Letter from the Director: September 2018

Colleagues, old and new friends: a brief note to welcome everyone back and introduce the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) to new undergraduate and graduate students, new members of the faculty and staff and anyone else who is just finding us. You may have joined us at our recent rainy Welcome party. If not, we hope to see you soon at an ESI event this fall term.

The primary purpose of this note is to let you know that we are here for you — for the MIT community: students, faculty, administrative and research staff, alumni, friends of MIT, and the greater MIT ecosystem — as it can be supported to contribute to solutions for environmental challenges large and small, global and local. If you have an interest in improving the environment for people and the planet, please seek us out. If you want to contribute to the success of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, seek us out. If you want a rational and effective approach to real climate action, seek us out. Get to know what we have done so far, and don’t hesitate to propose new ways in which we can partner and support you in research, teaching and learning, convening and action with MIT community and partners beyond our campus.

If you are new to MIT, the following information will be helpful as a brief introduction. For more information please visit our web site at:  https://environmentalsolutions.mit.edu/.

The ESI is an institute-wide organization that advances science, engineering, policy and social science, design, the humanities, and the arts toward a people-centric and planet-positive future. Founded in 2014, ESI’s overarching goal is to accelerate solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. To do so, ESI channels MIT’s research and education capacity to advance science, invent technologies, and innovate policies for mitigating carbon emissions and adapting to a changing climate in the face of global development needs and growing pressures on natural resources. ESI also leverages MIT’s proven convening power to engage with key stakeholders and decision-makers in supporting the deployment of solutions worldwide. ESI’s approach is fundamentally multidisciplinary and inclusive.

We support research through open proposal calls along three broad domains:

  1. Climate science and earth systems;
  2. Cities and infrastructure;
  3. Sustainable production and consumption.

To date, we have launched two rounds of seed grants with the second cohort of research seed grants entering its second year.  We are now in the early planning stages of launching the third seed grant call in the coming months. We also consider research topics on a rolling basis – especially as a proposed topic contributes to the portfolio of work in the three domain areas above. Again, be in touch if you have an idea you would like to pursue and believe we may be of some assistance.

We develop and manage educational initiatives in undergraduate and graduate learning. Our undergraduate Environment and Sustainability minor is growing steadily and welcomes students in every year of study — first year through seniors. We have had several juniors and seniors declare the minor and complete it by graduation. We are also working with a dozen professors and instructors across many departments in a program to strategically infuse General Institute Requirement subjects — and other foundational subjects — with environmental topics. We also support undergraduate and graduate curricular development for the minor and outside of the minor. If you have an idea for a new class at MIT please be in touch. We will be very interested to know how we can support you.

In addition, the development of several large-scale programs that include diverse activities in research, education, and convening continues in mining and extraction industries, microplastics in the environment, future cities, and nature-based solutions for climate change. These are all developing through the good work of affiliated faculty and of course, the dedicated ESI staff. This year we will be making several announcements related to the development of these areas and others.

Also, the ESI is proud to partner with our many excellent partners on campus and we hope to deepen our relationships with the MIT Energy Initiative, MIT Office of Sustainability, MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism, and many others which I do not have the space to list here (so much for a brief note).

Finally, the ESI family has grown once again. Daniela Stoudenkova has joined us as Manager of Administration and Operations. Daniela comes to the ESI from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. We are thrilled to have her with us.

John E. Fernández, Director
September 13, 2018
Bogotá, Colombia