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Jan Pronk
Jan Pronk

U.N. envoy links development, sustainability, leadership

Negotiations to attain global sustainability are too important to be left to professional negotiators--they must involve all affected parties, including women, youth, business, indigenous people and government at all levels of jurisdiction, a former U.N. Environmental Envoy to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development said in a Feb. 20 talk at MIT.

"For many of these people, environmental sustainability is not an abstract concept but a matter of life and death," said Jan Pronk, chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Motivated partners--for example, an important local industry and the government overseeing it--can experiment with much more innovative environmental strategies than the conservative, lowest-common-denominator type of solutions typical of international treaties, said Pronk.

Workshop opens students' eyes to water quality

Students from Cambridge's Morse Middle School visited MIT for "The River is Our Backyard: Water Quality in the Charles River," a Feb. 14 workshop at MIT. Part of a project initiated by MIT with the Cambridge Schools, the program is a major component of a year of fellowships and classroom and field work on environmental issues.

Keith Bush of the Urban Ecology Institute helped students build their own watershed and test it with water flows supplied by spray bottles of colored water. In another session, students poured small film canisters full of sample pollutants into one big jar to observe the combined effect. They built their own filter systems and observed the impact of running the polluted water through them. Lecturer Daniele Lantagne introduced students to the creatures that inhabit the river.

The project was undertaken by MIT in connection with the settlement of an enforcement brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; there is no allegation of any actual harm to the environment.

MIT's smart classrooms allow long distance learning

Using smart classrooms developed at MIT, graduate students in the School of Engineering are taking graduate courses simultaneously with peers at the National University of Singapore and the University of Cambridge.

Massachusetts clocks are five hours behind Cambridge's and 11 hours behind Singapore's. Both classes start at 8:30 a.m. here, so they start at 1:30 p.m. in the United Kingdom and 7:30 p.m. in Singapore.

MIT students in 3.48J (Materials and Processes for Microelectromechanical Systems) and 3.320 (Atomistic Computer Modeling of Materials) are participating in the distance-learning project. The classes are taught in classrooms with large screens that provide video feeds of the lecture and materials. Students and lecturers on all three continents are seen and heard at the other sites as they ask questions and make comments.

The courses play a key role in the Program for Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano-Systems (AMMNS) of the Singapore-MIT Alliance. The classrooms were developed through the support of the Singapore-MIT Alliance and the Cambridge-MIT Institute.

Record storm shuts down indoor tennis courts

MIT's indoor tennis courts were shut down as a result of damage suffered during the 27.5-inch snowstorm on Feb. 17. "We regret the inconvenience that the deflation of the bubble causes to the MIT community," said Candace Royer, head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation. "We will do everything within our power to get this facility up and operational as quickly as possible."

Call 253-1451 or check for updates on the status of the courts.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 26, 2003.

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