After earning his B.A. in English Literature and Theater from Wesleyan University in 2004, Josh Garrett went on to work in politics, film, advertising, and online energy news prior to joining the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) Class of 2012. After completing his Capstone Workshop project for the program, in which his group had to analyze and create an implementation plan for the FRAC Act of 2011, Josh approached Earthjustice for an internship. He hoped to work at the non-profit environmental law firm’s office in New York City on their hydrofracking initiatives. Josh believes that by exploring the legal side of the very environmental issues and policies that he studies in the MPA-ESP program, his experience with Earthjustice will ultimately make him a stronger policymaker in the future.
1. What organization will you intern with this semester and what will you be doing?
I’m working as a volunteer policy analyst at Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm. So far, I’ve been doing research on regulating pollutants in wastewater used to clear captured air pollutants from the scrubbers on coal power plant smokestacks. This research is in preparation for a case in which the firm will seek stricter limits on the concentration of pollutants, like mercury and selenium, in the wastewater that is released into local waterways after treatment. Over the semester, I expect to do research in support of other cases and hope to help formulate legal strategies as they relate to existing environmental policies.
2. What drew you to work at Earthjustice?
In a word, hydrofracking. I had been very interested in hydrofracking before I started the program, but really became passionate about the negative the environmental impacts of the practice through my workshop, which analyzed and created an implementation plan for the FRAC Act of 2011. I am eager to get involved in formulating policies in New York State and elsewhere that minimize the considerable environmental risks of the practice. Earthjustice has been very active in that area in New York and Pennsylvania (i.e. using clever bus shelter ads around NYC to alert New Yorkers to the threat that hydrofracking poses to their water supply), so I reached out to them and offered my assistance. I hope to begin work on their hydrofracking initiatives very soon.
3. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through the internship?
One important lesson I’ve learned from the master’s program thus far is that environmental policies are crucial to protecting the natural world and public health, but the sad truth is that they are often minimally enforced or not enforced at all. This is where organizations like Earthjustice come in, taking legal action to compel better and/or more complete enforcement of important regulations. I hope to learn about the considerations that go into such legal action, namely how legal strategies are formulated before and during lawsuits. I believe that having hands-on experience and a better understanding of the legal side of environmental policies will make me a better policy analyst and policymaker in the future.
4. What do you like most about your internship?
I love the feeling of being “in the trenches” of the environmental battles going on right now. Earthjustice is on top of so many contemporary environmental issues, and I really enjoy being exposed to them, both directly and indirectly. Much like the MPA-ESP program, the Earthjustice office is full of conscientious people who are dedicated to environmental protection, and they help motivate me to make the best contributions I can to their various projects. Although I have come to consider the International Affairs Building as my second home, it is nice to be back in an office setting one day a week.
5. How do you intend to combine your internship experience and your degree from the MPA-ESP program to further your career?
As I mentioned before, I think that having a deeper understanding of the legal side of environmental issues and policies will go a long way toward making me a better policy analyst and/or policymaker. I expect that my experience at Earthjustice will lead me to create more effective and legally sound environmental policies and policy recommendations. More effective policies would make a more positive impact on public and environmental health and hold up better in court against inevitable legal challenges from affected industries. A main goal for my future career is to have a lasting impact on our society through my contributions to efficient, effective, and long-standing environmental policies.
Students in the MPA in Environmental Science & Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute. Throughout this one year program, students are immersed in courses that combine Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. During the summer semester, students learn the fundamentals of environmental science, while the fall and spring semesters focus on teaching the policy and economics necessary to becoming successful environmental analysts and managers. The 62 students come from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from Sociology to Engineering and come to us from 17 different countries. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.