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Energy in a Global Context

06/09/2007 9:00 AM Kresge
Dr. Susan Hockfield, President, MIT; Nazli Choucri, Professor of Political Science, Associate Director of the MIT Technology and Development Program, and Head of the Middle East Program at MIT;

Description: As Susan Hockfield recounts, MIT presentations on disruptive energy research at the most recent World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, provided the single glimmer of optimism for a Time Magazine correspondent. Paraphrasing him, she says, -What MIT is good for: a dose of reality-based hope that we can address in a real way the most serious of the world's great challenges." MIT has committed body and soul to helping solve the problem of sustainable energy. Hockfield describes an -overwhelming call" from staff, students and alumni to pursue this issue in the coming decades. Reaching across all schools, demanding new forms of collaboration and interdisciplinary effort, MIT has launched an Energy Initiative to address three main themes: new technology for a cleaner future; improving today's energy systems for changes in the near term; and addressing challenges posed by emerging economies. Hockfield says researchers seek no silver bullet but that MIT is committed to a -portfolio of solutions." She sees this vast academic enterprise providing the -same kind of catalytic inspirational effect that the Apollo program had on my generation" and triggering a cycle of innovation that will help strengthen the nation's economy. Nazli Choucri situates the current energy crisis in global reality. She describes how the legacies of the 20th century frame expectations and politics in the 21st century around energy supply, demand and distribution. A rising world population (in general) and mass migration create pressure, as does a rapidly rising quality of life in developing nations. World trade has led to a -shifting structure of economies and societies," including the somewhat hopeful evolution of economies involving knowledge creation and internet based interactions. Choucri sees as well the emergence of a -dark side" in the 20th century: unstable or hostile nations controlling energy resources; more countries in conflict or under threat due to climate issues, as dependence on fossil fuels expands; and environmental dangers (such as big storms) multiplying. Also, new players sit at the table -- more multinational corporations, more sovereign states, NGOs -- with unpredictable or competing agendas. Choucri believes we also gained some useful advantages during the last century, including a better understanding of the connections among energy, environment and the economy. But the world has yet to figure out a new politics for managing these issues. She says that global volatility means greater difficulty achieving -a politics of consensus" around global energy strategies, and we -now must push the envelope on collaboration," finding -new strategies for negotiation," assuming we can first find a national consensus.

About the Speaker(s): Prior to her arrival at MIT in 2004, Susan Hockfield served as Provost at Yale University, where she was also William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology. She previously served as Dean of Yale's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Hockfield is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She earned a B.A. in biology from the University of Rochester in 1973, and a Ph.D. in anatomy and neuroscience from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1979. Nazli Choucri works in international relations and international political economy with a special focus on conflict, connectivity, and the global environment. As Director of the Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD), she manages a distributed multilingual e-knowledge networking system designed to facilitate the provision and uses of knowledge in transitions to sustainability. She continues her research on interconnections among population, politics, and environment extending work reported in three of her earlier books" Population Dynamics in International Violence; International Energy Interdependence; and International Energy Futures, and her edited volume, Multidisciplinary Perspectives of Population and ConflictNations in Conflict,/i> and the companion book on The Challenge of Japan Before World War II and After.

Choucri also serves as director of the Middle East Program at MIT. She is the founding editor of the MIT Press Series on Global Environmental Accord has just completed service as General Editor of the International Political Science Review. Choucri established the MIT Press Series on Global Environmental Accords: Strategies for Sustainability.

Choucri has served as advisor to numerous international organizations --including the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Environment Program, and the United Nations Fund for Population, among others -- as well as to a large number of national agencies.

Host(s): Alumni Association, Alumni Association

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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