Teaching

I see undergraduate teaching and graduate supervision as the most engaging and important parts of what I do. I view them as opportunities to open up worlds of possibility for students, who generally arrive with enthusiasm and determination to create positive change, but need the tools to achieve this. This is an exciting time to study political ecology:  societies are changing all the time—we have the potential for real dynamism. Addressing climate change will change our societies, but how it will do so is not predetermined: they could change to become more unequal, violent and environmentally destructive, or they could change to become more egalitarian, sustainable and vibrant. No doubt there will be trends in both directions. However, the more people seek to understand what changes need to happen, and to participate in making those changes happen, the more likely that society will change in ways that reflect their interests.  So in my view this is an incredibly important time to study political ecology, and to participate in creating solutions to environmental problems.

In my teaching I seek to help students develop the skills and understanding to do this. These are primarily skills of critical analysis and effective communication, but these need to be embedded in and guided by a robust understanding of the social, political and economic institutions we have inherited; their logics, possibilities and limitations, and how they might be changed to render them more conducive to ecological and social flourishing. These are not easy skills and understandings to develop, but their transformative potential rewards those who do.

Some of the most interesting teaching I have done involves innovative interdisciplinary collaboration. This has included developing a class with Engineering faculty that brought engineering and environmental studies students together to enhance collaborative skills on tough problems that have both technological and social and political elements, such as energy system transformation (see here). I have also collaborated with other social sciences faculty to develop a course focusing on providing students with experience working with community-based not for profit organizations (see here), and developed a course that provides students with the opportunity to do research of direct relevance to organizations seeking to address the challenges that mitigating climate change pose to communities (Victoria News, Dec 2012).

My commitment to teaching was recognized by the 2009 Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Teaching Excellence.

I regularly teach the following classes:
ES 200: Introduction to Environmental Studies
ES 301: Political Ecology
ES 402: Global Issues in Sustainability
ES 405: Climate, Energy and Politics
ES 580: The Political Ecology of Transformation

photo credit: Mathew Murray

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