Together in Climate Action Summit: Nature and Cities Get Together


This special episode is part of MIT’s Together in Climate Action Summit, which is focused on sharing climate leadership strategies and exploring pathways forward in Northeastern North America.

In this episode, we interview Professor John Fernandez, Director of MIT's Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) and an expert in urban metabolism  – the flows of material and energy that sustain growing cities and their ecosystems.

We discuss how natural systems can mitigate and help society adapt to climate change as urban areas expand rapidly and globally. John highlights how healthy forests, wetlands, and soils help limit carbon, keep air and water clean, and limit risks from extreme weather.  We also discuss how technology (e.g. sensors, artificial intelligence) can work in service of nature. John stresses the need to understand and manage our urban metabolism by coordinating natural systems policies across states and regions.

The episode ends with a discussion of the educational and research activities in the MIT ESI program, including their just-launched undergraduate minor in Environment & Sustainability.

If you’d like to learn more about the Together in Climate Action Summit, which runs December 7th & 8th 2017, visit climatesummit.mit.edu

If you’re enjoying our Climate Conversations podcast, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast platform to hear the latest episodes first. Find us on:




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[00:00:00:00] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: This is Climate Conversations by ClimateX. I'm your host, Rajesh Kasturirangan.

[00:00:04:15] CURT NEWTON: And I'm Curt Newton.

[00:00:05:12] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And I'm Dave Damm-Luhr.

[00:00:08:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So today in Climate Conversations, we have John Fernandez, urban metabolist, Director of the Environmental Solutions Initiative at MIT, and he will be talking to us about everything that cities do and where they do it.

[00:00:25:14] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Great. I'm happy to be here with you.

[00:00:27:08] CURT NEWTON: Thank you for being here, John. Looking forward to also talking a little bit about the upcoming Northeastern North American climate summit that MIT is hosting, and you're moderating a panel. And so we'll look forward to chatting about that for a bit too.

[00:00:41:07] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Yeah, really looking forward to hearing about the connection between your research on urban metabolism and nature-based solutions, which is going to be a prime topic at the upcoming summit on the 7th and 8th of December.

[00:00:52:07] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: OK. But I have a, you might say, nature-based solutions 101 question. What is a nature-based solution?

[00:01:00:25] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. So I think the best way to look at it is that there are natural systems-- forests, the ocean, wetlands-- that have a role in the climate. They interact with the climate. So these natural systems, they store, they emit, they temporarily sequester carbon. And so taking into account the fact that there is substantial carbon storage in systems like tropical forests, then it begs the question of, what's the role of natural systems moving forward in assisting to mitigate carbon emissions, and also to adapt to climate change?

[00:01:46:12] So it's really being more explicit, more direct, more targeted towards understanding natural systems and then utilizing them. And I use that word utilize reservedly, because we really also want to acknowledge the complexity of natural systems. So there's a complexity to the use of natural systems, which we really have to be very careful of. But essentially, it's that. How do forests, oceans, wetlands contribute to what we need to do to address climate change?

[00:02:15:22] CURT NEWTON: Can you put that a little bit in, say, relative perspective? A lot of climate change-related conversations we have in the broader culture get focused on technologies like renewable energy and maybe a little less recognition about the power and the value of these things. How important is this?

[00:02:33:23] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. So there are a couple of ways to answer that. The first is that there's been a lot of work the last few years and a great amount of work very recently in the last couple of years on, what can natural systems contribute specifically to mitigating carbon emissions?

[00:02:52:03] And so the straight answer to your question is that the very recent studies are returning results that are much higher in the capacity of natural systems to contribute to our climate needs than ever before. And so a recent paper came out that stipulates-- and there's debate about this-- that 30% of what we need to do in carbon emissions can be done with natural systems.

[00:03:17:12] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: What might be an example of a specific solution?

[00:03:20:13] JOHN FERNANDEZ: So in the '70s, '60s and '70s, there was a growing concern that the Amazon was-- that deforestation in the Amazon was accelerating and was heading towards crisis point. And at that time, there was actually quite a concerted effort to stem the tide of deforestation. And it was actually reversed. The Amazon afforested, added trees, for a few decades after that global effort involving lots of different kinds of people, lots of stakeholders.

[00:03:51:06] We're back to deforesting the Amazon. And so an example is that so when there's land conversion of very high-density biomass, the carbon captured in that kind of thing, the tropical forest, is enormous compared to what then the replacement, either a human settlement, a town, or a city, or agriculture or monoculture usually has the capacity to capture carbon. So land conversion's one very, very important aspect of the contribution of natural systems that are human systems, whether they be agricultural or urban, can't contribute nearly as much.

[00:04:37:15] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So for me the question is, when a forest, it no longer exists and then it's converted to one use or another, that use really is important to know about and to work with, I guess, is what you're saying.

[00:04:51:05] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, and maybe before we go there, just to really spell out what happens in that land conversion, not only is the intensity of the carbon capture in that forest really important, an important aspect that's lost, now you've created a system-- let's say it's a town. You've changed the albedo of the surface. In other words, albedo being the amount of heat that's reflected.

[00:05:17:00] And so generally, when you're replacing a forest with a town or a city, you're increasing the amount of heat that's absorbed and emitted. And so that's one issue. The second issue is that there are all sorts of other corollary effects aside from the climate. So you know, natural systems bring all sorts of co-benefits. So the tropical forest or even just dense vegetation-- doesn't have to be a full forest-- has some really extensive evaporative cooling. And that is lost when you're replacing all those trees.

[00:05:53:19] So that's what happens. The thing that you replace it with then has the mandate to address that. And I think that there's a growing understanding that while we're not going to stem the tide of land conversion-- the urban population is going to double in the next 30 to 40 years-- the land area that's occupied by cities will also about double. And so what we need to do is we need to really figure out how this new urban form can reintroduce green material, but then also be very careful about its albedo so that we're not doing the worst in land conversion.

[00:06:29:24] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So in terms of the conversion, your focus is on cities, what was formerly a forest becoming a city.

[00:06:38:03] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. So my particular interest is an urban metabolism. It's a field that was intellectually started back in the '60s, because it was started really with an article in Scientific American just posing the question of, what is the resource intensity of contemporary cities? Something that had not been known before, and not really even studied.

[00:06:58:25] My interest is-- so it was about 10 years old. And at about that time, 11 years ago, we held a workshop here at MIT that was intended to revive that notion and to bring new tools to accounting for the physical resources that our cities require. And that really set a number of researchers and research groups who were working in urban metabolism-like fields or on this concerted effort to really understand the resource intensity of cities, and to really offer a better scientific foundation for understanding what a sustainable city might look like. And so that's the work that I do.

[00:07:36:12] Now when you work in cities, you know, inevitably, very quickly the question is, well, what's the boundary of that thing? And the boundary is usually established by population density. But pretty quickly, you get into the understanding that the surrounding landscape is equally important to the city itself. You know, what's happening in the countryside? What resources are being delivered to the city? Watersheds and materials and food. And most cities do not extract the bulk of their resources from within their boundaries.

[00:08:07:25] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So it's really a whole package. It's not just the cities, but it's the whole larger system. Agriculture, farms, everything.

[00:08:15:10] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, that's just becoming more and more apparent as we urbanize globally. More than half of our species lives in cities now. That's going to increase to about 65% or 70%. So we're really talking about a global perspective on society and how we organize our resources and how we provide the critical resources that people need to live.

[00:08:39:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So going back to the previous conversation, cities are high albedo. So is the nature-based solutions work that you are now looking at something that you can bring into the city and not just in the surround of the city?

[00:08:54:15] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. So the work that we do in urban metabolism related to nature-based solutions is to understand the floors at which you can really bring back some natural contribution. I think what's not well understood is that the low-density services that natural systems can deliver.

[00:09:17:18] So for example, when you talk about the ability of a wetland, an urban, inner city wetland to process solid waste, that's very low density at scale compared to a mechanized system. So I think we have to be-- one of the things that we do is to bring the analytics to understanding what blue green infrastructure can actually realistically deliver to cities, and couple that to all sorts of other strategies.

[00:09:48:17] You mentioned albedo. So street trees are extremely valuable because of the ability to reduce the temperature of micro climates. So to give you an example, it's been shown that the urban heat island effect, which is the accumulation of heat over a day and over a season in cities, contributes a great deal to increasing building energy.

[00:10:15:03] Because if you have an urban canyon, so if you have a street and tall buildings on either side, you're storing heat. That heat gets recirculated into the building as the buildings draw in air to cool itself. And you're increasing the amount of energy required for that building to deliver the same air conditioning during the summer. So it's a self-reinforcing loop.

[00:10:39:10] Trees, and the larger the better, and the more of them the better, have evaporative cooling effects, and can provide some of that cooling simply through the fact that they're damp. The soil around them is damp. And these are very, very modest contributions overall, but it helps.

[00:11:00:16] CURT NEWTON: So the kinds of things that we're talking about-- the recognition, the power of some of these natural processes-- for them to become solutions, they have to be turned into policies effectively. Is that correct? We have to figure out some way to not just have the awareness about the facts, but somehow systemically roll it out. That seems like a different order of problem.

[00:11:23:19] [LAUGH]

[00:11:24:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And if I'm a policymaker or decision maker, say, at the climate summit in December, I'm going to want to find out about that.

[00:11:31:02] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. And so there are a variety of scales where that needs to happen. I think the change in the policy discussion today is that the recognition that there is a role for natural systems to actually address climate change, both locally and globally, is new. And that's new as just a few years.

[00:11:48:24] Now let me couple that to the history of conservation and protecting natural systems, that when you are afforesting, when you're protecting natural systems, when you're protecting park systems, you're also usually contributing to biodiversity, you're also usually contributing to protecting natural capital, and you're usually also contributing-- in Canadian provinces, certainly-- you're contributing to the natural heritage of indigenous peoples.

[00:12:15:17] This is extremely important in places like the Amazon, Southeast Asia where there are very rich cultures and very large populations who live in decidedly natural places. And so those priorities have been there, have been part of society's discussion about nature for a very long time.

[00:12:36:22] What's new now is the fact that mayors, governors, and the leaders of entire states are looking at natural systems as being potentially major contributors to addressing climate change. Now the policies, therefore, are going to be a varied number of policies at different scales.

[00:12:57:18] Right now, the understanding of natural systems at the global scale as part of the policy discussion is very good. In the local arena, and related to our regional climate summit, natural systems are not bound by political boundaries. And therefore, we really do need to contribute protecting systems across state boundaries, national boundaries, provincial boundaries. And that's where the cooperation really matters.

[00:13:23:10] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: You know, policy is sometimes done by bureaucrats and sometimes by politicians. But the political class, which ultimately holds power, how does that class see natural solutions? Because typically, if you're a politician, you're thinking about economic outcomes. You're thinking about votes or other such pressures. And natural systems usually don't fall into that.

[00:13:48:10] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. So two pieces to that, to the answer. One is in a context in which it is substantially non-urban-- so the countryside, agricultural land, forests, in small towns that are surrounded by dense forest area-- the political perspective on that context is one in which you are dealing with people's lives and their collective memory of what makes that place great, right? You know, really, what's the value of that place? A lot of economic interests in that. Hunting, sustainable agriculture, tourism. There are many ways in which the economic value can be articulated.

[00:14:30:00] But you're also dealing with the history and the culture and the legacy of those communities, and I think that's a very, very powerful thing in many places where generations have lived. In the western United States, in the eastern Canadian provinces. Many places that it really matters to local people and communities. And politics being local, that's got to be a politician's concern.

[00:14:53:20] At the national level, it's a very different set of priorities. And I think we're not there yet actually, I think, here in the United States. I think we're seeing that there is a one-dimensional consideration of natural systems as a store of resources only. And I think the problem with that view is that that tends to dismiss the co-benefits of natural systems over longer periods of time.

[00:15:19:11] And I think, obviously, politicians have limited amount of time and limited amount of interest because of their terms to be able to consider the longer view. But when you consider what's being discussed right now is opening up the Alaska territories to oil and gas drilling, immediately it's important for politicians to at least understand that the kinds of positive feedback loops to emitting carbon from the Arctic is one of the major problems that we're looking at now. And do we really want to either accelerate that process by simply extracting more fossil fuel or really create the kind of local industrialized environmental challenges that are already stressing out the peoples of those communities?

[00:16:03:21] CURT NEWTON: John, do you think we're going to have to put dollar figures and ways to pay people for the value of services the natural systems are providing? I mean, market forces are such a dominant thing in the political conversations, as well as in our actions.

[00:16:22:13] JOHN FERNANDEZ: So I mean, in terms of climate change specifically, there is no question in my mind and many others that a carbon tax or a price on carbon more generally is what will be required at the national and international level to really shift the needle. I'm not an economist, but I talk to many, and many who've been considering the different mechanisms that are available to leaders of state and in the international conversation where carbon, a price on carbon is just absolutely necessary.

[00:16:57:16] I think we are going to get there. It's going to be a circuitous path to getting there. And given the realities of the political context here in the United States, I don't see it happening anytime soon. But I think that's an inevitable way in which we will essentially pay people, because that price will come back to be reinvested, whatever it is, whether it's revenue neutral, or whatever the mechanism is, it'll be a financial resource that we can use for the common good.

[00:17:33:27] Now in terms of paying people-- and more at the local level-- paying people for the consequences of the environmental or climactic consequences of extracting resources, mayors in particular, but also governors and provincial leaders. They're in an ideal position to be able to more quickly and in a more centralized way test a variety of policies that reasonably compensate their own constituents for the environmental consequences of the inevitable resource extraction that we need to do, because you need to provide resources to people and you need to drive the economy. But I think the regional context is becoming much, much more interesting, because the subnational actor being able to act quickly and test bed different policies is extremely useful.

[00:18:28:00] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: But it's not as if we we're starting from scratch. As far as I know, economists have been working for, I don't know, 20-plus years trying to monetize ecosystem services, you know, whether it's wetlands or forests or whatever.

[00:18:41:18] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. And you know, the other piece that I do know about is in urban metabolism. So the work that I do hits up against political reality and economic priorities all the time.

[00:18:52:23] And so one of the things that's very clear is that rarely will a valuing of the common good, so whether that be pricing, environmental consequences, or protecting natural capital, rarely is that done unless you have two things. The first is that you have a general public willingness to do so or an interest, a passion to do so. So you can't underestimate education, awareness, actions, continued articulation of the situation, both problems and opportunities.

[00:19:28:03] And the second thing is there does need to be political will. And I think here in the United States and at the national level, we're a little bit at a logjam, having the kind of two-party system leading to litmus tests on different issues. So you know, the climate change is a little bit of a litmus test for politicians at the national level.

[00:19:48:28] But at the regional level, I think environmental issues tend to be much less so a litmus test. They tend to be local and they tend to be tractable. And so developing political will at the local level I think is very promising. We've seen that with many mayors around the country and governors as well.

[00:20:06:29] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Regardless of their political stripe?

[00:20:08:18] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. And I think the Environmental Solutions Initiative has played host to Bob Inglis, who's former member of the House of Representatives and Founder and Head of the group republicen.org. And he's a deep red conservative, very much believes in the market. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he would think that it's fair for me to say that there is more work to be done and more opportunity in the conservative world--

[00:20:43:05] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Particularly for market-based solutions.

[00:20:44:19] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Absolutely. And valuing natural systems and addressing climate change with the kinds of mechanisms that also lead to prosperity and jobs and good lives.

[00:20:54:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I want to come back to a topic that we started out with, which is the potential contrast between technology-based solutions and nature-based solutions. And I want to question that, because it may just be that we have an inadequate understanding of what technology is. Because after all, if you are doing very careful sensing of wetlands and you are using that to drive solutions, that's technology too.

[00:21:22:19] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah.

[00:21:23:02] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Right.

[00:21:23:24] JOHN FERNANDEZ: No, it's a really good point. And I want to highlight the recent event we had here at MIT. The Environmental Solutions Initiative played host to a workshop on artificial intelligence for conservation. And this workshop was with our partners Conservation International. And it was motivated by a primary role of the ESI.

[00:21:47:12] And that is that here at MIT, we have many, many disciplines, fields, tools, techniques that have been developed with one purpose in mind or a certain intellectual interest that have not necessarily been applied to the environment and climate change conservation, the biosphere. And so that particular workshop was really meant to bring together two communities, the artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and actually sensor design people coming out of the computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory, the Media Lab, and other entities at MIT, and bringing them together with people who spent their career in conservation, conserving, protecting natural systems.

[00:22:35:08] And the point there was to find ways in which artificial intelligence-- so for example, being able to derive real value from enormous data sets. So the conservationists have decades worth of camera trap images, and these are images that come by way of a camera in place in a forest, in a wilderness, with a motion sensor capturing the image of whatever animal crosses its path. And this is one way in which conservationists, they account for the density of different species in the wilderness.

[00:23:10:27] And so they have all this data, but they don't have the tools to process that data in an economical and rapid way. So bringing artificial intelligence to the processing of those images is just the beginning.

[00:23:22:13] I'll give you another example. Autonomous vehicles, robotics for marine environments is a pretty mature field. You know, lots of submarine designs, and we know UAVs are all over the place in the oceans, as well as the air, right? So you know, drones, quadrocopters and planes.

[00:23:42:24] The robots in natural systems on the ground in varied terrain is a real challenge, and there's a lot to do. So imagine, as opposed to having a set of 100 camera traps placed in a tropical forest by hand and then having to be visited over a six-month, two-year, five-year period by individuals trekking into the forest-- lots of time, lots of expense, and the durability of these kind of traps is also a question in very challenging conditions-- imagine having a swarm of robots that's very robust, maybe soft robots, relatively small scale, that can be launched at one point, and they disperse themselves in the forest for a five-year period.

[00:24:33:25] And they climb trees, they take photographs, they come down, they go to the next tree. And then at some time, they come back home, right? And then they deliver the data to--

[00:24:43:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I thought that's what grad students did.

[00:24:45:07] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, exactly. And grad students are the inexpensive way of doing that. Yeah, that is true. But you're right completely. When often we think about technology, we're thinking about, well, you know, the combustion engine or coal-fired power plants when we're talking about climate change. But the technologies for understanding better information and deploying technologies in a way to achieve mitigating and adapting to climate change, it's a wide open field.

[00:25:11:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And just to build upon that, that's also what 21st century technology is about, right? That combustion engines are not 21st century technology.

[00:25:22:18] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. And the other thing I think to say about this is that another way to look at it is-- and I think it's a better way to look at it, really, sometimes-- is opposed to focusing in on the challenge of climate change-- which, admittedly, you know, an existential challenge possibly for the human race-- think about the paradigm shift that's happening right now, that everything is changing. The climate's changing, our accessibility to resources and the types of resources is changing. Information has changed everything, information technologies.

[00:25:51:09] If I were a young engineer, I think about, well, how am I going to really contribute to doing what I want to do, a startup, develop a business, have a huge corporate-- you know, whatever it is that I want to do in this changed landscape? And climate change is central to that new landscape.

[00:26:09:20] So I would want to figure out a way of being inventive, innovative, and entrepreneur in that new landscape. Because if you're not thinking about climate change, then you're thinking about an old landscape, and your entrepreneurial ideas may be outdated by the time you really get them going.

[00:26:23:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So I know that as part of ESI, you're also developing an environmental studies minor. Do you think that this mentality of bringing climate change into your technological thinking will be part of the minor?

[00:26:41:09] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah. There are two pieces to our educational work at ESI. The first is this environmental sustainability minor, and it's available to all undergrads in any major and five classes, and they can be taken in any order. And that's really to fulfill what we have found is a real demand for this kind of thing by undergraduates in all the majors. We've heard from math majors and computer science, architecture, everybody.

[00:27:08:11] And so we're thrilled with that. Just launched it this fall. And the two core classes have been developed, and we're marching on with that. We're really looking forward to that the future of that minor.

[00:27:19:07] The second thing is a very different kind of educational approach, and that is we've started this project to infuse a number of general institute requirements, which are the technical classics that MIT undergrads need to take, the science and math. And the project is essentially to go to the instructors of the GIRs. And the thing that GIR instructors always need is new material.

[00:27:46:27] CURT NEWTON: GIR stands for General Institute Requirements.

[00:27:49:07] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Right. Exactly. And the general institute requirement instructor is always looking for new assignment types and new material, because every year it needs to change to keep it lively and keep it current. So we just went to them and said, how about a whole series of environment and climate-related problem sets, which are the assignments here at MIT, and other material that students in these foundational classes can learn through?

[00:28:17:14] And there is no question that learning with problems that are not only applied and real world but really current-- you know, it's in the news all the time-- will immediately get students' attention in ways that you wouldn't otherwise if the problem were just an abstract problem to apply something that you learned in classical mechanics. So we're thrilled with that project. It's been launched. We've had assignments in which we now have accounted for approximately 450 students doing those assignments. In global warming, for example, that was the term that the professor used.

[00:28:52:11] And so we know that we're getting in front of many, many pairs of eyes in that way as part of their normal studies. Not as an environmental studies minor and not as anything specialized, but basically reflecting what I was saying before is that whatever you're going to be doing as a career and as a discipline, climate change and the environment's going to be a part of it.

[00:29:09:22] CURT NEWTON: Better that people have an intuition about climate change than about catapults, for instance.

[00:29:14:13] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, it's another way to learn, and it's a way that's connected to the front page of the paper every day.

[00:29:20:01] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So I have a question. If you project out five years from now at MIT, the environmental minor, all these other things that we've been talking about move forward, what's your crystal ball tell you? What's education look like at MIT?

[00:29:34:10] JOHN FERNANDEZ: So that's a great question, and I could go on a long time. But let me be very strategic in my answer. The first is that every major you will be able to point to an element of that education that includes environmental issues and especially climate change.

[00:29:51:19] The second is that there is that educational push, but there's also a real-world pull. In other words, in each one of those majors, as students look towards internships, summer jobs, and longer term jobs and careers that they have pathways in which they can maybe modestly or maybe in a really major way contribute to improving our prospect for a sustainable world.

[00:30:25:21] And that to me-- and that's five years, 10 years that, for example, very specifically at the Career Fair, every company states outright, do you have some role in addressing climate change? And if so, how can this in turn contribute to that role?

[00:30:42:05] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Fabulous.

[00:30:42:25] CURT NEWTON: So we've been having a great conversation about nature-based solutions, and there's going to be a different form of that conversation happening here on campus in early December with policymakers kind of on the ground, doing the hard day-to-day work around the Northeastern North American region. How do you think that conversation will play out?

[00:31:05:20] JOHN FERNANDEZ: I'm really looking forward to it, because I think it's one of the first times that we're getting that particular group of people together. So the Atlantic Canadian provinces, New England and New York State, leaders in all of these areas. And I think the way it should play out to begin with is understanding the prospects for mobilizing natural systems to address climate change.

[00:31:27:09] I think pretty quickly after that, the governors, mayors, staff, they're going to want to know, exactly what can I do? And not only what's effective to do, but how do you monetize it? How do you pay for it? How do you develop a way in which it also aligns well with the economy, with job creation, economic development, generally community's interests? So I think pretty quickly, you know, coupling in the science of the contribution of natural systems to, for example, capturing carbon from the atmosphere with the policy discussion and aligning it with the priorities of different leaders in these different areas.

[00:32:08:28] Now doing it regionally means that there's going to be good alignment priorities to begin with anyway. We share similar climates, we share logistical routes and power system and watersheds, and many other elements of the natural and human environment. So I think beginning with understanding what it is that these decision makers can do in the short term and mid term, given a better understanding of the science.

[00:32:38:18] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And particularly, I think also collaborating with each other.

[00:32:42:16] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Oh, absolutely.

[00:32:42:23] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So it's not just listening to the smart things that MIT folks have to say, but it's also listening to each other and really moving the ball forward together.

[00:32:52:07] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that brings up another point, that the ESI, Environmental Solutions Initiative and other entities here at MIT, are ways in which MIT more directly bridges towards action in the world.

[00:33:06:12] You know, how can we actually-- and in this case, we're using our convening power to bring different stakeholders together. And of course, we'll contribute the science and the engineering that we can. But you're right to point out that a great value proposition here is getting everyone together in one room, and as a number of different kinds of entities that can all contribute.

[00:33:29:08] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And continuing that conversation beyond the climate summit in December.

[00:33:33:09] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Yep. Absolutely.

[00:33:33:29] CURT NEWTON: Yeah, there's expertise from so many quarters from different academic institutions, regional planning boards, different levels of government. So that should be really exciting.

[00:33:43:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: For sure. Yeah.

[00:33:44:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Well, we look forward to that ourselves too.

[00:33:48:00] JOHN FERNANDEZ: It's going to be a really exciting event. And I think, Dave, as you pointed out, this will just be the beginning of the conversation.

[00:33:55:16] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Yeah. Thank you so much.

[00:33:57:27] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Well, thank you. Enjoyed the conversation.

[00:33:59:07] CURT NEWTON: Thank you, John.

[00:33:59:23] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Yeah. Looking forward s continuing it over the coming months.

[00:34:03:13] JOHN FERNANDEZ: Great. Bye.

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[00:34:06:23] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So if you have any thoughts, please share them with us at climatex@mit.edu, or of course on Twitter or Facebook. You can also leave a comment right underneath this podcast.

[00:34:19:10] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: We look forward to hearing from you real soon.

[00:34:21:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you for listening. Bye.

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