Featured C+Ser: Josh Gellers

GellersThe inter-annual slosh of warm water in the Pacific Ocean known as El Niño can have numerous impacts. It ups the odds of rain in Peru and Ecuador, drought in Australia and cool weather in the Southeast U.S.

Those impacts have inspired scientists to improve their predictions and understand what those impacts mean for society. That includes C+S alum Josh Gellers, who got his climate feet wet with the human side of El Niño, particularly its threat to national security.

That eventually propelled him to C+S and his current work on environmental rights as a professor at the University of North Florida.

“C+S taught me the value of leveraging the unique skills and experiences of those outside my disciplinary silo to produce exciting and important work centered on climate change,” Gellers said. “The team-based experiences I had while a C+S student prepared me for later interdisciplinary research conducted during my doctoral program in which I worked alongside engineers, chemists, and social scientists.”

That work involved three disparate projects, one looking at desalination, another that was basically a buddy system for sustainable cities and the final one focused on environmental rights in Nepal and Sri Lanka. The latter formed the basis for his thesis and current research at the University of North Florida, which he joined in August.  Though he became interested in environmental rights after taking an environmental law class during his doctoral studies, Gellers states that “the seeds of this interest were planted during [his] time in the C+S course Managing and Adapting to Climate, which highlighted the role political institutions play in addressing climate risk.”

Gellers interest now lies in analyzing the efficacy of these rights in terms of their ability to promote environmental justice as well as identifying social, political and economic factors that limit their implementation. With this research Gellers has created the Enviro Rights Map, a Google-maps based visualization tool that categorizes environmental rights across the globe.

In the broad sense says Gellers, “climate and society is the acknowledgement of the relationship between and integration of science and humanity.” With that in mind, Gellers came into the C+S program wanting to be a “political scientist who really understood climate from a scientific perspective.” And says Gellers “I graduated with the confidence that I achieved that goal”

Oh, and he’s also a LEED Green Associate so if you need advice on how to green your building, he can help.

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