News Archive

posted 01/30/04

New York City Sustainable Development Initiative Launched
Earth Institute seeks voice, profile in NYC sustainability

Research relating to New York City takes place throughout Columbia, but how can the Earth Institute contribute so that Columbia scientists' visibility and impact as a resource for the City on sustainability issues increases?

This question was explored as a dozen Earth Institute senior faculty members gathered January 20, in a session chaired by former mayor and current SIPA Professor David Dinkins, to discuss the idea of an Earth Institute New York City Sustainable Development Initiative. The session was hosted by Steve Cohen, director of the Earth Institute's educational programs, along with Jeff Sachs.

Sachs described the reasoning behind the New York City initiative as threefold: the Earth Institute is regularly asked by various people to play a role in New York sustainability questions. Also, even when not asked by others, Columbia has a "rather large footprint" in its community and can make a difference by engaging in sustainable practices. Thirdly, friends of the Earth Institute, including donors, often have a significant interest in environmental sustainability issues in New York City.

Ideas raised as possible focal points for the initiative included rewriting the environmental review process, bringing together many groups on Hudson Valley sustainable development issues, building green roofs, actively seeking partnerships with City agencies, studying smart growth and sprawl,

In the end three priorities were chosen for the initiative going forward, each to be further developed by senior Columbia faculty and administrators:

  1. Risk-Conscious Sustainable Development — Elliot Sclar and Klaus Jacob
  2. Engagement with active City policymaking—Steve Cohen
  3. Sustainable development planning in Manhattanville—Emily Lloyd

Solid waste disposal, asthma in children, and water supply costs are examples of issues in which the city is actively engaged, and on which Earth Institute scientists have conducted recent research, Cohen pointed out. An inventory of Earth Institute New York City-related research was gathered by Roberta Miller of the Earth Institute in the fall of 2003. This inventory can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking here.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.