karen bakker

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Bridging the natural & social sciences at the nexus of political ecology, political economy & environmental science.

Research

Environmental governance and digital innovation is the major focus of my current research. While at Stanford on sabbatical in 2015/2016, I began my work on tech innovation and environmental governance, focusing on the evolution of conservation in response to environmental sensing and emerging technologies.

Committed to interdisciplinarity, I collaborate with engineers, and with natural, social and medical scientists on a range of research projects. My starting point for many of these projects is the insight that environmental processes and social practices (broadly defined, including economic, social and cultural dimensions) are mutually constituted.

I conduct research all over the world; most of my fieldwork has taken place in North America, Latin America, Europe, and south-east Asia (over a dozen countries to date).

Current research interests include: water infrastructure governance;  water security (particularly landscape dimensions); rescaling environmental (and particularly water) governance; the securitization of the environment (particularly at the water-energy-food security nexus); watershed health (and eco-health more generally); emergent forms of environmental governance, particularly in Latin America; sustainability and ecopolitics; Indigenous water governance.

I have a strong commitment to policy, and regularly make contributions to policy debates.

Prospective students are very welcome to get in touch. I currently supervise students in  UBC’s Department of Geography as well as the graduate interdisciplinary environmental studies program at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability.

Projects

Publications

I publish in several fields, including environmental science and environmental studies, geography, development studies, and urban studies. I have published in Science, Global Environmental Change, Review of International Political Economy, and World Development.

Recent Articles (selected examples)

Ritts, M.  and K. Bakker. (2021) “Conservation acoustics: Animal sounds, audible natures, cheap nature.” Geoforum 124: 144-155. View here.

Robb, D. and K. Bakker. 2020. Planetary Voyeurism. Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture: LA + GEO. November. 12, 50-55. View here.

Baka, J., Hesse, A., Neville, K. J., Weinthal, E., & Bakker, K. 2020. Disclosing Influence: Hydraulic fracturing, interest groups, and state policy processes in the United States. Energy Research & Social Science, 70, 101734. View here.

Kallis, G., Demaria, F., and Bakker, K. 2019. “Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. 2, no. 3 (2019): 431-450. View here.

Diver, S., Ahrens, D., Arbit, T., and K. Bakker. 2019. Entangling Colonial Entanglements: “Treatment as a State” Policy for Indigenous water co-governance. Global Environmental Politics. View here

Bakker, K and M. Ritts. (2018). Smart Earth: A meta-review and implications for environmental governance. Global Environmental Change. 52: 201 — 211. View here.

For more publications, visit my Google Scholar page here.

Policy

I believe that academics should engage directly with issues of public concern (conjoined with the pursuit of excellence in research), and make credible contributions to policy and public debate.

As Director of the Program on Water Governance, I work with a team of researchers, translating the results of academic research into formats accessible to policy makers and the general public.

I am a passionate believer in the importance of academic contributions to public debate. My work has appeared in the Hill Times, Globe and Mail, New York Times,the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Independent, Huffington Post, Sunday Times, and on Good Morning America.

Within Canada I have worked with

Scientific Advisory Committee, Council of Canadian Academies (2018)

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (2011)

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (2010)

Institute for Research on Public Policy (2008)

Conference Board of Canada (2007)

Fraser Basin Council (2007)

Natural Resources Canada (2006)

Gordon Foundation Freshwater Advisory Group (2005?07)

Internationally I have worked with

Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) (2021)

Internet Governance Forum: Policy Network on the Environment (2021)

Future Earth/Sustainability in the Digital Age (2020)

United Nations Environment Program (2020)

International Institute for Sustainable Development (2016 – present)

UK Department for International Development (2012)

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (2010)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2009)

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2009)

The Water Dialogues (2009)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2005)

Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2003)

Foro del Sur, Bolivia (2002)

Mvula Trust, South Africa (1998)

CARE Cambodia (1997)

NGO Forum on Cambodia (1997)

Policy Publications

Material Worlds Redux: Mobilizing Materiality within Critical Resource Geography

2021.07.13

Disclosing Influence: Hydraulic fracturing, interest groups, and state policy processes in the United States

2020.12.01

New forms: Anthropocene Festivals and experimental environmental governance

2019.11.26

Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places

2019.08.21

Rendering Technical, Rendering Sacred: The Politics of Hydroelectric Development on British Columbia’s Saaghii Naachii/Peace River

2019.08.01

Engaging Colonial Entanglements: “Treatment as a State” Policy for Indigenous Water Co-Governance

2019.08.01

Agenda-Setting at the Energy-Water Nexus: Constructing and Maintaining a Policy Monopoly in U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation

2018.04.10

Indigenous Peoples and Water Governance in Canada: Regulatory Injustice and Prospects for Reform (In book: Water Justice)

2018.01.01

The role of science-policy interface in sustainable urban water transitions: Lessons from Rotterdam

2017.07.01

Debating Unconventional Energy: Social, Political, and Economic Implications

2017.06.21

The Business of Water (In book: Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Water Policy)

2016.12.01

Transcending Borders Through Postcolonial Water Governance? Indigenous Water Governance Across the Canada-US Border

2016.11.01

Canadian Drinking Water Policy: Jurisdictional Variation in the Context of Decentralized Water Governance (In book: Water Policy and Governance in Canada)

2016.10.31

Navigating the Tensions in Collaborative Watershed Governance: Water Governance and Indigenous Communities in British Columbia, Canada

2016.07.01

Microbial risk governance: challenges and opportunities in fresh water management in Canada

2015.06.29

The Neoliberalization of Nature (In book: Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology)

2015.06.01

Not-quite-neoliberal natures in Latin America: An introduction

2015.06.01

Do good fences make good neighbors? Canada-United States Transboundary Water Governance, the Boundary Waters Treaty, and 21st century challenges

2015.01.01

The Eco-Scalar Fix: Rescaling Environmental Governance and the Politics of Ecological Boundaries in Alberta, Canada

2014.01.01

The Governance Dimensions of Water Security: A review

2013.11.13

Debating the ‘post-neoliberal turn’ in Latin America

2013.08.30

The ‘matter of nature’ in economic geography (in book: The New Companion to Economic Geography)

2012.07.20

Water Governance in Canada: Innovation and Fragmentation

2011.04.21

Debating green neoliberalism: The limits of “neoliberal natures”

2010.12.01

The Contradictions in ‘Alternative’ Service Delivery: Governance, Business Models, and Sustainability in Municipal Water Supply

2010.01.01

View my CV