dam break

The Social Rules Project

The Social Rules Project is designed to raise awareness about the institutional underpinnings of environmental problems and what it will take to solve them.  This is accomplished by using multi-media approaches to translate insights from the social science literature and make them accessible to the general public.  Upward of 100 students from the Claremont Colleges and the California Institute of the Arts collaborated to produce an animated film, video game, website, and other educational materials. The project accompanies my book Who Rules the Earth? (Oxford University Press).

Comparative Environmental Politics

Bicycle Politics

This project explores the social underpinnings of the transition toward more sustainable transportationIn the US and around the world.

Although the benefits of bicycling would seem obvious – enhance public safety, improve public health, reduce local pollution, travel without carbon emissions, reduce traffic, improve transportation access for children, the poor, and the elderly – in fact the transition to more bike-friendly cities is a politically challenging undertaking. This piece published in the Public Administration Review provides an overview of the associated issues.

Comparative Environmental Politics

Comparative Environmental Politics

Traditionally, environmental studies have been disconnected from the field of comparative politics – the area of political science that makes systematic comparisons of domestic political systems around the globe.  This project aims to bridge these fields and to foster the growth of a new research program within the environmental social sciences.  The book Comparative Environmental Politics, published by MIT Press, brings together leading scholars to identify the contours of this exciting new area of research.


Institutional Resilience

Effective stewardship of the Earth’s natural resources requires sustained efforts on time scales of decades or centuries.  This project explores what it will take to design institutions capable of governance over long time periods despite short-term shifts in priorities and institutions.  A brief overview can be found here.  This includes work on conservation systems and publications on the challenge of environmental governance in stochastic societies – countries that experience chronic political and economic instability.

indescrim pluralism

Qualitative Research

Over the past decade there has been a major movement within the social sciences, and in political science in particular, to develop more rigorous qualitative research methodologies.  The article Causal Assessment in Small-N Policy Studies demonstrates the shortcomings of statistical models for explaining complex social outcomes and describes a novel approach to understanding cause-and-effect relationships. The article “Can We Generalize from Case Studies?” explores the conceptual underpinnings of generalization as applied in the natural and social sciences.

policy change

Policy Change in Developing Countries

Changes in government policy are prerequisite for environmental sustainability.  Yet our understanding of policy change draws almost entirely on studies of wealthy countries, and of the United States in particular.  This project develops a new model of policy change based on the distinctive characteristics of institutional reform in the developing world.  This draws on extensive fieldwork in Costa Rica and Bolivia, featured in Environmental Leadership in Developing Countries.