Geography Prof Awarded Grant to Study Environmental Governance

A new study led by University of Guelph geography professor Ben Bradshaw will look to determine what regulatory systems for protecting the environment are most effective. Funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) was announced Aug. 27.

In the study, Bradshaw and his research team will assess different models of environmental governance to determine best practices for addressing key environmental problems facing Canada and the world. The three-year study will also formalize a partnership of academics and practitioners across Canada.

Funding was announced by the Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder during an event at Brandon University. Holder announced several research projects selected for SSHRC’s Partnership Development Grants (PDG). The Guelph initiative will receive $176,720.

Bradshaw said society’s approach to protecting the environment has undergone a revolution.

“Environmental management used to be primarily the job of the state, but now the state is just one of many actors,” he said. “In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the state’s monopoly over governance being challenged by the increasing influence of private actors, both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations.”

There has been research on novel participants in environmental governance, but Bradshaw said these studies have included little systematic evaluation of these governance models in terms of their ultimate effectiveness.

“Furthermore, past studies have not explicitly served to develop novel environmental governance mechanisms needed to solve major problems posed by complex environmental challenges,” he said.

The partnership includes an oil-and-gas company, a civil society organization, an environmental governance consulting group, an environmental think-tank, and four academics, including Bradshaw and Guelph professor Elizabeth Kurucz, Department of Management.

“This group provides significant leadership in academic and practical environmental governance,” Bradshaw said. “The lessons learned will advance environmental knowledge and practice in Canada.”

Several other research projects selected for Partnership Grants and PDGs include a number of Guelph faculty as co-applicants and collaborators: John Devlin, David Douglas and Ataharul Huq Chowdhury, Environmental Design and Rural Development; Myrna Dawson and Belinda Leach, Sociology and Anthropology; Susan Brown, English and Theatre Studies; Julie Horrocks, Mathematics and Statistics; David Macdonald, Political Science; Rickey Yada, Food Science; and Anne Wilcock, Marketing and Consumer Studies.

John Livernois, interim vice-president (research and external partnerships) said the University is pleased to see strong results from this round of funding.

“The University of Guelph is known for its strength in environmental governance and this partnership grant is well-deserved recognition of that strength. With Ben as the principal investigator and Elizabeth as a key collaborator, the research team is uniquely qualified to find answers and develop innovative solutions to the environmental challenges our country is facing,” he said.

“The success by all of our faculty reflects the depth and quality of our research capacity and demonstrates the effectiveness and applicability of the research taking place at the university.”