New Summer Course Tackles Environmental Sustainability in the Middle East

ISRAELjordan river by sewageEnvironmental issues know no boundaries. These problems transcend national borders and the solution to them lies in a collaborative approach to the management of shared natural resources. A clear example can be found in the Middle East and, this summer, a new field study course will take 10 Columbia University students to Jordan and Israel to learn about how these two countries are tackling environmental sustainability. There students will learn about how political conflicts create, sustain and escalate environmental problems and the role the environment can play in future negotiations toward constructive and peaceful outcomes. The course is a cooperative effort between Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University.

First piloted in 2013, the field study program brought together students from across 7 schools and various degree programs at Columbia. This year, it is being offered as a credit-bearing course for graduate students, through the Negotiations and Conflict Resolutions program. The Columbia students will be joined by students from the Porter School of Environmental Studies — together they will develop ideas for shared plans to protect the environment in Jordan and Israel (with a lesser focus on Palestinian Territories) and to foster regional cooperation. Students will meet on site with guest lecturers and experts, including academic researchers, NGO representatives, governmental representatives, local officials and environmental activists.

Led by Bridget Regan, Lecturer in Continuing Education, this 2-week field expedition will explore the following questions:

  • How can the environment and natural resource management be used as a vehicle for creating sustainable peace?
  • What are the linkages between the political, physical, economic and social factors affecting the Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
  • How can we effectively prepare students to go into the world and address real-life natural resource conflicts with multiple stakeholders?

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Course dates: May 26, 28 and June 1, 2015 (NYC)/ June 4-June 18, 2015 (Middle East), with an orientation in NY in April.

Eligible candidates: Columbia University graduate students currently studying or interested in sustainability, climate change, conflict resolution, environmental science, policy and related subjects.

Credit: Students must enroll in NECR K4260 Regional Environmental Sustainability for Peacebuilding and confirm with their department that credit can be applied to their degree program.

Itinerary: Jordan: (Flight to Amman) Amman – Opening workshop; The Dead Sea – development, conservation and cooperation; Jerash- social and environmental impacts of refugees; The Gulf of Aqaba; Petra.

Israel: (Crossing the border to Israel through The Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing) Eilat – environment and tourism; The Arava – regional environmental cooperation and renewable energy; Ramon Crater/lookout over Gaza strip – the world’s largest crater and discussion of Gaza’s catastrophic environmental situation; Jerusalem – political planning, settlements and cross-border environmental problems; Tel-Aviv University – academic session on negotiations and water in the Middle East (Return flight from Tel-Aviv).

Cost: ($1500-1600) + Tuition. Includes round-trip airfare, transport to multiple sites in Jordan and Israel, all accommodations and most meals. Students should expect to cover the costs of their visas for Israel and Jordan (if applicable) and travel insurance.

To Apply: Applications are due by March 10th at 11:59PM EST. Applications should be submitted online: https://fs21.formsite.com/earthinstitute/form245/index.html

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