Spring 2024 Courses

Food Systems and Climate Interactions

Instructors: Ruth Defries & Jessica Fanzo
The Climate School

This graduate-level course provides an overview of current and future anthropogenic climate change impacts on food systems and vice versa. The first half of the course will explore the relationship between climate change impacts across food systems and how we grow, transport, process, and consume food impact climate and environmental change. The second half of the course will explore mitigation and adaptation measures across food systems. Throughout the course, we will undertake deep-dive case studies to provide local context to this complex relationship between climate change and food.  

Past Courses

EESC9930G001: Threats to Urban Food Security: Climate, Cost, and COVID

Meets: Thursdays, 4:30-5:45, virtual
Instructors: Lisa Goddard, Weston Anderson, Cascade Tuholske

EHSC8303P001: Food Security, Plant Biology, Climate Change and Public Health

Meets: Tuesday / Thursday, 10:00-11:20, virtual
Instructor: Lew Ziska

HPMN8206P001: Food Law and Policy

Meets: Wednesdays, 1:00-2:30, virtual
Instructor: Sara Abiola

PUAF6411U001: Global Food Systems

Meets: Tuesdays, 4:10-6:00, virtual
Instructor: Glenn Denning

HPMN8589P001: Food Justice Movement

Meets: Thursdays, 1:00-2:00, virtual
Instructor: Mark Bittman

HPMN8209P001: Race, Public Policy, and the Social Determinants of Health

Meets: Thursdays, 7:00PM-8:30PM, virtual
Instructor: Sara Abiola

Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology

Instructor: Ruth Defries
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

This one-credit seminar is designed for PhD students from any department in any school at Columbia University. We will read contemporary literature and examine case studies on designing, conducting, and communicating research projects that contribute to solutions to climate change and related problems of the Anthropocene. PhD students will have the opportunity to share their research and reflect on how it might contribute to solutions.


Instructor: Manuela Orjuela
School of Public Health

Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development

Instructor: Lisa Sachs
School of International and Public Affairs

The guiding questions behind the course are: How can extractive industry investments be leveraged for sustainable and equitable development, particularly in low-income resource-rich countries? What is the international, national and regional regulatory framework under which such investments are made? Who are the stakeholders, and what are their respective interests, roles, responsibilities and opportunities? How can the challenges of poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and governance be addressed in an integrated, multi-stakeholder framework for extractive industry investments that promotes sustainable development, respects the profitability of private-sector investments, and builds the mutual trust needed for long-term investments? The course covers the inter-related challenges of governance (fair and efficient negotiations, contracts, policy and planning framework, sound resource management, effective institutions), infrastructure (concession arrangements for shared platforms, corridor development), economic diversification (industrial policy, training, local procurement), environmental management (climate change resilience and adaptation, avoidance and management of catastrophic environmental events), and economic development (budgetary processes and tools, community engagement, integrated approaches to poverty alleviation at the local and national levels). Students who are interested in registering for this course should e-mail the instructor for permission.

Food, Public Health & Public Policy

Instructor: Anne Paxton
The Climate School

The course will provide an introduction to the science, policy, politics, and economics related to food as a critical element of public health. The course will have a primary focus on the US, but will include a global perspective. Students will learn and apply the fundamentals of public health scientific research methods and theoretical approaches to assessing the food landscape though a public health lens. In addition, the course will cover how nutrition – at first glance a matter of individual choice – is determined by an interconnected system of socio-economic-environmental influences, and is influenced by a multitude of stakeholders engaged in policymaking processes. The course will be structured into four “themes”: 1) Why food is a public health priority, 2) Evidence, causal inference and measurement and its role in understanding and designing public health research on food, 3) The food environment, and 4) Change agents and levers: individuals, policy, and politics in food and public health. The course will use a systems thinking approach and systems thinking tools to examine and understand the interconnectedness of the social, economic, environmental, political and economic influences and consequences that affect food and public health. This course partially fulfills the Science Requirement as a science course for non-science majors.

Management and Development of Water Systems

Instructor: Upmanu Lall

Decision analytic framework for operating, managing, and planning water systems, considering changing climate, values and needs. Public and private sector models explored through US-international case studies on topics ranging from integrated watershed management to the analysis of specific projects for flood mitigation, water and wastewater treatment, or distribution system evaluation and improvement.

Microeconomics and Policy Analysis

Instructor: Rob Hartley
School of Social Work

Microeconomics and Policy Analysis is the first course in a year-long sequence designed for social work master's students in the policy practice concentration. Students learn economic theories and their applications to public policy. Topics include consumer preferences, utility maximization, behavioral responses, production, technology, scale, cost minimization, market structure, and the role of institutions.

Nutritional Epidemiology

Instructor: Sandra Albrecht
School of Public Health

The course introduces students to key concepts and methods in Nutritional Epidemiology to equip them with the tools to design, analyze, interpret, and critically evaluate population-based nutrition research. There is an increasing awareness that food and nutrition play an important role in the etiology of disease states. However, study limitations pose challenges for the interpretation and implementation of many findings. Examples from the literature will be used to teach students about various aspects of nutritional epidemiology, including assessment of dietary intake, physical activity, and body composition; and issues in the analysis and interpretation of nutritional data in epidemiological studies.

Professional Development in Public Health

Instructor: Anne Paxton
School of Public Health

Sustainable Policy and Development

Instructor: Glenn Denning
School of International and Public Affairs

With the world at 7.5 billion people and a current annual GDP of over US$70 trillion, human impacts on the environment have already reached dangerous levels. By 2050 there may well be 9 billion people and global GDP of more than US$250 trillion. The challenges of governance for sustainable development in a globalizing world are real and many, with growing demands for participation in decision making in every country. National governments must coordinate policy development and implementation with diverse actors -- businesses, local governments, regional / international institutions, and civil society organizations. The world urgently needs the practice of sustainable development to address the simultaneous challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining local and planetary life systems. Leaders of 193 countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on September 25, 2015. The challenges of adopting the sustainable development agenda are many. Feasible pathways to long-term sustainability are complex, subject to technological and political uncertainties, and requiring substantial resources. Sound policy-making and effective execution in each country requires a long-term approach that integrates strategies vis-à-vis many development challenges, including institutional, financial, social and environmental. The broad goal of this course is to introduce students to sustainable development thinking and practice, and to examine the diversity of ways that select countries are meeting the challenges of sustainable development.

Water Governance

Instructor: Michael Puma
School of Professional Studies

In "Water Governance", we explore the political, social, economic, and administrative systems that affect the use, development, and management of water resources.  Students are introduced to current themes that influence water governance including sustainable development, integrated water resource management, water rights and pricing, corruption, and equity for marginalized groups.  These themes are explored at the local, national, and international levels to provide students with a broad understanding of water governance issues.