Digital innovation and environmental governance. Political economy and political ecology.
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.
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.
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)
Material Worlds Redux: Mobilizing Materiality within Critical Resource Geography
This Handbook provides an essential guide to the study of resources and their role in socio-environmental change. With original contributions from more than 60 authors with expertise in a wide range of resource types and world regions, it offers a toolkit of conceptual and methodological approaches for documenting, analyzing, and reimagining resources and the worlds with which they are entangled.
The volume has an introduction and four thematic sections. The introductory chapter outlines key trajectories for thinking critically with and about resources. Chapters in Section I, "(Un)knowing resources," offer distinct epistemological entry points and approaches for studying resources. Chapters in Section II, "(Un)knowing resource systems," examine the components and logics of the capitalist systems through which resources are made, circulated, consumed, and disposed of, while chapters in Section III, "Doing critical resource geography: Methods, advocacy, and teaching," focus on the practices of critical resource scholarship, exploring the opportunities and challenges of carrying out engaged forms of research and pedagogy. Chapters in Section IV, "Resource-making/world-making," use case studies to illustrate how things are made into resources and how these processes of resource-making transform socio-environmental life.
This vibrant and diverse critical resource scholarship provides an indispensable reference point for researchers, students, and practitioners interested in understanding how resources matter to the world and to the systems, conflicts, and debates that make and remake it.
Bridge, G. and K. Bakker. Material Worlds Redux. 2021. In Eds. Himley, M., Havice, E., and Valdivia, G. Handbook of Critical Resource Geography. Routledge.
Disclosing Influence: Hydraulic fracturing, interest groups, and state policy processes in the United States
This paper examines copy-and-paste regulating in hydraulic fracturing (HF) fluid disclosure regulation across US states. Using text analysis, cluster analysis and document coding, we compare HF regulations of twenty-nine states and two “model bills” drafted by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF, an environmental NGO). In contrast to recent studies that have documented ALEC's widespread influence across policy domains, we find limited evidence of ALEC influence in HF fluid disclosure regulations. Instead, elements of the EDF bill are more prevalent across state regulations. Yet, text similarity scores between states are higher than similarity scores between states and the EDF bill. In particular, Colorado and to a lesser extent Pennsylvania functioned as leader states for other states to follow. This indicates that state-to-state communication was a more influential channel of policy diffusion than interest group model bills in this instance. Future research should better examine processes of information sharing amongst state oil and gas regulators as regulatory text is but one channel of policy diffusion. The cluster analysis also reveals that contiguous states, often within the same shale basins, frequently have different regulations. This finding calls for a reconsideration of the current state-led environmental regulatory framework for HF, which has resulted in a patchwork of regulations across the US. Finally, through the use of novel text analysis tools, this paper adds methodological diversity to the study of policy diffusion within energy policy.
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.
Kate J. Neville
New forms: Anthropocene Festivals and experimental environmental governance
This paper is about the “Anthropocene Festival,” a concept we develop to explore proliferating and multi-faceted arts-based events, happenings, unconferences, and workshops which collectively model novel forms of environmental governance. The Anthropocene Festival mobilizes disruptive and creative possibilities at the juncture of digital and ecological life, while simultaneously embodying developments in the institutional form of green capitalism. To argue these points, we locate the Anthropocene Festival within a proliferation of new institutional environmentalisms, including biennales, hackathons, and initiatives in the neoliberal university. Next, we provide a survey of recent examples, observing across them an increasingly hegemonic template of environmental sociality—or model of collective interaction—rooted in digital technologies. Next, we discuss two examples of environmental governance propositions expressive of the Anthropocene Festival ethos: (1) Climate Symphony, a project that uses sonification techniques to facilitate new understandings of climate change, (2) Terra0, an art project which reconceptualizes forest ecology and non-human agency using blockchain technology. We conclude by arguing that the ontological generativity of the Anthropocene Festival arises from the dissenting approaches to conventional models of environmental governance it cultivates, but that the Anthropocene Festival does not necessarily carry a radical political valence because of this.
Ritts, M. and K. Bakker. 2019. New Forms: Anthropocene Festivals and Experimental Environmental Governance. Environment and Planning E, special issue on Environmental Data Infrastructures (Eds. Nost, E., and J. Goldstein). doi.org/10.1177/2514848619886974
Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places
The term ‘décroissance’ (degrowth) signifies a process of political and social transformation that reduces a society's material and energy use while improving the quality of life. Degrowth calls for decolonizing imaginaries and institutions from – in Ursula Le Guin's words – ‘a one-way future consisting only of growth’. Recent scholarship has focused on the ecological and social costs of growth, on policies that may secure prosperity without growth, and the study of grassroots alternatives pre-figuring a post-growth future. There has been limited engagement, however, with the geographical aspects of degrowth. This special issue addresses this gap, looking at the rooted experiences of peoples and collectives rebelling against, and experimenting with alternatives to, growth-based development. Our contributors approach such resurgent or ‘nowtopian’ efforts from a decolonial perspective, focusing on how they defend and produce new places, new subjectivities and new state relations. The stories told span from the Indigenous territories of the Chiapas in Mexico and Adivasi communities in southern India, to the streets of Athens, the centres of power in Turkey and the riverbanks of West Sussex.
2018 Demaria, F., Kallis, G. and K. Bakker. “Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places.” Special Issue of Environment and Planning E.
Rendering Technical, Rendering Sacred: The Politics of Hydroelectric Development on British Columbia’s Saaghii Naachii/Peace River
This article analyzes debates over the Site C Dam on the Saaghii Naachii/Peace River in northeastern British Columbia (BC), Canada. After heated debate over the past several decades, construction on the CN$10 billion hydroelectric project—the largest in the province’s history—recently commenced. The article focuses on debates over the analysis and adjudication of cumulative effects, and concomitant treaty rights infringement, within the environmental review process. The shortcomings of the regulatory review process used to assess cumulative effects are analyzed in two ways: first, by a conventional academic assessment, and second, by a Dunne-Za teaching of the interrelationships between land, water, and animals in the dam-affected region. Through juxtaposing these two modes of analysis, the article engages with scholarship in political ecology and Indigenous political theory.
Behn, C., and K. Bakker. 2019. “Rendering Technical, Rendering Sacred: The politics of hydroelectric development on British Columbia’s Saaghii Naachii/Peace River.” Global Environmental Politics. 19(3), 98 – 119. DOI: doi.org/10.1162/glep_a_00518.
Engaging Colonial Entanglements: “Treatment as a State” Policy for Indigenous Water Co-Governance
In the United States, treatment as a state (TAS) provisions enable eligible Native American tribes to assume the same responsibilities as state governments in setting and implementing water quality standards (WQSs). Following the introduction of TAS through 1987 amendments to the US Clean Water Act (CWA), forty-four US tribes have enacted TAS tribal standards, which may be more stringent than those of neighboring states; can incorporate cultural and/or ceremonial uses; and can be used to influence pollution levels coming from upstream, off-reservation users. To evaluate TAS as a model for Indigenous water co-governance, we examine how Native American tribes are advancing tribal sovereignty and environmental sustainability through TAS, and we engage with conflicting views on whether and how Indigenous self-determination can be advanced through existing bureaucratic and colonial governance systems. We specifically analyze environmental pollutant listings in tribal water quality standards for the forty-four TAS tribes. Findings suggest that TAS tribes are creating more culturally relevant WQSs, which are typically as comprehensive as, and often more stringent than, analogous state regulations. Tribal standards are diverse, and TAS tribes can set standards independently from neighboring states and one another. Further analysis reveals the complexities of TAS policy, whereby colonial entanglements both enable and constrain enhanced Indigenous self-determination.
Sibyl Diver, Daniel Ahrens, Talia Arbit, Karen Bakker; Engaging Colonial Entanglements: “Treatment as a State” Policy for Indigenous Water Co-Governance. Global Environmental Politics 2019; 19 (3): 33–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/glep_a_00517
Agenda-Setting at the Energy-Water Nexus: Constructing and Maintaining a Policy Monopoly in U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation
Despite calls to increase federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing (HF), the U.S. Congress has maintained a regulatory system in which environmental regulatory authority is devolved to the states. We argue that this system is characterized by a long-standing “policy monopoly”: a form of stability in policy agenda-setting in which a specific manner of framing and regulating a policy issue becomes hegemonic. Integrating theories on agenda-setting and environmental discourse analysis, we develop a nuanced conceptualization of policy monopoly that emphasizes the significance of regulatory history, public perceptions, industry–government relations, and environmental “storylines.” We evaluate how a policy monopoly in U.S. HF regulation has been constructed and maintained through a historical analysis of oil and gas regulation and a discourse analysis of eleven select congressional energy committee hearings. This research extends scholarship on agenda-setting by better illuminating the importance of political economic and geographic factors shaping regulatory agendas and outcomes.
2018 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
Kate J. Neville
Indigenous Peoples and Water Governance in Canada: Regulatory Injustice and Prospects for Reform (In book: Water Justice)
This chapter explores two interrelated examples of injustice in access to water for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Injustice, from our perspective, has two main dimensions: limited access to safe water (water security); and exclusion from water governance and management. In Canada, the roots of this injustice run deep. Indigenous peoples in Canada have historically been excluded from water governance by the colonial settler state. To date, the question of whether water is included within Aboriginal title (legal land rights) has not yet been settled by the Canadian courts (Laidlaw and Passelac-Ross, 2010; Phare, 2009). As a result, Indigenous water rights in Canada, with few exceptions, have been treated implicitly within land-focused legal claims. Moreover, historical inequalities have often constrained Indigenous communities’ access to water and exercise of Indigenous rights (Phare, 2009; Simms, 2014; Von der Porton, 2012; Von der Porten and De Loë, 2013a, 2013b). High-risk water systems - systems with major deficiencies, which pose a high risk to water quality - pose a threat to the health of one-third of First Nations people living on reserves (McLaren, 2016; Neegan Burnside Ltd., 2011). In short, stark injustices exist with respect to water for Indigenous communities in Canada. To some degree, this situation is a direct result of Canada’s fragmented system of governance: municipal, provincial and federal governments hold responsibility for different aspects of water management. Provincial governments are largely responsible for fresh water (and delegate drinking water to municipalities), whereas federal responsibilities include a range of issues related to water rights for Indigenous communities. Competing jurisdictional priorities, lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities, and a failure to cooperate have resulted in systemic governance gaps leading to increased risk in water supply systems and widespread underfunding, which some scholars have characterized as institutionalized racism (Mascarenhas, 2007; Murdocca, 2010). These issues are particularly acute in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia (BC). In most of the province, formal treaties were never signed between the Crown and Indigenous communities. This is a significant issue for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the potential for legal recognition of water rights creates the possibility for extensive Indigenous control of water governance. This, however, is currently far from the reality in practice.
2018 Bakker, K., L. Harris, N. Joe, and R. Simms. “Indigenous Peoples and Water Governance in Canada: Regulatory Injustice and Prospects for Reform.” In Water Justice,ed. R. Boelens et al., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 193-209
Leila M. Harris
The role of science-policy interface in sustainable urban water transitions: Lessons from Rotterdam
This paper investigates the role of the science-policy interface in leveraging transitions to sustainable urban water management. The paper presents a case study of the Dutch city of Rotterdam, which is increasingly regarded as a global leader in adaptive and resilient urban water management. The analysis reveals that Rotterdam’s transition has occurred incrementally over the past 15 years, driven by policy entrepreneurs: largely municipal policy makers and policy practitioners. Strategic use of the science-policy interface (SPI) has facilitated the development of innovative solutions to achieve policy goals and created the enabling conditions necessary for transformative change. The Rotterdam case suggests that an effective SPI requires: (1) compelling water narrative; (2) cross-sectoral collaboration; (3) co-production of knowledge; (4) experiential evidence-based learning; (5) strategic use of trusted scientists; (6) fostering networks; and (7) generating business from science-based innovation. Rotterdam’s strategic approach to knowledge and innovation coupled with a new narrative around water sets it apart from many other cities and adds a new dimension to debates regarding enabling factors for advancing sustainable practices. These findings will be of interest to those engaged in urban water management policy and practice, environmental governance, and debates over transitions more broadly.
2017 Dunn, G., R. Brown, J. Bos, and K. Bakker. (2017). “The Role of the Science-Policy Interface in Sustainable Urban Water Transitions: Lessons from Rotterdam.” Environmental Science & Policy. 73: 71-79.
Joannette J. Bos
Debating Unconventional Energy: Social, Political, and Economic Implications
The extraction of unconventional oil and gas—from shale rocks, tight sand, and coalbed formations—is shifting the geographies of fossil fuel production, with complex consequences. Following Jackson et al.’s (1) natural science survey of the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing, this review examines social science literature on unconventional energy. After an overview of the rise of unconventional energy, the review examines energy economics and geopolitics, community mobilization, and state and private regulatory responses. Unconventional energy requires different frames of analysis than conventional energy because of three characteristics: increased drilling density, low-carbon and “clean” energy narratives of natural gas, and distinct ownership and royalty structures. This review points to the need for an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the resulting dynamic, multilevel web of relationships that implicates land, water, food, and climate. Furthermore, the review highlights how scholarship on unconventional energy informs the broader energy landscape and contested energy futures.
2017 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
Kate J. Neville
Jewellord Nem Singh
The Business of Water (In book: Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Water Policy)
Over the past three decades, water supply has become big business, and fierce debates have emerged in many countries over water privatization and water markets. This chapter reviews five dimensions of this debate: (1) the privatization of ownership and management; (2) the commercialization of water management organizations; (3) the environmental valuation and pricing of water; (4) the marketization of exchange mechanisms (“water trading” and “water markets”); and (5) the neoliberalization of governance. The analysis offers an analytical framework within which more structured, comprehensive assessments of market environmentalism—which is multifaceted and highly varied, difficult to implement in practice, and by no means hegemonic—in the water sector might be conducted. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the future of this debate.
2017 Bakker, K. “The Business of Water.” In Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Water Policy,ed. K. Conca and E. Weinthal. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Transcending Borders Through Postcolonial Water Governance? Indigenous Water Governance Across the Canada-US Border
This chapter explores the evolution of transboundary water governance along the Canada-US border. We examine two key examples in two eras of water management across the Canada-US border, separated by more than a century. First, we examine the Boundary Waters Treaty (a bi-national agreement between the federal governments of Canada and the United States), as an emblematic example of the dominant concerns that underpinned (colonial settler) water governance at the turn of the twentieth century, creating the framework in which nation-state governance mechanisms were dominant. Second, we examine the development of Indigenous-led transboundary governing bodies, focusing on the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council. We argue that the YRITWC is emblematic of a new era of transboundary water governance: participatory, and (in an increasing number of cases) Indigenous led – which implies new principles for water governance, involving an expanded network of actors beyond the nation-state.
Norman E.S., Bakker K. (2017) Transcending Borders Through Postcolonial Water Governance? Indigenous Water Governance Across the Canada-US Border. In: Renzetti S., Dupont D. (eds) Water Policy and Governance in Canada. Global Issues in Water Policy, vol 17. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42806-2_8
Canadian Drinking Water Policy: Jurisdictional Variation in the Context of Decentralized Water Governance (In book: Water Policy and Governance in Canada)
This chapter reviews Canada’s approach to drinking water governance, focusing on the regulations, policies, practices and institutions related to the management and provision of drinking water. This review is significant given Canada’s highly decentralized approach to water governance. We critically evaluate the implications of decentralization for drinking water safety, examining both the uptake of voluntary national guidelines across Canadian jurisdictions, as well as application of day-to-day microbial risk assessment and management practices in various agencies in two provinces (Ontario and BC). Learning from these analyses, we identify a high degree of variability, specifically: (1) variation in the uptake of national Drinking Water Quality Guidelines across provinces and territories; and (2) considerable variability in microbial risk assessment and management practices across provinces and between agencies. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of ongoing harmonization and subsidiarity debates, as well as discussions as to whether compliance should be voluntary or legally binding. Our analysis indicates that the Canadian approach has contributed to data gaps and urban-rural disparities, and reduced capacity for integrated decision-making and effective oversight.
2016 Dunn, G., L. Harris, and K. Bakker. “Canadian Drinking Water Policy: Jurisdictional Variation in the Context of Decentralized Water Governance.” In Water Policy and Governance in Canada, vol. 17, ed. S. Renzetti and D. Dupont, 301–20. New York: Springer.
Navigating the Tensions in Collaborative Watershed Governance: Water Governance and Indigenous Communities in British Columbia, Canada
First Nations in British Columbia (BC), Canada, have historically been—and largely continue to be—excluded from colonial governments’ decision-making and management frameworks for fresh water. However, in light of recent legal and legislative changes, and also changes in water governance and policy, there is growing emphasis in scholarship and among legal, policy and advocacy communities on shifting water governance away from a centralized single authority towards an approach that is watershed-based, collaborative, and involves First Nations as central to decision-making processes. Drawing on community-based research, interviews with First Nations natural resource staff and community members, and document review, the paper analyzes the tensions in collaborative water governance, by identifying First Nations’ concerns within the current water governance system and exploring how a move towards collaborative watershed governance may serve to either address, or further entrench, these concerns. This paper concludes with recommendations for collaborative water governance frameworks which are specifically focused on British Columbia, but which have relevance to broader debates over Indigenous water governance.
2016 Simms, R., Harris, L., Bakker, K., and Joe, N. (2016) Navigating the Tensions in Collaborative Watershed Governance: Water Governance and Indigenous Communities in British Columbia, Canada. Geoforum. 6 – 16. DOI 10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.04.005
Leila M. Harris
Microbial risk governance: challenges and opportunities in fresh water management in Canada
This paper analyzes the barriers and opportunities that decentralized water governance regimes pose to effective microbial risk assessment and management for drinking and recreational water quality. The paper presents a case study of Canada (a country whose approach to water governance is among the most decentralized in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]) evaluating microbial governance approaches in British Columbia and Ontario. The analysis is timely for two reasons: (1) relatively little research has been conducted on microbial risk assessment and management from a governance perspective; the literature focuses largely on technical and methodological approaches (such as Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment [QMRA] or Water Safety Plans); (2) 15 years post Walkerton,– little research has examined the implementation of source water protection as a strategy to reduce microbial risk in recreational and drinking water in the context of decentralized water governance. A range of issues are considered, including how decentralized governance might enable or constrain microbial risk assessment and management practices, and how the relationships between decentralized and multi-level governance actors might further deepen the complexity of watershed management, particularly source water protection. The analysis indicates that decentralized water governance in Ontario and BC may contribute to difficulties in effectuating source water protection and other features of a multi-barrier approach. The most significant challenges, as identified by practitioners, relate to the fragmentation of land and water jurisdiction, regulation, institutions and mandates, particularly a lack of coordination (both regulatory and institutional) and limited clarity on roles and responsibilities. Building on this analysis, the paper suggests more effort is required to support proactive institutional arrangements, including: inter- and intra-agency communication across levels of government; master planning and other initiatives to move towards integrated policy development; flexible, responsive policy environments; a governance culture that fosters leadership and collaboration; and holistic problem framing and mobilization of interdisciplinary knowledge.
2015 Dunn, G., Harris, L., Bakker, K.. “Microbial Risk Governance: Challenges and opportunities in freshwater management in Canada.” Canadian Water Resources Association Journal. 40(3), 237-249.
The Neoliberalization of Nature (In book: Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology)
The ‘neoliberalization of nature’ is one of the most controversial topics in contemporary environmental management. The past few decades have witnessed a rapid increase in the involvement of private corporations in resource ownership, biotechnological innovation, and the provision of ecosystem services. Simultaneously, markets (and market proxies) have been deployed as mechanisms of environmental governance at multiple scales. Advocates present these developments as a welcome ‘greening’ of capitalism that will resolve urgent environmental crises, and promise a virtuous fusion of goals of economic growth, efficiency, and environmental conservation. Opponents reject these developments as ‘greenwashing’ of the appropriation of resources and the environmental commons for private profit, which will deepen socio-
2015 Bakker, K. “The Neoliberalization of Nature.” In Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology, ed. G. Bridge, T. Perreault, and J. McCarthy, 446–56. London: Routledge.
Not-quite-neoliberal natures in Latin America: An introduction
This paper introduces the concept of ‘not-quite-neoliberal natures’ in relation to contemporary theoretical debates and Latin American political processes. The phrase is meant to signal both our appreciation of and reservations about theoretical elaborations of neoliberalism, post- neoliberalism, and (post-)neoliberal natures in relation to the wide variety of reforms currently transforming resource governance in Latin America. After reviewing theoretical debates about (post-)neoliberalism and situating them within Latin American history, we present the major themes emerging across the papers in this special issue: (1) the prevalence of concomitant and overlapping political processes, (2) the productivity of tensions and contradictions, particularly with respect to the state-society relationship, and (3) dynamism, or an insistence on the depth and liveliness of ‘context’ and ‘contestation’.
2015 de Freitas, C., A. Marston, and Karen Bakker. “Not-quite-neoliberal natures in Latin America: An introduction.” Geoforum 64: 239-245.
Do good fences make good neighbors? Canada-United States Transboundary Water Governance, the Boundary Waters Treaty, and 21st century challenges
This article analyzes the rescaling of transboundary water governance and explores challenges and opportunities for the twenty-first century. The analysis is grounded in the example of the Canada–United States transboundary water governance regime, and asks two questions: What are the lessons learned since Canada and the United States first signed the Boundary Waters Treaty 100 years ago? And what is the potential of rescaling to influence the tension between the ‘sovereign rights’ of a nation and transboundary water governance protocols based on ‘good neighbourliness’?
2015 Norman, E. and K. Bakker.“Do good fences make good neighbors? Canada-United States Transboundary Water Governance, the Boundary Waters Treaty, and 21st century challenges.” Water International. 40(1), 199-213.
The Eco-Scalar Fix: Rescaling Environmental Governance and the Politics of Ecological Boundaries in Alberta, Canada
This paper engages with recent work in political ecology that explores the ways in which scale is imbricated in environmental governance. Specifically, we analyze the deployment of specific ecological scales as putatively ‘natural’ governance units in rescaling processes. To undertake this analysis, the paper brings two sets of literature into dialogue: (1) political ecology of scale and (2) political economy of rescaling, drawing on theories of uneven development. Building on this literature, we develop the concept of an ecoscalar fix and explore its analytical potential through a case study of the rescaling of water governance in Alberta, Canada. We argue that although the ‘eco-scalar fix’ is usually framed as an apolitical governance change—particularly through the framing of particular scales (ie, the watershed) as ‘natural’—it is often, in fact, a deeply political move that reconfigures power structures and prioritizes some resource uses over others in ways that can entrench, rather than resolve, the crises it was designed to address. Moreover, we suggest that, although watershed governance is often discursively depicted as an environmental strategy (eg, internalizing environmental externalities by aligning decision making with ecological boundaries), it is often articulated with—and undertaken to address challenges that arise through—processes of uneven development.
2014 Cohen, A. and K. Bakker. The eco-scalar fix: Rescaling environmental governance and the politics of ecological boundaries. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. doi:10.1068/d0813.
The Governance Dimensions of Water Security: A review
Water governance is critical to water security, and to the long-term sustainability of the Earth's freshwater systems. This review examines recent debates regarding the governance dimensions of water security, including adaptive governance, polycentric governance, social learning and multi-level governance. The analysis emphasizes the political and institutional dimensions of water governance, and explores the relevance of social power—an overlooked yet important aspect of the water security debate. In addition, the review explores the intersection and potential synergies between water governance perspectives and risk-based approaches to water security, and offers critiques and suggestions for further research questions and agendas
2013 Bakker, K. and C. Morinville ‘The Governance Dimensions of Water Security: A review.’ Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science.371 (2002), 2013011
Debating the ‘post-neoliberal turn’ in Latin America
In this paper, we critically engage with the notion of a ‘post-neoliberal turn’ in Latin America. The analysis interrogates the existence and characteristics of post-neoliberalism as a mode of regulation, and explores the contributions (and limits) of the concept as a means of theorizing political and economic restructuring. We critically synthesize the literature, articulating commonly cited principles and practices of post-neoliberalism according to different political, ideological, and geographical contexts. To generate productive engagement across disciplinary and geographical boundaries, we draw on perspectives from Latin America and on concepts of ‘variegated neoliberalization’ and ‘counter-neoliberalization’ (thereby abstracting from, rather than about, Latin America).
2014 Yates, J. and K. Bakker. Neoliberalism and Post-neoliberalism in Latin America. Progress in Human Geography. 38(1), 62 – 91. (second author: contribution 40%)
The ‘matter of nature’ in economic geography (in book: The New Companion to Economic Geography)
The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography presents students and researchers with a comprehensive overview of the field, put together by a prestigious editorial team, with contributions from an international cast of prominent scholars. Offers a fully revised, expanded, and up-to-date overview, following the successful and highly regarded Companion to Economic Geography published by Blackwell a decade earlier, providing a comprehensive assessment of the field. Takes a prospective as well as retrospective look at the field, reviewing recent developments, recurrent challenges, and emerging agendas. Incorporates diverse perspectives (in terms of specialty, demography and geography) of up and coming scholars, going beyond a focus on Anglo-American research. Encourages authors and researchers to engage with and contextualize their situated perspectives. Explores areas of overlap, dialogues, and (potential) engagement between economic geography and cognate disciplines
2012 Bakker, K. “The ‘matter of nature’ in economic geography.” In Barnes, T., Peck, J. and E. Sheppard (eds.) The New Companion to Economic Geography. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
Water Governance in Canada: Innovation and Fragmentation
This paper explores Canada's approach to water governance. It argues that fragmented governance has had negative impacts on Canada's ability to manage water resources adequately (particularly in the context of urbanization, agriculture and resource extraction), and to deal with new issues (such as climate change). Further, it argues that Canada's highly decentralized approach to water governance creates challenges of integration, coordination and data availability. The paper explores possible future strategies for innovations in water governance that may have the potential to improve water management outcomes.
2011 Bakker, K. and Cook, C. Water governance in Canada: Innovation in the context of fragmentation. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 27(2): 275–289.
Debating green neoliberalism: The limits of “neoliberal natures”
This paper presents a meta-analysis of recent critiques of geographical scholarship on ‘neoliberal natures’. The analysis juxtaposes distinct (and at times divergent) conceptualizations of neoliberalism – as political doctrine, as economic project, as regulatory practice, or as process of governmentalization – and also of nature – as primary commodity, as resource, as ecosystem service, or as socio-natural assemblage. Strategies for developing a more systematic account of the variegation of neoliberal natures are discussed, with the goal of provoking scholars of neoliberal natures to reflect upon their core conceptual and methodological commitments, while contributing to broader debates over neoliberalism and the ‘nature of nature’.
2010 Bakker, K. Debating green neoliberalism: The limits of “neoliberal natures”. Progress in Human Geography,34(6), 715–735.
The Contradictions in ‘Alternative’ Service Delivery: Governance, Business Models, and Sustainability in Municipal Water Supply
Restructuring municipal water supply using ‘alternative service delivery’ models is a growing trend. The author examines potential contradictions between ‘alternative service delivery’ business models, on the one hand, and goals of good governance and sustainability on the other. A case study of water conservation and efficiency programs implemented by municipal water utilities in Canada is used to show that specific alternative service delivery (ASD) models which seek greater distance between management and government can create incentives which deter utilities from pursuing important social and environmental goals. The neoliberal governance reform that commonly accompanies and encourages ASD tends to exacerbate its deficiencies vis-à-vis conservation in the water sector. Still, the prevalent government-led service delivery model can impose trade-offs of its own. Strategic (rather than ideological) improvements in governance can enable municipalities to reap the benefits of a variety of business models (including ASD) without compromising sustainability objectives.
2010 Furlong, K. and Bakker, K. The contradictions of ‘good’ governance: Business Models, Alternative Service Delivery, and Sustainability in Municipal Water Supply. Environment and Planning C 28(2), 349–368.