The following interview is a part of SkillSpeak, a series of short interviews with SUMA professors, where they share bits of wisdom and knowledge, advising on skills that are crucial for a successful career in sustainability. This week we have Klaus Jacob who teaches Disaster Risk Management and Urban Resilience. The interview was conducted by Mitika Bajpai, SUMANI Vice President & Director of Events.
Name: Klaus Jacob
Academic Background: Ph.D in Geophysics (Univ. Frankfurt, Germany)
Current Professional Title: Special Research Scientist (Emeritus Research Professor), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute, Columbia University. Disaster Risk Management and Urban Resilience Professor, Sustainability Management Masters Program
What field within the sustainability realm do you work in?
I specialize in disaster risk assessment and focus on building sustainable resilience in large cities threatened by sea level rise and climate change. Since 1968, I have been advising government, NGO and private sector stakeholders on climate change adaptation options and providing a sound scientific basis to make climate smart decisions. I focus on urban scales, infrastructure systems and on longer time horizons to balance most stakeholders’ short term approaches. The idea is to come up with sustainable measures, that may include iterative and adaptive methodologies.
What skills have you leveraged on so far, to expand your presence in your field of sustainability?
I have leveraged my Earth Science geological-time-scale perspective to ensure long-term sustainability of communities is fully considered when addressing their short-term needs. A technical skill that I found very useful in my career is the presentation of data in a visual form, specifically GIS. Your visual data can convey a very powerful message, if used in the right context. I also found it integral to balance knowledge with emotions. Don’t ever be afraid to apply your knowledge and voice your opinion.
What are some of the most relevant skill-building opportunities offered by the SUMA program?
The program offers the opportunity to maintain a global vision while attempting local, community-based solutions.
What skills would you advise a future SUMA graduate to develop in order to build credibility within your field of sustainability?
Ensure you have a solid background in one or more technical skills, whether in urban planning or design, environmental science or engineering, climate science, energy, communications, GIS-technologies, economics, or similar disciplines. (Such skills will be valuable to accrue) before you dive into policy or administrative domains, whether on the community, local, national or international level; whether in the private, public, or non-governmental sectors.
These special skills will allow you to:
- Speak with authority and credibility in at least this one field
- Insert these special skills into many other fields that did not even know that they could benefit from these approaches and methods from another discipline. Together they provide a gateway for a holistic long-term approach, that always ought to be the goal, whatever specific project or task you are involved.