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Bakker headshot cropped bw 2Bio: Dr. Karen Bakker is Professor, Canada Research Chair and Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on environmental governance and innovation.

The author of over 100 publications, Karen was awarded her PhD in 1999 from the School of Geography and Environment at Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Fluent in French and Spanish, she has conducted fieldwork in over a dozen countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Karen is a Board member of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the NRC Council, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies.  She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including Stanford University’s Annenberg Fellowship in Communication, Stanford University’s Cox Visiting Professorship, a SSHRC Impact Award, a Trudeau Foundation fellowship, and a Killam Faculty Research Award.

Karen collaborates with a range of international organizations on policy issues (including the OECD, UNDP, and UNEP), and also advises digital tech companies in Canada and the US.

She was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2011, and inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in 2014.

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January 2020: New UNEP collaboration and publications

For the past several years I’ve been working on a major new initiative on digital technologies and environmental governance. Currently I’m collaborating with David Jensen (UNEP) and a number of other international organizations on a ‘digital ecosystem for Earth’. We’ve published a series of articles on Medium exploring potential for globalized digital environmental governance.

Our first article sets out priorities for global environmental governance to “go digital.” Despite the numerous potential pitfalls, we believe that we are at a pivotal moment in history: mobilizing the tools of the Digital Age to address our most pressing environmental threats will be critical for ensuring a more sustainable future. We’re keen on engaging a broad range of views, so we have framed our article with a question: “Are these the 20 top priorities for a digital ecosystem for Earth in 2020?”

Our second article calls on public, private, civil society and international actors to take deliberate action and collaborate to enable a global digital ecosystem for the planet, mobilizing infrastructure, software, and data analytics to generate real-time insights that can power the structural transformations needed to achieve sustainable development goals. We highlight 20 of the most important international initiatives that are moving the “digital ecosystem for Earth” ahead in 2020.

If you prefer a PDF version, download a document containing all of our UNEP-UBC co-authored articles here.

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June 2019

Delighted to be named to Canada’s NRC Council. The NRC is Canada’s largest federal government research and technology organization, overseen by the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

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Spring 2019

Courtenay Crane has just launched our new portal: waterteachings.com. Courtenay is the Media Manager for the Decolonizing Water Project at UBC. She has a degree in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Geography from UBC and a diploma in Film Production from Vancouver Film School. Courtenay is Anishinaabekwe, a member of the Key First Nation, in Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. Congrats Courtenay!

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Fall 2018

Delighted that I’ll be joining the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies. The CCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports independent, authoritative, and evidence-based expert assessments that inform public policy development in Canada.

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Summer 2018

Smart Earth Project: How can the tools of the Information Age be used to solve the challenges of the Anthropocene? I’ve recently started a new project on tech innovation and environmental governance, focusing on the evolution of conservation in response to environmental sensing and emerging technologies.  Check out our recently published meta-review:

Bakker, K. and M. Ritts. 2018. Smart Earth: A meta-review and implications for environmental governance. Global Environmental Change. 52: 201 – 211.  (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378017313730)

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Spring 2018

New publication out with Jenn Baka (Penn State), Kate Neville (University of Toronto) and Erika Weinthal) Duke on our hydraulic fracturing research:

Baka, J., K. Neville, E. Weinthal, and K. Bakker. 2018. Policy Mobilities and Agenda-Setting at the Energy-Water Nexus: Constructing and Maintaining a Policy Monopoly in US Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation. Review of Policy Research. 35(3), 439 – 465. (DOI) – 10.1111/ropr.12287

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Winter 2017

Review article on the governance of unconventional energy:

Neville, K., Baka, J., Gamper-Rabindran, S., Bakker, K., Andreasson, S., Vengosh, A., Lin, A., Nem Singh, J., and Weinthal, E. 2017. Debating unconventional energy: Social, political and economic implications. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 42, 241-266.

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Summer 2017

Our Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law team was just awarded a SSHRC Impact Award! Check out the full list of finalists here.

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Spring 2017

Delighted that I’ll be joining the Board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development! IISD is an independent think tank working on a broad range of sustainability issues.

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November 2016

Great new book on Water Governance in Canada just out! Congrats to editors Steve Renzetti and Diane Dupont at Brock University, who lead the Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (of which our Program on Water Governance is a member).

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October 2016

I’m honoured to be one of the invited speakers at Banff Forum 2016. And equally honoured to be chairing a session at the UNESCO Monitoring Mission on Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP). At the request of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, UNESCO is studying whether to designate the WBNP a World Heritage Site in Danger.

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September 2016

Our $2.4M SSHRC Partnership Grant was just funded! Here’s the full list of successful grants from across Canada.

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August 2016

A collective of 350+ Canadian scholars has signed a Statement of Concern on Site C: a major hydro-electricity project in early stages of construction in north-eastern British Columbia. For more information: www.sitecstatement.org.

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August 2015: My sabbatical is just starting: I’ll be based at Stanford’s Centre for the Applied Study of Behavioural Sciences for the academic year. I’ll be cross-appointed with the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences as a Cox Visiting Professor. During the coming 12 months, I won’t be posting regularly – taking a hiatus!

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Check out the updates to our Program on Water Governance website: including our new publications on water security in Canada.

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May 2015: Exciting news! My new online course just launched on the Harvard/MIT EdX platform. The interdisciplinary course is titled “Urban Water: Innovations for Environmental Sustainability.” The free course uses documentary-style videos to feature cutting-edge innovators working on a variety of urban water issues. Sign up here.

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Water Without Borders coverCheck out my latest book: a collection of essays from leading water experts across North America: Water Without Borders (University of Toronto Press). The royalties are being donated to the WaterKeeper Alliance. Many thanks to the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation for their support of this project.