Aarti Arora: Connecting Agriculture, Climate, and Social Vulnerability
Columbia Climate School’s inaugural class of students will don their blue caps and robes for Commencement and Class Day this week. But while classes may be over, the students will be working at a variety of exciting internships this summer before officially graduating in August.
Aarti Arora, one such student in the Climate School’s Climate and Society program, will spend her summer interning at NASA headquarters, working on a project to measure social vulnerability from climate change. Below, she tells us more about her internship and her plans for after graduation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got interested in studying climate?
Prior to joining the Climate and Society program, I did a degree in archaeology and an independent study in geoarchaeology and geochemistry. I was really interested in the ways that through agriculture, humans have impacted our soils and landscapes. Soils are a potential climate mitigation strategy and I wanted to learn more about the climate system so that I can do work connecting soil and agriculture with climate.
Where are you interning this summer? What will the work entail, and what attracted you to this area of work?
I am interning at NASA headquarters this summer on a team focused on international water strategy. In this role I’ll be working on social vulnerability and measuring the outcomes of their work. What drew me to the internship is that they’re working to address current impacts people face because of climate, and how to translate vulnerability data to policy makers.
How did the Climate and Society program help to prepare you for this role?
There are several experiences that helped prepare me for this position. For my graduate research assistantship, I worked with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society on their final impact reporting for the ACToday project; in that role I’ve learned how to build the data collection system that makes showing the impact of humanitarian work possible. I also took the Climate and Society elective on Climate Mobility, and for that class I wrote a paper and presented a poster on social vulnerability surrounding Lake Victoria and its impact on regional migration through 2050. Finally, in our Applications in Climate and Society class, we had a day of speakers who talked about the ethics of humanitarian work and I have learned so much from them that day and in my continued conversations with them.
What are you hoping to learn or gain from your internship?
The two things I’m hoping to get out of this internship are a better understanding of how to translate climate information and data to policy makers, and how to focus research on addressing both climate’s current social impacts and potentially preventing future impacts.
How does this internship align with your career goals? What do you hope to do after graduation?
My plan is to apply for a PhD this summer, and I hope to do work that connects soil, agriculture, and climate together. Soil mitigation techniques are already informing climate policy and this internship will really help me do the translation work from science to policy better. This internship is also an opportunity to continue to work on social vulnerability: agriculture is highly sensitive to climate change and I think we should be simultaneously ensuring that the over one billion people working in that sector have better livelihoods, addressing food security, and ways that agriculture and soil can help mitigate climate change.