State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Student Complements Classroom Learning with Hydrofracking Policy Experience: Part III

MPA in Environmental Science and Policy student Josh Garrett reflects on his semester as an intern at Earthjustice.

Over the course of this past semester, we were following MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) student Josh Garrett, focusing on his role as a volunteer policy analyst at the non-profit environmental law firm, Earthjustice. Josh’s main task as an intern focused on hydrofracking initiatives is doing extensive legal research to help formulate legal strategies as they relate to existing environmental policies. As his internship at Earthjustice drew to a close, Josh’s responsibilities involved researching pollutants released from agricultural feedlots, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CFAOs) in support of legal strategies to win better regulation of these pollutants.

While working on his various projects throughout the semester, Josh was able to witness firsthand the determination of organizations like Earthjustice, who play an invaluable role in the formation and enforcement of environmental policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

“Realistically, legal action taken by Earthjustice or any other environmental organization on this particular issue would be something of a long shot, as it would involve the reversal of federal court rulings or revisiting issues in those rulings,” says Josh. “Yet that long shot holds symbolic value, as it represents the tenacious dedication of the people at environmental organizations around the country.  Faced with underfunded enforcement agencies, legislative and regulatory exemptions granted to polluting industries, and the massive wealth and political clout of anti-regulation companies and organizations, groups like Earthjustice are exhausting every option to make our nation a healthier and more sustainable place to live.”

Reflecting on his time at Earthjustice, Josh noted that the most rewarding part of being a policy analysis intern was learning about the interdependence of environmental policy and environmental legal action because “environmental champions in the legal system” examine which policies are and are not effective, then taking action to fix the ineffective policies.

“I strongly recommend that policy students and professionals make an effort to get to know the language and structure of environmental law and that law students and lawyers reciprocate,” stated Josh. “The better these two groups understand each other and the systems they work within, the more effective environmental policies and regulations will be in the future.”

Josh Garrett graduated from the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program in May 2012. He hopes to work in the field of renewable energy or climate change, namely in a position that allows him to exercise his communication skills that he learned as an undergraduate theater major and honed as a student in the ESP program.

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. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.

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