Sustainability Article

Peter Dizikes’s picture

By: Peter Dizikes

 First published August 25, 2021, on MIT News.

In 2010, the city of Rio de Janeiro opened its Operations Center, a high-tech command post centralizing the activities of 30 agencies. With its banks of monitors looming over rows of employees, the center brings flows of information to city leaders regarding crime, traffic, and emergency preparedness, among other things, to help officials anticipate and solve problems.

That’s one vision of technology and urban life. Another, quite different vision of deploying technology debuted in Rio six years later, at architect Guto Requena’s Dancing Pavilion, built for the 2016 summer Olympics. The pavilion had a dance floor, banks of mirrors rotating in response to people’s movement, and lighting that changed according to the activity levels in the building. The goal was to enhance sociality and spontaneity.

Between these two alternate applications of large-scale technology in public places, MIT urban studies researchers Fabio Duarte and Ricardo Alvarez have a clear favorite: the Dancing Pavilion and its ever-evolving interplay of people and the built environment, as opposed to the deployment of technology as a tracking tool monitoring urban systems.

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By: Ann Brady

Innovation is the fuel that drives a successful business. Organizations that give their managers and employees the tools to respond to and make the most of opportunities, both internal and external, are well placed to grow profits, improve the health and well-being of their employees, and thereby, the wider society.

With effective innovation management systems in place, organizations both large and small not only can be in a better position to achieve their business growth goals, but also more agile and better prepared in their response to unexpected challenges and disruptions. But how does this hold up against a global health crisis?

Dileep Thatte’s picture

By: Dileep Thatte

In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that, every year, June 7 would be celebrated as World Food Safety Day. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations decided to jointly facilitate the observance.

The purpose of this day is to “inspire action to help prevent, detect, and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism, and sustainable development.” It also reminds us all why improving food safety is important.

The WHO estimates that each year, unsafe food causes 600 million cases of foodborne diseases and 420,000 deaths worldwide. Of this number, 30 percent of foodborne deaths occur among children under 5 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States.

Multiple Authors
By: M. Mitchell Waldrop, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

If the cascading upheavals of the past year have done nothing else, they’ve spurred widespread calls for reform and renewal in just about every institution we have.

A mishandled public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, a racial reckoning, an uncommonly long string of hurricanes, wildfires, and other climate-enhanced disasters—almost everything that’s happened in these tumultuous months grew out of problems that had been swept under the rug for decades, says Anita Chandra, who directs the social and economic well-being program at RAND Corp. “The issues around police-related violence and systemic racism were brewing,” she says. “The issues around sustainability were brewing. The widening income inequality gap was not just brewing, it was full throttle.”

Dawn Bailey’s picture

By: Dawn Bailey

The spirit of service—for a small clinic started in 1913 to provide free care to Los Angeles (LA)—lives today in the servant-leader aspirations of 2019 Baldrige Award recipient Adventist Health White Memorial (AHWM), a 353-bed, safety-net hospital.

The community of two million people that AHWM serves is young, homogenous, and economically challenged. In addition, the hospital is surrounded by 35 active gangs, and it watched as many of its neighboring healthcare organizations closed or downsized during the Covid-19 pandemic.

East LA community served by Adventist Health White Memorial. Credit: Adventist Health White MemorialEast LA community served by Adventist Health White Memorial. Credit: Adventist Health White Memorial

But these challenges have not stopped AHWM from believing that it could transform the health experience of its communities.

David L. Chandler’s picture

By: David L. Chandler

This story was originally published by MIT News.

As the world continues to warm, many arid regions that already have marginal conditions for agriculture will be increasingly under stress, potentially leading to severe food shortages. Now, researchers at MIT have come up with a promising process for protecting seeds from the stress of water shortage during their crucial germination phase, and even providing the plants with extra nutrition at the same time.

The process, undergoing continued tests in collaboration with researchers in Morocco, is simple and inexpensive, and could be widely deployed in arid regions, the researchers say. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Food, in a paper by MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering Benedetto Marelli, MIT doctoral student Augustine Zvinavashe, and eight others at MIT and at the King Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco.

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By: MIT News

First published June 29, 2021, on MIT News.

MIT and Harvard University have announced a major transition for edX, the nonprofit organization they launched in 2012 to provide an open online platform for university courses: edX’s assets are to be acquired by the publicly traded education technology company 2U, and reorganized as a public benefit company under the 2U umbrella.  

The transaction is structured to ensure that edX continues in its founding mission, and features a wide array of protections for edX learners, partners, and faculty who contribute courses.

In exchange, 2U will transfer net proceeds from the $800 million transaction to a nonprofit organization, also led by MIT and Harvard, to explore the next generation of online education. Backed by these substantial resources, the nonprofit will focus on overcoming persistent inequities in online learning, in part through exploring how to apply artificial intelligence to enable personalized learning that responds and adapts to the style and needs of the individual learner.

Multiple Authors
By: Katherine H. Freeman, Raymond Jeanloz, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

In 2020, the annual committee meeting of the journal we edit was a bit of a mess. It took place in March, just days before the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, so some attendees canceled their travel even as others were arriving at the meeting site.

At the last minute, we pivoted to a hybrid meeting, with half the attendees in-person and the other half virtual. Although the meeting was successful in terms of editorial decisions, the mixed format hampered our normally free-flowing discussions.

The 2021 meeting of the journal, the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was entirely virtual. And it went much more smoothly.

By then, we all had a year’s experience working in an online environment. Everyone was remote, which made the means of communication equitable, and we made sure each member had a chance to participate. We included breaks to reduce video fatigue, and breakout rooms for parallel small-group discussions that helped increase efficiency. We developed a more scripted schedule that we followed closely to ensure that everyone knew what to expect.

Brian C. Black’s picture

By: Brian C. Black

When President Joe Biden took Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning pickup for a test drive in Dearborn, Michigan, in May 2021, the event was more than a White House photo op. It marked a new phase in an accelerating shift from gas-powered cars and trucks to electric vehicles, or EVs.

In recent months, global auto manufacturers have released plans to electrify their vehicle fleets by 2030 or 2035, setting up a race to see who can most quickly shift entirely away from producing vehicles powered by gasoline.

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By: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Plastics are a part of nearly every product we use on a daily basis. The average person in the United States generates about 100 kg of plastic waste per year, most of which goes straight to a landfill. A team led by Corinne Scown, Brett Helms, Jay Keasling, and Kristin Persson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) set out to change that.

Less than two years ago, Helms announced the invention of a new plastic that could tackle the waste crisis head on. Called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, the material has all the convenient properties of traditional plastics while avoiding the environmental pitfalls, because unlike traditional plastics, PDKs can be recycled indefinitely with no loss in quality.

Now, the team has released a study that shows what can be accomplished if manufacturers began using PDKs on a large scale. The bottom line? PDK-based plastic could quickly become commercially competitive with conventional plastics, and the products will get less expensive and more sustainable as time goes on.

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