Past Courses

Science Fundamental Courses

Diversity and Conservation
Matt Palmer, PhD – Lecturer in Discipline, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Human life and wellbeing are dependent on goods and services provided by nature.  However, this natural capital is chronically undervalued and often poorly understood. Biodiversity – the variety of life on earth – supports many ecosystem functions and the loss of diversity can have both obvious and subtle consequences. This course explores the scientific issues related to the origin, distribution, and functions of biodiversity and the consequences of biodiversity loss.  We discuss a range of tools for conserving biodiversity – including species recovery plans, protected area management, and ecosystem-based management. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning

Environmental Economics
Urvashi Kaul – Assistant Director, Center for Economic Transformation at NYC Economic Development Corp.; Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
This course provides an introduction to environmental economics through a discussion of the basic principles of microeconomics as they apply to environmental issues and analysis of case studies that illustrate how economics can guide conservation practice and policy.  Class discussion also includes a review of solutions to such market failures, such as taxes and subsidies, fees and quotas, especially tradable emissions permits, e.g., carbon markets. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning

Evolution: Darwin to DNA
Sergios Orestis Kolokotronis, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Fordham University; Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University; and a Research Associate in Evolution Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History
Are Darwin’s findings still relevant today? How could he have come up with the idea of evolution through natural selection if he did not know about DNA or how heredity works? And how did heredity work, again…? Now that we have decoded the human genome, what do we know – and still don’t – about life? This course will lead students on a broad exploration of evolutionary science, seeking to answer questions such as these, among many others. We will review the history of evolutionary thought and science, genetics and heredity, the main mechanisms by which evolution acts, and the tools and findings of evolutionary research, including the evolution of humans and microbial pathogens.
[Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning  

Introduction to Ecology
Jenna Lawrence – Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
This course examines the interaction between the living components of the earth with the environment, including the distribution and abundance of plants and animals and the impact of human activities on these distributions.  Key ecological principles are illustrated with applied examples of how changes in the environment affect ecological systems, ultimately providing you with the tools to evaluate environmental issues. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning 

Introduction to Environmental Policy
Bipasha Chatterjee, Adjunct Lecturer, CUNY Hunter College
The past two decades have seen an increasing amount of attention given to the importance of environmental policy and planning in promoting a sustainable future for the planet. This course examines contemporary domestic and international issues that require environmental policy and planning solutions. Explore policy responses to local and global environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, clean air and water, and climate change. Examine how governments of industrial and developing countries, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and the private sector shape environmental policy through a wide range of economic, social, and political factors. Topics include environmental law, economics, human population growth, and public health.
[Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning 


Case Study Courses

Agriculture & Wildlife Conservation: Coffee Agroforestry
Amanda Caudill, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Smithsonian Institute
Habitat destruction threatens wildlife existence worldwide. While preserving tropical forests is a necessity for biological conservation, this must be coupled with other conservation strategies to provide a sustainable solution for wildlife conservation. Coffee agroforestry, the intentional management of shade trees within coffee farms, has shown promise as a conversation strategy to support wildlife diversity. This course explores the relationship of coffee agroforestry and wildlife conservation. We will examine coffee farms as habitat through case studies, learn about socio-economics and environmental issues associated with coffee, and assess coffee certifications such as shade grown, organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Smithsonian Bird Friendly. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Fall 2014.

Climate and Biodiversity
Shahid Naeem – Director, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability; Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Life on Earth is often perceived as a passive player in world events, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The Earth’s climate, for example, has been strongly regulated by life for over 3.5 billion years, and its current change is as much a function of life on Earth as is it is of greenhouse gas emissions.  This course explores the biosphere from a unique perspective, one in which climate is understood as a function of plants, animals and microorganisms.  It goes beyond the conservation problems of mass extinction (e.g., the loss of polar bears and penguins) and shifting biogeography (e.g., the northern migration of species on a warmer planet) and considers how biodiversity conservation is also critical to managing and adapting to climate change.
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2014.

Climate Change: History, Causes, Economics, and Decisions
Bob Newton, PhD – Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
This course provides an introduction to climate change for the non-scientist.  Explore the history of the Earth’s surface temperature and learn the basics of how this temperature is set and changes through natural and human influences.  Examine ways that warming is likely to impact human beings through sea-level rise, water availability, and crop productivity.  Learn the potential economic impacts of climate change and the mechanisms available for individuals and corporations to frame climate policy.

Disease Ecology
Peter Daszak, PhD – President, EcoHealth Alliance; Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, Columbia University
Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans originate in animals and more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.  Human processes that infringe upon previously uninhabited areas have the potential to profoundly affect our exposure to diseases. Yet health assessments rarely take into account the principles of disease ecology, the interaction of the behavior and ecology of hosts with the biology of pathogens.  Gain an overview of the principles of disease ecology with an emphasis on the effect of disease on human, wildlife, domestic animal, and ecosystem health.  Explore the rise of emergent diseases as a result of various environmental factors and examine the impact of disease on biodiversity and rates of extinction.
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2013 and Fall 2014.

Ecology and Sustainable Water Management
David Reid – Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Human societies require a constant supply of clean water to survive.  Environmental guidelines protect ecosystems that perform beneficial functions of critical importance. This course explores the science behind the development of these guidelines, with a focus on management of aquatic ecosystems and protection of water resources.  This course examines how environmental science informs the development of guidelines for sustainable ecosystem management and exposes the myth that environmental protection is an unaffordable luxury during tough economic times. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Fall 2012 and 2013.

Environmental Ethics
Jeff Sebo – Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Examines the morality of our treatment of the environment. Investigate questions of ethical theory, such as: Do we have moral obligations to animals, plants, species, and ecosystems? And do we ever have a right, or duty, to harm or kill some human or nonhuman animals in order to benefit or save others? Apply these ideas to environmental questions, such as: Do we have a duty to conserve or preserve natural resources or the wilderness? And do we have a duty not to contribute to pollution or climate change? Finally, consider questions considering applications and solutions, such as: What are the costs and benefits of cultural solutions, political solutions, and technological solutions? Do we have a moral obligation to not participate in activities that harm the environment, as well as to advocate for environmental reform? [Example Syllabus]

Forest Management and Conservation
Matt Palmer, PhD – Lecturer in Discipline, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Forests are a vitally important habitat for much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.  They are sources of goods, such as timber and food, and provide services, such as carbon storage and water filtration.  However, forests worldwide are threatened by overexploitation, conversion, climate change, and invasive species.  Learn key issues in forest ecology and management through the local environment of Black Rock Forest.  Participate in an all-day field trip to Black Rock Forest to study how pathogens and other invasive species affect forest structure and function. Local observations are scaled up to consider how these issues affect forest conservation on a global scale. [Example Syllabus]

Green Information Technology: Paradox and Practice
Rajendra Bose – Manager, Research Computing Services, Columbia University
The growth in the use of computing and information technology (IT) in society demands more resources and energy, yet also allows us to understand and solve environmental problems. The course explores this paradox by discussing the environmental impacts of IT, and by reviewing examples of environmental research that require high-performance computing. The course also focuses on current IT practice in terms of designing and running data centers: Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all representative of businesses that invest and depend heavily on large data centers, and the cost and energy efficiency of these centers has become a major concern. Other businesses and institutions, including universities and government research facilities, are also increasingly dependent on data centers, and the course describes current projects for green data centers and the metrics involved in those projects.

Hydraulic Fracturing: Energy, Environment and Policy
Nancy Degnan – Earth Institute Office of Academic Research Programs; Adjunct Associate Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Natural gas is purported to be the transition fuel to cleaner energy production.  New technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, have recently made the Marcellus Shale formation a desirable area for gas development.  Contextualize the practice of hydraulic fracturing to provide an overview of key issues around energy, water, and biodiversity.  Examine the social and political conditions that make hydraulic fracturing a highly contentious issue by weighing tradeoffs through an analysis of business decisions, economics, science, and the regulatory environment surrounding this practice.  Participate in a EICES case study, ”Marcellus Shale Hydraulic Fracturing; Natural Gas Drilling Within New York State,“ and engage in role-playing exercises intended to consider environmental sustainability and highlight decisions in leadership and institutional settings.

The Gulf Oil Spill: Implications for Leadership and Decision Making
Nancy Degnan – Earth Institute Office of Academic Research Programs; Adjunct Associate Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst environmental catastrophe in United States history.  Since the well was “killed” on Day 87, attention has shifted from mitigating environmental damage toward examining leadership and decision-making processes.  Implications for environmental sustainability include the interconnectedness of environmental, economic and social engagement manifest through stakeholders, institutional/regulatory effectiveness, and applications of technology. This course examines models of leadership, institutional missions and goals, tradeoffs and managerial practices. Then, it suggests an alternative approach to decision-making within the framework of environmental sustainability. Students will read and analyze a EICES case study, “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill:  A Case Study:  BP’s Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico,” and engage in role-playing exercises intended to highlight decisions in leadership and institutional settings with considerations of sustainability.  The course will be delivered on two Tuesdays and one Saturday.

The Mannahatta Project
Eric Sanderson – Senior Conservation Ecologist, Wildlife Conservation Society
Few places have seen as many changes in ecosystem type and distribution as Manhattan Island over the last 400 years. Landscape ecology is the study of how ecosystems are distributed in space and time – and the consequences of those distributions for living things. Some of the questions addressed in this course are: What are the consequences of these changes for the plants, animals and people of Manhattan, compared to 1609, when Henry Hudson arrived in New York and ushered European development of the island, to the island we find today? How might the ecosystems and habitats of New York City change over the next 400 years? This course illustrates fundamental concepts and techniques in landscape ecology and geographic analysis, using Manhattan Island’s ecological development as a case study, drawing from materials available from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Mannahatta Project ( [Example Syllabus]

The Sustainable City
Howard N. Apsan – Director of Environmental, Health, Safety & Risk Management, City University of New York; Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban settings, making sustainable urban management such a critical concern. This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of urban environmental management and sustainability, with a special focus on New York City.  Topics will include air quality, water and wastewater, land use, transportation, energy, and waste management.  Through readings and discussion you will gain an understanding of the many environmental challenges that today’s cities face and will explore how those challenges are being addressed.


International Field Experiences

Coral Reefs Ecology: Bermuda
Kaitlin Baird – Science Officer, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
Located at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), this five-day field course introduces participants to the world of corals. Through lecture, field and lab work, participants learn the biology and microbiology of corals, the ecology of coral communities, anthropogenic factors that impact coral reefs and coral reef restoration and sustainability. Daily snorkeling excursions enhance the learning experience. [Example Syllabus]


Practical Tools

The Little Things and Their Influence on Planet Earth
James M. Cervino, PhD – Visiting Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
In this course, you investigate how the smaller organisms living in the oceans and rainforests influence the temperature we experience, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, and the global economy. Closely study the Gaia Hypothesis to better understand the functions and interactions of Earth’s physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes, and learn how the “little” things provide the regulating effects of homeostasis for the earth. Examine topics in Marine Oceanography and Rain Forest Biology to gain a foundational understanding of how the chemical, biological, and physical Earth cycles influence climate, weather, health, food, and global economies. [Example Syllabus]

Marine Pollution
James M. Cervino, PhD – Visiting Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Did you know that approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash per year enters the ocean? Where does all that trash come from?  Where does it go?  Learn the sources, sinks, and biological effects of major classes of pollutants in the marine environment.  Gain an in-depth understanding of causes, consequences and methods of assessment of marine pollution. Study basic ecological principles including biological and chemical oceanographic process in marine ecosystems and examine how they are relevant to water pollution.  Explore policies, such as the Clean Water Act, to understand the influence of specific classes of contaminants on the marine environment. Gain an in-depth overview of the permit process associated with Hurricane Sandy Debris Damage to learn how environmental oversight is handled during ongoing Emergency Response Relief Efforts.  Visit local New York City Urban locations currently under EPA and NYSDEC investigation to consider topics including chemical contamination from excess sewage pollutants, trace metals, synthetic organic “persistent” compounds, natural organic compounds, and construction waste from construction activities developers.

Measuring and Communicating Environmental Benefits
John F. Williams – HDR Engineering, Inc; Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Securing investments in sustainable strategies depends on the ability to measure and articulate the environmental, social and economic risks and benefits associated with specific initiatives. This course includes tools and processes to help public and private sector representatives in measuring and articulating the value of “green” in an objective and transparent manner. Associated with projects that involve built and natural environments, the course covers: standardization of a framework for environmental accounting; life cycle costs and analysis and Financial Return on Investment (FROI); and measurement of the triple bottom in monetary terms to reveal a Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI). Participants will create their own SROI business model based on cases presented in specific sectors.

Population & Sustainable Development
Hania Zlotnik, PhD
Population numbers are at the root of any assessment of future sustainability, yet they are generally not the subject of debate.  It is usually taken for granted that the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet the basis for such a projection is often disregarded or misunderstood.  This course will ensure that those interested in the goal of attaining sustainable development understand the assumptions involved in projecting population trends, the basis for making those assumptions and their limitations. It will also provide an overview of the causes of changing population trends and discuss their implications. It will review the models used to assess the impact of population trends on the environment, including some of those used by the International Panel on Climate Change. Lastly, it will consider why population issues have generally been downplayed or marginalized in intergovernmental  processes  focusing on sustainable development and discuss whether and how population policy can contribute to attain sustainability. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2014.

Smarter Social Media for Environmental Sustainability
Sree Sreenivasan – Chief Digital Officer; Professor of Professional Practice, School of Journalism, Columbia University
How can technology and effective mass communication help achieve a sustainable future? Social media is going to play a critical role in the months and years ahead. This course takes social media to new levels by providing useful and practical lessons in how best to navigate this technology in strategic ways. Learn about the development of social media, where it is headed in the future, new ideas and trends and how to bring attention and traffic to enhance your work (and that of others) in protecting our planet. Discover best practices and what to avoid in this fast-changing Web 2.0 world. You will become conversant in using social media platforms professionally (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube) and will learn how these platforms can be used for environmental change and sustainability. Case studies illustrate how to put environmental issues in the mainstream and how to attract large and diverse audiences when social media is used effectively. You will create an environmental social media campaign.

Topography and Water Management
John Folchetti – CEO and Founder, Folchetti & Associates
Freshwater scarcity is a severe threat to human and ecological well-being in many areas, including the United States.  As populations and urban areas grow, water management will become increasingly more complex.  Land use projects need to analyze this issue in detail and topography is a critical tool necessary to make better-informed and more sustainable decisions. This course analyses the physical processes that govern the earth’s hydrologic cycle, including impacts made by human beings.  It reviews related policies and regulatory controls and provides basic GIS applications and map analysis skills.  Instruction on water management is paired with techniques on how to identify these issues in topographical maps and aerial photography.  You will work on a water project utilizing these applications.

Urban Resilience & Other Strategies for an Eco-Economy
John F. Williams – Senior Vice President & National Director of Sustainable Development, HDR Engineering; Adjunct Assistant Professor, SIPA, Columbia University
Many public and private sector investment decision makers are focusing on an economy in which the connections between actions and social, environmental and economic outcomes become clearly relevant (“Eco-Economy”). These decision makers are concerned about extreme environmental and social events and the resiliency of their communities, business operations and customer buying power.  However, practical realities such as budget considerations and shareholder demands are placing constraints on the option of pursuing “green” alternatives.  This course examines the connections between environmental sustainability, resilience, and the need and ability to compete in a global marketplace. It begins by defining “urban resilience” and the “eco-economy,” exploring the competitive realities that exist in human driven systems. The course also analyses the need for “org-ware” developers and “future system integrators” – those professionals who connect the dots between data, intelligent design, resilience, and sustainable communities to achieve a distinct competitive advantage in the 21st century.

Wetland Restoration and Conservation
James M. Cervino, PhD – Visiting Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
The conservation and restoration of wetlands re-establishes and adds important ecological and biological functions to the marine landscape, including habitat creation, protection, erosion control, hydrological conservation and the enhancement of water quality. This course provides the basics of wetland chemistry, microbial ecology and marine biology, and studies the organisms that inhabit the wetlands of New York City. The significance of wetland organisms to the greater biology and ecology of the region and the overall health of the biosphere will be examined.  This intense field course offers the opportunity to visit ongoing restoration efforts at College Point, Queens, NY, to collect, analyze and study samples in a lab setting.


Environmental Policy, Management and Finance

Business Approaches to Sustain Biodiversity
Helen Crowley – Associate Director, Market-based Conservation Initiatives, Wildlife Conservation Society; Adjunct Research Scientist, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, Columbia University
Conserving biodiversity requires multi-disciplinary and creative approaches.  The development and success of small businesses as “conservation enterprises” depends on functioning ecosystem services and finding markets for the ‘natural’ products and services produced. The rapidly expanding field of ‘corporate sustainability’ has opened the door for biodiversity conservation to become integrated into global business – or has it? This course explores market-based approaches to conservation, such as the marketing value of certification and labeling.  You will engage in interactive lectures and assignments focused on how to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into corporate sustainability strategies, matching conservation initiatives to markets and designing a certification program.

Business Models: Strategies from Ecology and Evolution
David Meyers – Senior Analyst and Consultant, Green Ant Advisors
Business strategy and the scientific disciplines of ecology and evolution share a similar vocabulary: competition, resources, game theory, and ecosystems.  Companies and business theorists alike increasingly appreciate how natural systems provide powerful models for design, operations, and strategy.  Further your understanding of what businesses can learn from the fields of ecology and evolution.  Learn business strategy, design, and operations and explore the use of the concept of ‘business ecosystems’ and ‘adaptive imperative’ as part of an analysis of how ecological and evolutionary principles can help us address emerging sustainability challenges.
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2013.

Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Disasters
Nada Petrovic – Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University
The devastating impacts of recent natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the F4 Oklahoma Tornado, indicate that our planet is vulnerable to erratic and extreme weather events. Although no specific natural disaster can be directly attributed to climate change, statistical trends of extreme events are likely to shift in upcoming decades. The first half of this course provides an overview of the underlying physical science of climate-related disasters, and reviews any predicted impacts of climate change on their frequency and severity (topics include: hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods). The second half of the course introduces an economic framework for assessing disaster impacts as well as an overview of US climate change adaptation policy, with an eye towards disaster risk management. This broad perspective is then applied to New York City as a case study. [Example Syllabus]

Ecosystem Services and Corporate Planning
Jeffrey Potent, Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
The natural world provides food, fuels, fiber, and other goods that ensure economic and social well-being, as well as other “ecosystem services” that are less apparent on a daily basis, such as mediation of climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality. The people most vulnerable to environmental changes are often those who live in the most diverse parts of the world and who rely most heavily on natural resources to sustain their livelihoods.  This course addresses the importance of ecosystem services for local communities in developing countries and assesses the potential of ecosystem service conservation approaches, such as Payments for Ecosystem Services, to contribute to poverty reduction.  Through lectures, case studies and role play activities the course addresses the types of ecosystem services of importance at the local scale, how ecosystem services of regional and global importance (but generated at the local scale) may present opportunities for income generation, and considers the real-world opportunities and challenges faced by governments as well as conservation and development organizations to manage ecosystem services and tradeoffs in ecosystem services for poverty reduction.

Ecosystem Services for Economic and Social Wellbeing
Carter Ingram, PhD – Lead, Ecosystem Services/Payments for Ecosystem Services, Wildlife Conservation; Adjunct Research Scientist, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Humankind benefits from resources and processes provided by nature. Scientists, economists, and policy/decision-makers label these as ecosystem services. Explore how these services can be both conserved and managed sustainably for economic and social wellbeing, through an emerging mechanism called Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). The focus is on developing countries, and the importance of ecosystem services at the local level.

Energy and Sustainability
Kathy Callahan – Adjunct Associate Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
This course examines the evolution of issues, attitudes, and policies surrounding energy production and use through time, and provide a critical examination of current trends in consumption, production, and potential future sources of energy. Technologies, philosophies and policy approaches, as well as the current accepted thinking on the topic will be evaluated to enable participants to ask new questions and derive innovative ideas and approaches to address this prominent global issue through readings, research, and discussion.

Environmental Entrepreneurship
William Davis – President and CEO, Ze-gen
Humanity, a single species, appropriates 40% of the Earth’s productivity yet a billion people live in abject poverty on less than $1 a day. Arguably, an effective way to protect and enhance Earth’s precious resources is to find better ways to address human needs. The tools of entrepreneurship can be harnessed to provide powerful solutions to both human and ecological distress. This course explores how to stimulate demand for products and services that serve both people and the planet. Participants are encouraged to come prepared with entrepreneurial ideas of their own.

Environmental Markets: The Nexus of Business, Regulation, and Sustainability
Richard Weihe – Managing Partner, Karbone
Companies around the world are developing innovative solutions in the area of energy efficiency, water infrastructure, and waste management technologies.  The leading companies in these markets are fast becoming major drivers of global economic growth as industries, governments, and societies come to terms with these challenges.  Learn the history of the development of environmental markets and how they are used to solve environmental issues.  Examine the political, business, and regulatory contexts of these markets using real-world examples through case study analysis.  Topics include air quality, climate change, pollution, water, and renewable energy mandates. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2012 and Spring 2013.

Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Decision-Making
Jeffrey Potent, Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University;
This course addresses how innovative corporations are beginning to address environmental issues from a business perspective: minimizing associated costs and risks and capturing business opportunities to improve competitive advantage.  You examine how the business landscape is changing through increased expectations of stakeholders, the reduction of environmental impacts that equate to real world risks and costs, and the expansion of markets for products and services that offer environmental attributes as important to customers and quality, timeliness and price.  The course focuses on ecosystem service valuation as an effective tool that corporations are using to assess company-specific environmental footprints, identify approaches to effectively reduce impacts, and to bring this information to the marketplace as a means of product differentiation to secure existing markets and facilitate access to new business opportunities. [Example Syllabus]

Offered via Distance Learning in Fall 2012 and 2013.

Mainstreaming Climate Change into Development
Juan Pablo Bonilla – Unit Chief, Sustainable Energy & Climate Change, Inter-American Development Bank
This course will discuss how to mainstream climate change into economic and social development. The course’s introduction will cover the main outcomes from the COP16 in Cancun (Conference of the Parties) in terms of challenges and opportunities, within the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Region and discuss the financing structure proposed for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The course will also discuss the topics of Multilateral Development Banks in financing and scaling up investment in climate change, the role of the public and private sectors and bilateral cooperation, and institutional frameworks for incorporating climate change mitigation and adaptation into development policy. The course will conclude with a group exercise in stakeholder analysis about mainstreaming climate change into the public/private sector of a LAC country.

Market-Based Approach to Conservation
Richard Weihe – Managing Partner, Karbone
Companies around the world are developing innovative solutions in the area of energy efficiency, water infrastructure, and waste management technologies.  The leading companies in these markets are fast becoming major drivers of global economic growth as industries, governments, and societies come to terms with these challenges.  Learn the history of the development of environmental markets and how they are used to solve environmental issues.  Examine the political, business, and regulatory contexts of these markets using real-world examples through case study analysis.  Topics include air quality, climate change, pollution, water, and renewable energy mandates.

Psychology of Environmental Decision-Making & Sustainable Behavior
Sabine Marx and Courtney St. John – Managing Partner, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), Earth Institute, Columbia University
Cues in our physical environment unconsciously influence our decision-making and perception of environmental risk. Drawing upon a body of cutting-edge behavioral and social science research, this course explores the mental barriers to scientific communication and information processing, including the concepts of framing, biases and heuristics, and choice architecture. Learn about the difficulty that individuals and groups have in processing and responding effectively to complex environmental challenges such as climate change, natural resource consumption, and ecosystem degradation. Understand how to design policies and programs that are more effective at promoting sustainable behaviors. Based on the popular “Psychology of Climate Change Communication Guide” published by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) in 2009, this course will incorporate research exercises and cutting-edge research findings into an updated, classroom version of the guide. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2014.

Scenarios for a Sustainable World
Cary Krosinsky – Executive Director, Network for Sustainable Financial Markets
Climate change, habitat loss, and population growth are dramatically reshaping life on Earth.  Human activities are pushing the Earth toward environmental ‘tipping points’ that could cause sudden, irreversible changes to our planet.  Learn the causes behind these issues and examine future scenarios that can help us best avoid potential global environmental tipping points.  Featuring prominent speakers from corporations, investment houses, and NGOs this course addresses key questions such as:

  • Can finance and investing be a part of the solution?
  • How can companies be more involved to drive solutions and what are they already bringing to the table?
  • What role do governments and other global bodies have to play?
  • What happens if we do nothing or instead choose only incremental change as a way forward?
  • What does dramatic change look like?  Do we now need to consider dire choices? And what are they?

Topics include: stakeholder analysis, portfolio and asset allocation construction, differences between short and long term goals for organizations, and how current behaviors to drive solutions may be counterproductive. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2013.

Sustainability and Investing
Cary Krosinsky – Executive Director, Network for Sustainable Financial
Sustainable investing is a burgeoning investment philosophy that represents a positive methodology, one that is in sharp distinction from the previous generation of socially responsible practices, which tended to be primarily negative. Sustainable investment can also be a key driver that can help solve global inequity. This course will cover the asset classes, trends, performance analysis and metrics involved in sustainable investing. Participants will actively contribute in the creation of a model sustainable portfolio while reviewing how sustainability affects asset classes, regions and public policy. Guest speakers may include CSR/Sustainability officers from leading corporations, experts on fiduciary duty, shareholder advocacy and corporate governance, as well as fund managers and other practitioners.
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2012 and Spring 2014.

Sustainability on a Smarter Planet
Rich Lechner – Vice President, Cloud & Services Marketing, IBM
The world is becoming increasingly instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent – in a word, ‘smarter’. Organizations now have the ability to see the exact condition of practically everything in near real-time and can leverage this information to achieve financial, environmental, social, and operational benefits. This course will use case studies to provide a broad overview of how technology can be leveraged to optimize all aspects of an organization’s infrastructure and operations for energy, carbon, water, and waste. We will discuss a number of challenges and opportunities ranging from behavioral change to public policy to financing.

Sustainable Coastal Economies: The Science and Policy of Managing and
Conserving our Ocean Resources
Caleb McClennen, PhD – Director of Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society; Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
In New York State alone, activities that depend on healthy, accessible, and clean oceans such as tourism and recreation, fisheries, and marine transport generate more than $14.3 billion a year for our state economy.  Continuing coastal development, intensification of agriculture and inland activities such as waste, sewer and water management, all continue to directly impact the sustainability of our coastal resources.  Students in this course will explore the science and policy behind the trade-offs in increased ocean and coastal economic development in several core marine sectors. Students will also investigate existing options for improving sustainability and discuss areas of necessary improvement in our ability to effectively manage this transformation. In addition, students will gather a more in depth understanding and connection to New York’s coastal economy by participating in a single day field trip to the New York’s waterfront. Finally the course will explore the past and present of New York’s maritime economy and discuss at the site level, elements of New York’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan: Vision 2020. [Example Syllabus]

Systems and Sustainability
Jeffrey Potent, Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs
In studying ecosystems and environmental management we are compelled by the realization that everything is connected to everything else. Everything is part of the biosphere; the system of life on this planet. When we significantly impact one part of this global system there are ramifications throughout the entire system. This understanding and appreciation of the connectedness of all things on earth was at the core of the creation of the environmental movement and formed the basis for many of the professional disciplines that evolved from this holistic vision. John Muir, considered one of the fathers of this modern movement, observed well over a century ago that “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Systems and Sustainability examines these broad connections to help strengthen your understanding of how the varied courses in the Earth Institute Certificate Program in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability fit together. This course provides an introduction to systems theory to teach how systems manifest in the natural world and in human society (i.e. social and economic systems) and explores how a systems approach to problem-solving can complement more conventional analytic methods. It will introduce you to knowledge systems; an approach to learning and collaboration that provides a mechanism to create outcomes which are scientifically sound, relevant to the issues at hand, and respectful of the interests of all involved parties. You will then learn how knowledge systems are used for sustainable development; a powerful approach to address the complex challenges associated with balancing environmental, social, and economic objectives over time. The knowledge and perspectives gained through this course will aid you in advancing sustainability, whether it be in your own household, your community, or at the global scale. [Example Syllabus]
Offered via Distance Learning in Spring 2014.

Water and Sustainability
Michael Puma – Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
The sustainability of water resources is a critical issue facing society over the coming decades.  Water resources are affected by changes not only in climate but also in population, economic growth, technological change, and other socioeconomic factors.  In addition, successful water management must account for the importance of water for both human society and natural ecosystems.  The objective of this course then is to examine water management issues in light of the expected climatic and socioeconomic changes that will occur during the twenty-first century.  Students will be asked to think critically in order to answer questions related to sustainable development.  The knowledge that students obtain from this course will ultimately allow them to make informed decisions on the sustainability of water resources.