J.B Ruhl




J.B. is the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law at Vanderbilt University, Director of Vanderbilt's Program on Law and Innovation, and Co-Director of Vanderbilt's Energy, Environment, and Land Use Program. His expertise lies in environmental, natural resources, and property law, and his research focuses on climate change adaptation, ecosystem services, and adaptive governance. J.B. earned his BA and JD from the University of Virginia, his LLM in Environmental Law from George Washington University, and his PhD in Geography from Southern Illinois University.

At THE NEW INSTITUTE, J.B. is involved in the program “Governing the Planetary Commons: A Focus on the Amazon”. He will be joining us in May 2024.

  • What gives you hope?
    As I look out my office window onto the university campus, watching students and faculty colleagues as they walk by laughing, debating, thinking, on their way to make themselves and the world better, it gives me hope that there is a force at work somehow connecting many of us for the greater good and that we will prevail.

  • How does change happen?
    I wish I knew! Change is all that happens. Change can't not happen. We are along for the ride and sometimes get to spark or steer change, but mostly change happens to us. What we do with change – how we ride it – is what makes life exciting.

  • What are you grateful for?
    Modern medicine – I'd be in bad shape or long gone without the advancements the medical profession has made.


Governing complexity: Integrating science, governance, and law to manage accelerating change in the globalized commons (with Cosens, B., Soininen, N., et al.), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021

Untapped capacity for resilience in environmental law (with Garmestani, A., Chaffin, B.C., et al.), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019

Transformative environmental governance (with Chaffin, B.C., Garmestani, A., et al.), Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2016

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