My research examines the intersection of environmental governance, human security, and environmental justice across diverse landscapes and national contexts. I employ theories of institutional change to explain 1) why certain norms, practices, and policies are accepted as international standards of “best practice” and 2) how these global models affect social and environmental outcomes as they are implemented across various domestic contexts. My goal is to understand whether globally-accepted models of environmental governance can actually enhance human security and environmental sustainability.
Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia (Co-PI)
This project is a joint collaboration between McKenzie Johnson at the University of Illinois and Luz Rodriguez’ research group at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. In 2016, Colombia signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to bring an end to the long-running Colombian conflict. The cessation of hostilities and the onset of the peacebuilding process has generated important questions about how natural resources and the environment will be governed in the post-conflict period.
The goal of the proposed project is two-fold: 1) determine how the implementation of the Peace Agreement will impact local institutional capacity to govern common-pool resources and 2) examine to what extent a focus on natural resource governance in Colombia can contribute to building a stable and lasting peace.
Contesting Carbon Democracy: The Politics of the Bakken Pipeline System (PI)
This project seeks to understand how landowners in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Louisiana experienced the siting and construction of the Bakken Pipeline System (Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline, and Bayou Bridge Pipeline).
The Dakota Access Pipeline made global headlines in 2016 when a group affiliated with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota began a protest to oppose the siting of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Since then, Standing Rock has featured widely in debates about oil and gas pipelines specifically and US energy policy broadly. The experiences of landowners in areas impacted by the pipeline outside North Dakota, specifically Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota have been largely left out of this conversation. Given that agriculture is central to any discussion on US energy policy, this research aims to ensure that Midwestern perspectives are accounted for in ongoing policy debates. The research team is particularly interested in the following questions:
- How did landowners experience the siting and construction of DAPL?
- What are the benefits and risks of DAPL? Who receives the benefits and who is responsible for the risk?
- What do landowners think is missing from the national conversation about pipelines? What could be added to help build consensus?
- How do landowners impacted by DAPL perceive the conflict in North Dakota?
- How do the benefits and risks of a pipeline like DAPL compare to other ongoing energy initiatives – especially wind and solar?
Jennifer Orgill Meyer, Franklin and Marshall College
Heather Cann, Franklin and Marshall College
Environmental Policy, PhD, Duke University
Conservation Biology, MA, Columbia University
Environmental Studies, AB, Vassar College
NRES 589: Nature, Culture, and Society (Every other year, Spring semester)
This course surveys key themes in the field of political ecology. We will take a deep-dive into theories of political ecology – the critical study of nature-society relationships – by exploring scholarship across geography, anthropology, sociology, and political science. Many of the texts included here are foundational readings in studies of nature, culture, and society. The course does not attempt to present a comprehensive review of the political ecology literature. Rather, it is a critical exploration of theories and themes related to nature, political/economy, and culture. This effort will involve reading theorists like Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Neil Smith, Gilles Deleuze, Donna Haraway, and Timothy Ingold, among others, and putting them in conversation with empirical casework in political ecology/human geography. As such, this course examines concepts of power, value, gender, assemblages, networks and meshworks, apparatuses and government, and more-than-humans to theorize about and better understand society-environment linkages and the political/economic/cultural drivers and consequences of global environmental change.
NRES 424: US Environment, Justice, and Policy (Every other year, Spring Semester)
In this course, we will examine US (and global) environmental policy from a justice perspective. Course material will revolve around two primary questions: 1) why do contemporary environmental justice advocates view mainstream environmental policy as “unjust”? 2) How have they worked to integrate justice into US environmental policy, and to what effect? We will broadly survey US environmental policy; evaluate how those policies differentially impact social groups; and theorize how and to what extent EJ can transform US environmental policy. Students should expect to examine connections between environmental and social justice issues in some depth in order to enhance their capacity to think about and offer solutions to the inequities inherent within US environmental policy processes.
NRES 224: Environment and Social Justice (Annually, Fall Semester)
This course examines environmental issues through the lens of social justice and human inequality. We explore how EJ makes connections between environmental (pollution, biodiversity, food, climate) and social justice issues (race, ethnicity, gender, poverty, power, and access) in order to inform public policy and mitigate environmental problems.
Additional Campus Affiliations
Assistant Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Johnson, M. F. (2021). Fighting for black stone: Extractive conflict, institutional change and peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. International Affairs, 97(1), 81-101. https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiaa056
Johnson, M. F., Rodríguez, L. A., & Quijano Hoyos, M. (2021). Intrastate environmental peacebuilding: A review of the literature. World Development, 137, . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105150
Johnson, M. F. (Accepted/In press). Local engagement in environmental peacebuilding: protected area development as a pathway to peace in Afghanistan. Development in Practice. https://doi.org/10.1080/09614524.2021.1937538
Johnson, M. F., Sveinsdóttir, A. G., & Guske, E. L. (2021). The Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois: Participation, power, and institutional design in United States critical energy infrastructure governance. Energy Research and Social Science, 73, . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.101908
Johnson, M. F., Laurent, R. L., & Kwao, B. (2020). Constructing a crisis: The effect of resource curse discourse on extractive governance in Ghana. Extractive Industries and Society, 7(3), 965-974. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2020.04.013