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The November 30 Mission 2015 presentation can be viewed here.

beautiful fog in trees Solving Complex Problems (12.000) is designed to provide students the opportunity to work as part of a team to propose solutions to a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. Over the past four years Terrascope has focused on large problems related to the environmental health and sustainability of the planet.....from collapse of the global fisheries, to access to clean fresh water, to stemming the rise of greenhouse gases, to feeding nine billion people.  A common theme is that almost all proposed solutions will cost enormous amounts of money and thus we will be forced to prioritize! This year we will focus on the biodiversity crisis, and the broader human and ecological impacts of the loss of biodiversity.

Biodiversity.   Are we really on the brink of a great extinction like the so called Big Five mass extinctions that occurred in the last 500 million years? Extinction has occurred throughout the history of life, and episodically, large fractions of biodiversity have disappeared. We are now able to crudely inventory earth’s beautiful scene biodiversity and it is clear that over the past few hundred years, human activities are often the cause of extinction, but not always. At the same time we have become keenly aware of the fragility of many of our ecosystems and human impact on them. We as a species need a plan for the future. We can't and probably shouldn't try to save all species and ecosystems.  Is saving the Blue whale more important than the rain forests or deep marine microbial ecosystems?  Is minimizing global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions central to any plan forward? How do we decide? In other words what can we afford to do, what is the price of inaction, and how do we choose? Should preserving the biodiversity of the planet be subject to cost-benefit analysis?

Your mission ( Mission 2015) will focus on prioritizing the biggest issues facing our planet and how to develop scientific, social, and economic approaches to addressing them.  

A Definition of TRIAGE: the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients (ie the earth) and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities ...

Mission 2015 is also part of the Terrascope program and the issues associated with Saving the Future, the year-long theme of Terrascope. By enrolling in 12.000 you become part of the Terrascope program and community, even if you do not continue in the Spring.

Spring Field Trip:

During spring break in March of 2012 we will take a field trip to explore the problems and issues associated with the Mission 2015 theme. It will likely involve international travel and we will keep you updated.

oil tanker burning

About 12.000:

"Solving Complex Problems" (12.000) is a nine-unit, Fall-semester subject designed to provide freshmen with the opportunity to work as part of an "imagineering" team to design a viable solution to a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. It is also known as Mission 2015 - Whole Earth Triage.

Each year's class explores a different problem in detail through the study of complimentary case histories and the development of creative solution strategies. It includes training in web site development, effective written and oral communication, and team building. Initially developed with major financial support from the Alex and Britt d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education, 12.000 is designed to enhance the freshman experience by helping students develop contexts for other subjects in the sciences and humanities, and by helping them to establish learning communities that include upperclassmen, faculty, MIT alumni, and professionals in science and engineering fields.

Why Mission?

The Mission class offer freshman a completely different way to learn. In contrast to the core classes that rely on lectures and problem sets, Mission attempts to teach students how to think about solving complex problems. Students in Mission are independent, largely self-directed, and interactive. They learn how to build teams and develop solutions that require teamwork between scientists and engineers. Mission students will learn that many problems are just too big and complex to be solved by any one person or discipline and must involve integration. At the end of the class the students of Mission will have developed new and innovative solutions to an "unsolvable" problem and been exposed to a variety of different disciplines.

oil-soaked dead bird

History of the Class

Mission, or 12.000, was offered first in Fall 2000, when the assignment (Mission 2004) was to develop a viable mission plan for the exploration of Mars with the aim of finding evidence for the present or past existence of life. The assignment for Fall 2001 (Mission 2005) was to design undersea research stations for both coral reef and abyssal environments. Fall of 2002 (Mission 2006) charged students with developing a strategy for monitoring and preserving the Amazon Rainforest. As in previous years, the students in Mission 2006 described their final design in a content-rich web site and an oral presentation in front of a panel of international experts. Mission 2007 was focused on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Mission 2008 - Galapagos, Mission 2009 -Tsunamis and Mission 2010 - Saving N'awlinz, Mission 2011 - Saving our oceans, Mission 2012 - Clean water-assuring clean fresh water for western North America, Mission 2013 - CO2 sequestration, and Mission 2014, Feeding the World.