“I feel that global warming doesn’t affect me individually, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do my part to help,” says Wennie Wang.

Recently, she was part of a team of 54 students who participated in Terrascope, an MIT class that presents freshmen with the opportunity to develop solutions to complex problems. Last year, the class tackled the problem of rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and the students’ mission was to propose a solution that would stabilize those concentrations at an economically viable and internationally acceptable level.

Students worked together in teams for one year, and during spring break, they flew to Abu Dhabi to visit Masdar, a city designed to run entirely on renewable energy. Later, students presented the results of their work to a panel of academic experts and to the general public.

“After months of research, we came up with technological solutions, economic solutions, and policy solutions,” Wang says. “The best part was devising plausible outcomes and presenting all of our hard work.”

Terrascope focuses on the Earth as a giant laboratory and is unique because the students are in charge. Wang says the project was a world-class lesson in collaboration.

“People think better together than they do alone,” she says. “They bring together different backgrounds and perspectives and often come up with solutions that you never would have thought of. A collaborative effort makes a very effective policy.”

Topics