Bio: 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.
She is a member of the Board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies. She has been a recipient of Stanford University’s Annenberg Fellowship in Communication, Stanford University’s Cox Visiting Professorship, a SSHRC Impact Award, and a Killam Faculty Research Award. She is a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Fluent in French and Spanish, she has conducted fieldwork in over a dozen countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Karen regularly acts as an advisor and consultant for international organizations. She was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2011.
Trained as both a natural and social scientist, I regularly collaborate with engineers, natural and medical scientists on interdisciplinary analyses of environmental governance and sustainability, focusing on fresh water issues. Working across disciplines is sometimes enlightening, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately well worth it. In fact, I believe it’s essential.
Some of my research takes place in Canada, but I continue to do international fieldwork, as do many of my students. We’ve just finished a major project in Indonesia, and are in the midst of a project on new (post)neoliberal environmental governance in Latin America. My newest project is a seven-year collaborative grant on Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law.
I’m a passionate believer in academic engagement in public and policy debates. So I regularly advise governments, think tanks, and international organizations. Recent examples include authoring a report on water governance for the OECD’s Territorial Review of water governance in Venice, participation in a United Nations-led Expert Consultation on the human right to water, and advising the Canadian government on delegated (or “shared”) water governance strategies. My writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Globe and Mail and Dissent.
Privileged to live in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, I try to live by the adage that ‘those who have much, should give much’, in both big and little ways. A believer in the power of community activism and the importance of community service, I volunteer with several organizations and am involved in the food politics movement. In my personal life, I’m a gardener, and a year-round cyclist (admittedly easier than in most parts of Canada). Last but not least, I have two beautiful daughters and an inspiring husband who keep me busy (and humble).