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Climate CoLab Winners’ Spotlight: Dan Ma, Caleb Wright, and Charles Yang


This spotlight is part of a series from MIT ClimateX about Climate CoLab 2018 contest Winners. Original post can also be found here:

In addressing climate change, there are many moving pieces. From infrastructure, to energy, to sociopolitical factors – cohesive action across different sectors is imperative. Climate CoLab “Exploring Synergistic Solutions for Sustainable Development” winners Dan Ma, Caleb Wright, and Charles Yang developed an “Integrated Roadmap” approach, which addresses the numerous roadblocks in climate action and identifies pragmatic solutions.

Describing this roadmap as a “modular sustainable development framework”, the team takes notice of the synergistic nature of both macro factors — government, infrastructure, energy — and micro, such as interpersonal and cultural factors. The Integrated Roadmap is a combination of climate action and sustainability proposals that work cohesively together, and take a systems approach to the issue. Their Climate CoLab proposal notes that “development doesn’t occur in a linear fashion; it often advances through the progress of separate but interconnected sectors.” Charles Yang describes the beginning of the project as focusing on “how to carry over various pre-existing proposals in a real-world environment.” Their Integrated Roadmap includes the following proposals:

  • Using Biogas Technology to Improve Sanitation and Mitigate Climate Change
  • Infrastructure for a Livable Future
  • Rainwater Harvesting
  • White Knights
  • Franchised Microgrids for the Developing World Based on Open Source
  • Vertical Hydroponic Farms Feed Urban Communities While Reducing Carbon
  • Sustainable Urban Food Initiative (SUFI) for Climate Change Resilience

The team also emphasizes the importance of a community-oriented approach. As Yang states: “Like a body accepting a bone graft, such solutions would be driven by individuals rather than foreign institutions and adapted by engaged individuals to address needs that we could not foresee.” It is essential to engage the local community, and address the issues and challenges specific to that community.

Ma, Wright, and Yang felt it was important for the Integrated Roadmap to be sensitive to institutional inequalities. It acknowledges that in some communities, women are not in leadership roles, or considered in the decision-making process. To address inequality, the Integrated Roadmap also includes requirements for inclusive education and job training programming. These programs both serve the proposals outlined in the roadmap and are beneficiary to communities as a whole. Caleb Wright points out, “developing regions, specifically, have a unique opportunity to implement sustainable technologies and infrastructure that will place them at the forefront of creating a sustainable future for the world.”

The team is optimistic about the Integrated Roadmap, and its potential to empower individuals and communities globally. Since winning the Climate CoLab contest, the project has been recognized internationally.  They will present their work at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly, and their proposal will be included in the 6thGlobal Environment Outlook report. In reflecting on their work and its impact, team member Dan Ma states: “This has been a really empowering experience as a world citizen and student. We hope to inspire our next generation of leaders to take the initiative and create the environmental progress we need in the world.” The Integrated Roadmap’s holistic and practical approach will hopefully be implemented in communities in the near future.