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“Humans, Cities, and the Environment”: An Eye-Opening Seminar by Prof. John E. Fernandez (Massaschusetts Institution of Technology – MIT)




On 16th November 2018, RDI attended the historical seminar held by one of RDI’s partner—Universitas Padjajaran (UNPAD). This particular seminar was deemed as ‘historical’ because UNPAD collaborated with Massaschusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to hold the first MIT lecture brought by John E. Fernandez, the Director of Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI); a MIT-based institution dedicated for contributing towards addressing climate change and helping society move towards an environmentally and socially sustainable future.

The presentation brought by professor John E. Fernandez, titled: “Human, Cities and the Environment” shed light on how these three key aspects essentially drives how the human society works today, and in the future. He emphasized that humans today faced a very grave environmental challenge: the threat of climate change caused by global warming. Prof. Hernandez also importantly reminded the audience that the human population is expected to increase up to +30% by 2050, but we are also faced with a dire need to reduce emissions by -85% to prevent an unprecendented climate catastrophe. In order to tackle this challenge, humans needs to pay more attention on the development of cities, because urbanization will continue to significantly rise in the future, up to a 90% increase in the upcoming decades, thus the development of sustainable cities in particular are pivotal for humans to tackle this major problem.

In his presentation, Prof. Fernandez also explained comprehensively how cities impacted the environment on its life cycles (i.e. rapid urbanization, stabilizing urbanization, and incremental densification). During these cycles, cities consumption and impact on its environment also varies. For example, in the incremental densification phase, cities will increasingly need more energy resources and its consumption will increase in parallel with the growth of cities. Through systems thinking, Prof. Fernandez also presented the active/passive input and outputs of materials in and out of cities, and from this he also explained the 15 typology of urban consumption, showing typologies of cities’ consumption and showed how these cities can be categorized to four general typologies with its respective impacts towards the environment. From these four typologies, he stated that an ideal sustainable city should be similar with Japanese cities such as Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, etc. (see picture 2).



Picture 2. Four Main Typologies of Cities

Furthermore, Prof. Hernandez also presented various efforts that ESI and MIT had done in the development of sustainable cities and other projects in developing countries such as Colombia. In particular, he emphasize the role of the community in post-civil war Colombia and how advanced—but practical technologies such as drones and robots can empower communities and help Colombia tackle the issue of major deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. Lastly, Prof. Hernandez emphasized how ESI and the MIT would welcome opportunities and partnerships in Indonesia, and further contribute towards the development of sustainable and eco-friendly cities, in order to properly address the


Picture 3. Durring Lectures