Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management Spring 2010 Final Briefings
On Wednesday, April 28, students in the MPA program in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA ESP) marked the end of the spring semester with presentations of their final briefings for the Workshop in Applied Policy Analysis course. In the spring workshops, MPA ESP students worked with clients to address needs or challenges in various areas of environmental policy.
"The purpose of the spring-semester workshop is threefold," said Steve Cohen, Director of the MPA-ESP program, in his opening remarks. "To share understanding of how each group is approaching their projects and the methodologies being used; to discuss the practical problems associated with conducting policy analysis in an action environment with a client; and to explain how they have framed the problems addressed and have learned to cut them down to a manageable size."
The workshop teams were advised by Professors Kathleen Callahan, Steve Cohen, Nancy Degnan, Gail Suchman, and Sara Tjossem.
Human Impacts on Biodiversity Conservation
Professor Sara Tjossem, Lecturer and Associate Director of Curriculum for the MPA-ESP program, has been advising the team that worked with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the largest conservation organization in the world. The group works in over 35 countries, where it owns 119 million acres and works with partners over broader landscapes. On the ground, TNC often works in remote areas where population density is low and rural-urban migration may be shifting people away. Students who worked on this project sought to unravel the complexities of how people interact with natural resources, the relationships between biodiversity loss and population growth, resource consumption, and poverty, as well as what a global conservation organization can do to affect such forces. The students performed a GIS analysis of current and future population density, consumption, poverty/income, and land use levels in the 50km surrounding TNC’s major projects in the 35 countries in which it works. The team then investigated the drivers of conservation threats using various sources of data, including TNC’s Conservation Projects database. Finally, after learning about TNC’s history, donor base and organizational culture, students developed recommendations for how and where TNC should address population growth, resource consumption, and poverty in their conservation work.
Success and Failures: Evaluating Environmental Justice Strategies in Federal Agencies
Professor Gail Suchman, lecturer at SIPA and Columbia Law School, and Senior Legal Advisor to the Urban Design Lab for Sustainable Development at Columbia's Earth Institute, has been advising the team that worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), West Harlem Environmental Action (WEACT). After collecting national background information, students focused on the regional level, and developed survey questions and spoke to regional representatives. The students also looked for programs in the agencies not under the EJ umbrella but which may be helpful in addressing EJ concerns. Students generated a report summarizing the research and making concrete recommendations for actions by the agencies that will better address EJ concerns in the regions and in the country as a whole. Students also prepared a pullout executive summary for use as an advocacy piece that will be presented, along with the report, to the Obama Administration, the targeted agency heads, and the appropriate regional directors. The group recommends Education & Training, Community Engagement, Regulatory Management, Financial Management, and Program Management in federal agencies. The project will culminate in a presentation at the State of Environmental Justice in America Conference 2010.
Sustainable Water for Abu Dhabi
Understanding New York City’s Food Supply
Professor Steven Cohen, Director of the MPA-ESP program as well as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Earth Institute, has been advising the team that is working with the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability in an attempt to better understand the system’s vast and extremely complicated food system that is not well understood but has wide impact on New York City’s residents. While little work has been done to analyze New York’s food system comprehensively, the students working on this project have helped the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability improve its understanding of where New York City’s food comes from and the method in which it is grown or processed, and its trajectory into the city and onto New Yorkers’ tables, with a special emphasis on the production, procurement and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables. The project identified three main conclusions: there exists consistent and resilient supply distribution, uncertainty regarding food origins and production methods, and that consumer demand drives food choice availability.
Evaluating Possibilities for an International Carbon Markets Regime
Professor Kathleen Callahan, the former EPA Deputy Regional Administrator of Region II, has been advising the group working on the Possibilities of International Carbon Markets with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). EDF is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, which was founded in 1967 when scientists and attorneys coalesced in a successful legal effort to ban the use of DDT. Since then, climate change policy has been a core mission of EDF. To assist EDF as it moves to define its priority areas of attention, students in this Workshop group assessed and analyzed past as well as existing international regimes, the accomplishments of these regimes, and strategic approaches and commonalities among climate change concerns. Students have been regularly meeting with the EDF staff, and conducting interviews with recommended experts. The team has been investigating the obstacles to international consensus, the effects of U.S. inaction, and the benefits of technological and financial assistance to developing nations. In their conclusion, the group recommended pursuing negotiations with relevant stakeholders outside of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as collaboration between China and the U.S. to create an effective climate agreement.