Author Archives: MIT Environmental Policy and Planning

How does a divided workforce translate into impacts on workers, the California fire management system, and criminal justice policy?

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In her thesis, Anna Doty (MCP ’17), examines the history and effects of a large portion of California firefighters’ status as incarcerated people working in a prison labor program called the Conservation Camp Program. Despite incarcerated firefighters providing approximately three million person hours per year, these individuals are paid between $2 a day or $2 per hour if they are actively fighting a fire. Doty, interrogates labor market dynamics contributing to organized labor’s compliance with the incarcerated labor program and the implications of a divided workforce, both for the workers themselves as well as the larger system of California’s fire management system and it’s criminal justice policy.

To read her full thesis, now available on Dspace, click here.

 

Image credit: Andrea Booher via Wikimedia Commons and FEMA

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Can Kuala Lumpur preserve its green space as it aims to become a “top 20 most livable city” by 2020, while its population grows rapidly?

Dr. Kasturi Kanniah, a 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar in the MIT-UTM Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program, studied spatial and temporal changes in green cover in Kuala Lumpur using time-series Landsat satellite imagery. Comparing periods before and after implementation of the “Greening Kuala Lumpur” program (launched in 2011 to increase green cover by planting 100,000 large canopy trees by the year 2020) showed that green cover increased from 2014-2016. Yet open spaces and recreational areas in Kuala Lumpur that have legal protections from development in place, such as metropolitan parks, have still been encroached upon for housing and other uses, and economic development is taking precedence over green cover preservation. Proposed strategies include increasing designated permanent forest reserve and converting vacant land into pocket parks that are convenient for pedestrians to access. Find Dr. Kanniah’s comparative satellite images of green cover gain and loss in KL, with further analysis and recommendations, in her recently published paper, “Quantifying Green Cover Change for Sustainable Urban Planning: A Case of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.”

 

How is the city of Somerville working towards being carbon neutral by 2050 while also adapting to climate change?

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Hannah Payne (MCP ’16), the Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Somerville, joins the MIT ClimateX team to discuss these topics and more on Climate Conversations, available here.

Payne has considered the roles of public engagement and collaborative decision-making in crafting plans that will successfully navigate a city through the impacts of climate change. In her thesis, Engaging the public in climate adaptation planning: lessons from sixteen American cities, she identified how cities can collaboratively problem-solving for a climate resilient future by addressing the long-term risks and tradeoffs of adaptation policies. To read her full findings, check out her thesis, available via MIT Libraries on DSpace, here.

ClimateX is an online community focused on climate learning, discussion and action. The community originated from an award winning Climate CoLab proposal by two MIT alumni. To learn more about how the MIT community is attempting to share knowledge, ideas and discuss climate change, check out the ClimateX site, here.

Shifting from litigation to innovation in energy policy

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David Musselman (SM’ 17) came to DUSP after a 30 year career as an attorney in the energy and environmental services industries, including two stints as a general counsel. In his words “I was ready to do something different, and MIT offered me the opportunity to explore a range of issues affecting communities including climate change, economic development and transportation issues.”

A month ago, Musselman started a new position as Director of the Municipal Energy Unit at the City of Boston. This new role which allows him to blend his years of experience with the new skills and ideas he learned at MIT.

Boston has committed to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. One key aspect of this goal is reducing energy use from the City’s buildings – it owns over 300 buildings of a wide range of sizes, ages and uses including schools, libraries, police and fire stations, community centers. One of Musselman’s key responsibilities is overseeing a multi-department effort to reduce energy use.

He is leading a pilot program designed to identify energy conservation measures (ECM) and the expected savings. The savings will be used to finance the implementation of the ECMs. Working with an energy services contractor to conduct full audits of 38 buildings, Musselman and team will be able to identify potential ECMs and projected savings.

Utilizing this list, the City will select the measures and a energy services company will install them at a guaranteed price and will guarantee the savings. Based upon the guaranteed savings, the City will finance the work and repay the loans with the energy savings. The expectation is that once the pilot program is complete, there will be additional phases to address more buildings for the City, which will help it achieve its carbon reduction footprint goal.

Image credit: MIT Sustainable Design Lab via Boston Planning and Development Agency

 

What lessons are to be learned from stakeholder engagement in transportation planning when broad efforts to engage fall short of actual public consultation?

In “Whose Opinion Matters: Lessons from a Stakeholder Engagement Process for Penang, Malaysia” Dr. Minal Pathak conducted an evaluation of the ongoing stakeholder engagement process for the transport master plan in Penang, Malaysia. Proposed funding for the plan’s estimated 11 billion USD cost – involving highways, roadways, LRT, monorail, a BRT network, and electric trams – was through reclamation of three islands along the Penang coast. Concerns about the plan raised by stakeholders range from high costs, environmental impacts, effects on fisheries, and aesthetic and heritage considerations. Key issues with timing, strategy and communication in the engagement process have contributed to various stakeholders’ continued opposition to the project. Dr. Pathak’s evaluation draws out recommendations for a more effective stakeholder engagement process that can be applied both within Malaysia and beyond.

 

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Griffin Smith (MCP2) spent the summer in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program in the S.J. Quinney College of Law – University of Utah and the Environmental Planning Center at the The University of Utah. He mediated consensus-building efforts in underserved areas in the Mountain West. In particular, he focused on a rural Utahan community, helping it develop a regional plan, incorporate climate change projections into its efforts, and develop resiliency against other emerging challenges. As part of this, he supported community conversations about climate risks facing the vulnerable region around Zion National Park and piloted and tested climate communication methods. He also researched affordable housing policies for such gateway and amenity communities. He turned this work into a teaching roleplay for students learning about collaboration. In addition, he created a framework for a state civility initiative to restore and build civil politics and discourse in the state. Griffin’s work this summer builds off his previous work mediating conflicts at the Consensus Building Institute and studying public and environmental policy at MIT.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Kelly Heber Dunning

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Please join us in congratulating Dr. Kelly Heber Dunning, DUSP PHD Alumna ’16, on the announcement of her new role as Senior Fisheries Assessment Manager at the London-based MSC – Marine Stewardship Council. Her new position will draw on skills gained during her time as a collaborator with the Science Impact Collaborative, where she built skills in negotiation and dispute resolution in multi-stakeholder processes, practiced the use of best available science to generate policy, and as a pioneer DUSP student collaborator with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Fisheries management is a complex, multi-stakeholder process where livelihoods, ways of life, food security, culture, ecosystem health and sustainability are all linked. Heber Dunning hopes that her work as part of the team at MSC will help to bring even more of the world’s fisheries into the category of “sustainable fisheries.”

Heber Dunning’s new position builds upon her doctoral dissertation research, “Communities of coral : an institutional and ecological analysis of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in Southeast Asia.” In her dissertation, she examined how differing models of ecosystem service management and biodiversity conservation efforts affected not only the marine habitats targeted for protection but also the geographically proximate communities’ social and economic welfare. To read more about Heber Dunning’s work click here. And keep an eye out for her forthcoming book based on this research through Anthem Press.

As part of a vast network of successful DUSP Alumni, Heber Dunning welcomes questions from DUSP students and alumni on pathways to careers in human dimensions of natural resources, specifically in the marine affairs world.

As shorelines shift due to storms, sea level rise, and subsidence, how are communities deciding if they should relocate or redesign?

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DUSP Alumna, Carri Hulet (MCP ’13), spearheaded an effort by the Consensus Building Institute to enable coastal communities to consider the consequences of their adaptation or migration choices and thoughtfully engage in difficult conversations. The product of her efforts can be found at the newly launched website, climigration.org.

Additional information about the Consensus Building Institute can be found here.

A new ally in the fight against gentrification

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PODER mural, created in partnership with CiultureStrike. Photo credit: Galeria de la Raza

The fight against gentrification is never-ending; therefore, it takes a certain type of momentum to achieve groundbreaking changes. There are environmental justice (EJ) organizations working in various parts of the United States that have been able to achieve this momentum. Genea Foster, MCP’ 16 uses case studies of Boston, Oakland, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Brooklyn to generate a deeper understanding of the success and impact of the anti-gentrification campaigns of environmental justice organizations. She has determined how community-led initiatives are making a difference and why they are taken seriously by developers and gentrifiers in their respective cities. Through coalition-building, partnerships, community engagement and cooperative economics, EJ organizations have been able to make progress.

Genea highlights a number of ways that planners can learn from these case studies to prevent gentrification in the cities where they work. Download her thesis to learn more about these innovative EJ organizations.

Restoring the Everglades

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The 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) law signed by President Bill Clinton called for a $7.8 billion dollar 30-year effort to restore the Everglades. Implementation was hindered in a number of ways, mainly lawsuits and stakeholder disagreements. Eleven years after CERP was implemented, a new coalition, led by the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, initiated the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEEP). Devon Neary MP’16’s thesis evaluates CEEP. Devon argues that this plan successfully integrates certain mitigation measures and emphasizes resiliency as well.

If you are interested in learning more about ecosystem resilience, make sure to download Devon’s thesis here.