Earth Institute Spring Seminar Series Concludes

Earth Institute Spring Seminar Series Concludes

The Earth Institute at Columbia University hosted another successful seminar series this semester to highlight recent and future work by the EI’s various research centers, culminating with Professor Elliott Sclar’s engaging lecture on “Cities as Drivers of Sustainable Development” for a large audience of students, professors and community members.  Professor Sclar, director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD), furthered the theme of the series by highlighting and explaining the sustainable development work of Earth Institute scholars and researchers in a setting meant to promote open discussion.

Professor Sclar’s lecture had a clear message: well-designed and managed cities with responsible citizens are the key to a sustainable Earth in the face of rapid urbanization of the exponentially increasing human population.  By 2030 it is estimated that the world’s population will reach 8 billion, 5 billion of whom will live in urban environments.  Professor Sclar and his colleagues at CSUD are working with local and national governments and members of the international development community to help cities make the transition from having a strict focus of short-term economic productivity to one of long-term sustainable living, while at the same time tackling the daunting problems facing residents of urban slums.

According to Professor Sclar, “Sustainability is the issue of the 21st century and every university has to take it on.”

Other lectures in the spring seminars included:

  • “Meeting the Climate Change Challenge - Climate Science, Applications, and Policy at Columbia University” by Peter Schlosser, Lisa Goddard, David Krantz, Alissa Park, and Shahid Naeem of the Columbia Climate Center
  • "Possible Solutions to the Global Energy Challenge” by Professors Klaus Lackner and Alissa Park of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy
  • "Tropical Agriculture and Sustainable Development” by Professor Pedro Sanchez, director of the Tropical Agriculture Program
  • "Urban Design Lab and the Design Equation” by Professor Richard Plunz and colleagues from the Urban Design Lab
  • "Relieving Water Stress in Many Lands and Climes for Times to Come” led by Professors Upmanu Lall and Tanya Heikkila with Professor Vijay Modi and Research Fellow Tobias Siegfried of the Columbia Water Center

In the panel presentation and discussion on “Relieving Water Stress in Many Lands and Climes for Times to Come,” Professors Lall and Heikkila, along with Professor Vijay Modi and Research Fellow Tobias Siegfried, highlighted the work being done by the new Columbia Water Center and the Earth Institute.  Professor Lall and his colleagues spoke about global freshwater scarcity and the scale of human impact on the water landscape that must be seen as a key global challenge to sustainability in the 21st century.  The crisis has been “diluted” in many academic and development circles, but scientists and policy makers must begin to focus more heavily on demand and consumption of this “common pool resource” (especially in agriculture) and foster new management techniques to address a growing global population and climate change.

Planning is currently underway for the 2008/2009 Earth Institute Seminars on Sustainable Development series.  Please join our mailing list to receive Earth Institute updates and news on upcoming events by emailing Amanda Christie at  Also visit the Earth Institute website Upcoming Events page, which is updated daily.