RES.ENV-003 | Fall 2019 | Non-Credit

EarthDNA's Climate 101

Instructor Insights

What is EarthDNA?

In this section, Prof. Dava Newman discusses EarthDNA, the organization that developed the Climate 101 presentation.

EarthDNA is a nonprofit organization that my partner Guillermo Trotti and I started last year. We’re committed to furthering climate research, and the research at MIT, but we also decided we want to put our personal time and resources into spinning off a nonprofit, because we want to accelerate any positive change we can.

Spaceship Earth, as captured by NASA. (Image courtesy of Nasamarshall on Flickr.)

We envision EarthDNA as a platform for climate advocacy and action. It starts with knowledge and education. I’ve been an educator my whole life, so I know it starts with the educational piece. The information piece involves curating literally petabytes of data from our satellites. Our satellites are orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes; we have so much data it gets overwhelming even for me as an engineer and scientist.

But we can use artificial intelligence to produce really beautiful scientific visualizations we can share with everyone, so someone who’s busy working and just wants to know a little bit more about climate can look at it and say, “Ah, I get it.” That’s a big piece of it: artificial intelligence, data analysis, curating, making sure it’s open for everyone.

The hard part is changing human behavior. We’re armed with all the best purely factual data. We know the overwhelming scientific facts about climate, the vital signs of Earth: carbon dioxide, air temperature, and sea temperature, changes in biodiversity, sea currents, and things like that.

We know things we can do every day to live in balance with the Earth. We know we can take mass transportation, maybe have only one car, just some small things that we can do that we feel good about every day. We’re trying to show users all these different paths, all these different opportunities, and then they can choose their own actions.

"With EarthDNA we’re just trying to design a healthy relationship between people, technology, and our Earth systems."
— Prof. Dava Newman

With EarthDNA we’re just trying to design a healthy relationship between people, technology, and our Earth systems for the sustainability of humanity and all the living things on the planet. It’s inspired by Buckminster Fuller in terms of his philosophy that now is the time, that we have the technology, we have the tools to instantiate this, and we can’t waste a day. It’s so urgent in the next decade to do all we can. In Fuller’s words, it’s spontaneous cooperation to accelerate positive change for the Earth.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2019
Learning Resource Types
Other Video
Instructor Insights