State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Dr. Betsee Parker Donates to the Haiti Program

A $125,000 gift from longtime donor and Benefactor Dr. Betsee Parker will benefit the crucial work of the Earth Institute’s Haiti Program.  Tatiana Wah, a professor at the New School in New York (on leave), where she is a renowned scholar and practitioner of Haitian economic and social development, leads the Haiti program with Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs.  Tatiana and Jeff advise the Government of Haiti on a range of strategic issues and have prepared several key documents for the government during the past year, both before and after the earthquake. Professor Sachs is also advising the United Nations Secretary-General and United Nations agencies on Haiti-related issues, including in the post-earthquake crisis.

Across Columbia University, there is considerable enthusiasm on the part of many faculty, students, and staff to engage in the long term in integrated research, teaching, and practice, including training, capacity development, program development and implementation, and joint learning with Haitian colleagues. Areas of engagement include health and nutrition, agriculture and forestry, water and energy management, poverty alleviation, ecosystem health and restoration, disaster mitigation, urban and rural development, and climate.

An Earth Institute Haiti Reconstruction Task Force was established in late January to help coordinate activities across the Earth Institute and ensure appropriate linkages with other Columbia University initiatives. A wide range of efforts have been undertaken by the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, the School of International and Public Affairs, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Teacher’s College, The Earth Institute and other University groups and partners.

During the past few months, the Task Force has addressed a range of issues related to continuing seismic risks and other hazards, identification of recovery and reconstruction needs, coordination of agricultural assistance, integration of ecological restoration approaches into reconstruction plans, and capacity building in governmental, nongovernmental and academic sectors. In the course of these efforts, it has become evident that a formal Columbia University presence in Haiti would greatly facilitate coordination of current and planned activities and could potentially enable a much broader set of important long-term initiatives in support of sustainable development in Haiti.

The Haiti Regeneration Initiative, which  involves the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Tropical Agriculture and the Rural Environment Program and the Columbia Water Center, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, works with the Haitian government to restore ecosystems and livelihoods based on sustainable natural resource management tools. Additionally, the Mailman School of Public Health’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness and external collaborators such as Partners in Health and NYU Medical Center provide critical strategic guidance to government and identify potential problems, gaps and opportunities for synergy.

Dr. Parker is no stranger to disaster situations.  She served as head chaplain of 70 volunteer clergy members ministering at Ground Zero, and was awarded two doctor of humanity degrees, one from New York University and the other from Niagara University, for her heroic efforts.  We are fortunate that she has chosen to support the work of our Haiti Program–work that is also generously funded by the Green Family Foundation.  Thanks to both of them, the Earth Institute’s important efforts in Haiti will continue to make a positive impact in the lives of the people of the country.

If you have an interest in supporting the Earth Institute’s efforts toward long-term development and reconstruction in Haiti, please contact Gregory Fienhold at or (212) 854-3035.  You can also make an online donation.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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