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Human Nature Series: Migrants

How the causes and causal analytics of climate crises become problematic and contested due to their links to responsibility, blame and possible response.

Guggenheim Project: Cause and Blame in the Anthropocene

Sahel Village

Local government’s role – the function of political representation – in generating or reducing the current trends in which vulnerable people are migrating out of areas where climate variability is viewed as a driver of outmigration.

Migration, Climate and Local Democracy in Africa: Political Representation under a Changing Sky

Vulnerability and adaptation theory in order to improve understanding of the inter-related concepts of vulnerability and adaptation.

Initiative for Climate Action Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences

The Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI) was a 5-year, 14-country, comparative research and training program, focusing on environmental governance in Africa. The RFGI is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and executed by the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI) Research Programme

Campus-wide research and engagement program at the University of Illinois.

Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy

Film as a medium for conducting research and for communicating research results to policy makers, development practitioners, and affected populations.

Film as Experimental Research and Communication

Democratizing effects of natural resource decentralization reforms and projects.

Local Democracy: Institutional Choice and Recognition in Natural Resource Management

From 1999 through 2008 I ran four comparative research projects from the Institutions and Governance Program at the World Resources Institute under the Environmental Accountability in Africa (EAA) policy-research program. My aim in establishing these programs was simultaneously to 1) conduct basic policy research on the relation between sub-national democracy and the quality of natural resource management, and 2) create a university of research – a higher education program – around this research.

EAA - Environmental Accountability in Africa: Four Comparative Research Programs

For many years I have worked on the structure, politics and dynamics of access to natural resources (see Peluso and Ribot 2003; Ribot 1998). This work began with my doctoral research on access to resources in Senegal’s Charcoal Commodity Chain. It has been the basis of many of the other areas in which I do my research – the work on access led me to focus on local democracy and vulnerability. This research area covers my work on access, forestry, and charcoal commodity chains.

Charcoal/Forests: Access and Commodity Chains

In 1991 I was invited by the Brazilian activist Antonio Rocha Magalhāes to help synthesize the findings presented at a preparatory conference for the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development. The aim of the conference was to raise the profile of drylands at the Rio conference – since most focus was on tropical forests and coasts. The preparatory meeting generated a declaration and my work on the synthesis generated a Cambridge University Press volume on Climate and Social Vulnerability. It also started my ongoing interest in climate and vulnerability studies. This is an ongoing area of my research.

Vulnerability and Climate Change

In what seems like a previous life, I worked on energy and environment issues. I started this through my BA in Physics. I studied physics to understand the environmental effects of different energy technologies. This led to work at the Solar Energy Research Institute in 1980 and 1981 and then at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the early 80s. I came to Berkeley for the job at LBL, but then started a Masters’ degree in the Energy and Resources Group. My energy research led me to my work on charcoal – since I did not want to live life as an appendage to a database (which was the work at LBL) and I saw that most issues around energy conservation and use were not about the technology, but rather had to do with social and policy issues about who had access to the resources and decision making.


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