really just crossing a threshold that now leads into an enormous learning opportunity space. That space contains extraordinary expertise and deep commitment to the minor across the Departments of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Urban Studies and Planning, the Terrascope Freshman Learning Community, and many other units and reflects the three main focus domains of the ESI: Climate Science and Earth Systems, Cities and Infrastructure and Sustainable Production and Consumption.

A complex world deserves the kind of integrated content and collaborative teaching that will come from the two core subjects and the many electives. Taking meaningful action on campus and in the world will entail a kaleidoscope of activities alongside and complementary to the learning that will happen in these classes. We look forward to all of the development to launch and grow a minor that addresses the most important questions of our era. We also look forward to the many new ideas and creative actions that will spin out of the work of students in the minor.

For me, the very real pleasure of preparing and submitting the proposal for the minor was in the many conversations that I was privileged to have during the past year and a half. Novel ideas and exciting elements of our vision were spawned from meeting regularly with interested faculty and students from across MIT. We could not have achieved this moment without your contributions. Thanks go out to all who joined us in this effort!

John E. Fernández, Director
March 2017
Cambridge, Massachusetts