Monday, July 20, 2009

MIT Sustainability Minor : Response from Susskind

I sent Professor Larry Susskind my comments, and these are his responses.

Many thanks for your comments on the sustainability minor. This is exactly
the kind of input we will use to shape the final version of the curriculum package
that goes to the full faculty for review.

I'm a bit distressed that we didn't make the first core subject seem more important
to you. In the rest of the country, in the sustainability curricula that have already been
adopted, ecology is a centerpiece. MIT hasn't had a basic
ecology course available to undergraduates. Our approach is to embrace some
of the ethical issues concerning the responsibilities of humans for the stewardship
of the natural environment.

We would love to get Course VI more involved. Who on the faculty in EECS
might we tap?

Of course, Let's continue the exchange in your blog. You can also cross reference
my blog ( which deals
with sustainability issues as well.

I hope you'll look at the numerous undergraduate and graduate sub-specialities proposed by the various
MIT departments (or, in one case, by a set of departments) and offer your
feedback on the particular sets of subjects included. The sub-specialties are
as important to the undergraduate minor in Environment and Sustainability
as the new core subjects.

I wonder if you are right that most MIT graduates are going to work only in the
United States. My hunch is that in the future even US-born graduates will
spend at least part of their careers working in or for developing countries.
Certainly, if you look at the graduates of Course XI (Urban Studies and
Planning), you'll see that our alumni move back and forth from one part
of the world to another (and from the public sector to the private sector to
civil society) rather than stay in one position for a long time.

A lot of the skills that students learn ought to be applicable in both developing and developed
countries (particularly in mega-cities). My own interest, for example, in
wind energy, particularly the development of off-shore wind resources,
is an issue around the world. Knowing how to assess potential wind
development options, thinking through the roles that government can
play in supporting private investment in wind, understanding the best ways
of involving the public in wind development decisions, and being aware
of the best means of mitigating environmental impacts of various renewable energy
technologies are equally important in all geographical settings (even
if they are likely to produce very different results in different parts of
the world).

Sustainability@MIT did a survey last spring to get at the kinds of things
that students interested in the potential undergraduate minor and the
proposed Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Environment and
Sustainability wanted to learn. I was surprised to see how narrowly
some students framed their interests.

1 comment:

JY said...

Hi, I'm writing an article for the Tech about the new sustainability minor. I'm not sure who the author's of this blog are, if you are students directly affected by this program, I would be interested in interviewing you. Please email. Thanks!