2018 Porter School - Columbia Cross Border Environmental Tour Challenges and Inspires
A successful learning experience for environmental students from two institutions
The 2018 Porter School of the Environment and Earth Studies (PSEES) - Columbia University Cross Border Environmental Study Tour, which took place in July, saw 19 students, 10 from PSEES and 9 from Columbia University's Earth Institute and Conflict Resolution programs, travelled to Jordan and Israel for one week in each respective country to learn about cross-border environmental management. The tour also addressed matters of environmental management between Israel and Palestinian territories.
With special access granted by Columbia University's partners in Jordan, PSEES students as well as those from Columbia were provided with unique access to government, private-sector, and NGO operators in the fields of agriculture, refugee crisis management, and cross-border environmental work throughout the country, particularly in the Jordan and Yarmouk river valleys.
Through PSEES' partners, Columbia students as well as those from PSEES were granted with a broad, complex portrait of the various environmental and political challenges, conflicts, and solutions throughout the region of Israel and the West Bank.
The selection of students reflected a broad and diverse background themselves, with Arab-Israeli and international students from PSEES and a variety of passport holders representing Columbia. At one point around 20 spoken languages were counted between the various group members.
Highlights from trip included visits to sites of cross-border environmental work between kibbutzim and the Jordanian ministries responsible for agriculture, where pest management is addressed using innovative, biological methods to ensure farmers can produce maximum yields on both sides. The tour met with representatives from Eco-Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian NGO that works on a variety of cross-boundary management issues.
In addition to this, partnerships were formed amongst the students from the diverse backgrounds. This acted as a miniature scale model of the bridge-building collaborative efforts that embodied the more hopeful portions of the trip and carried the group through the challenging realities and experiences that can be hard to come to terms with and face.
The trip was co-lead by Joshua Fisher, faculty of Columbia University's Earth Institute, and Shahar Sadeh, a doctoral candidate at PSEES and faculty at Columbia University's Earth Institute as well. A special thanks to Columbia University and all of their staff for their role in helping PSEES continue this unique study experience.