Saturday, November 23, 2013

Academic bio:

(This biographical material was appended to the post above, but it was getting too long. Then I realized I was mostly just trying to list, and explain to myself, what all I'd done with my life to make me the very idiosyncratic person I am. So I moved most of it down to this second post. Again, read at your own risk.)

In 1985, after nearly seven years' service, I left the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) in protest against the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I was one of a handful of servicemen who did this during the mid-1980s. A particular catalyst was the women's peace camp and anti-nuclear protests at RAF Greenham Common. In particular at the time I was concerned about Reagan's placement of intermediate and short range nuclear missiles on British soil, but not controlled by British authorities. I was also concerned about Thatcher's economic policy, particularly the outrageous attacks she ordered on northern and mining communities. Those difficult days were the beginning of my development as a political economist, even though it was several years before I entered the academy to formally study the issues.

I remain in close contact with my unit and former colleagues, the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service, through their association. Of all the worlds so-called "Special Forces," there is none other that I would be more content to be associated with.

After leaving the military, I spent a year at the Findhorn eco-commune in Scotland, with mixed results. In particular, I worked with the Findhorn children and regional under-privileged youth through the Findhorn Foundation Youth Project.

Although this loving but muddled intentional community was a safe place to land after such a difficult experience, it was also very isolated from the real work problems I wanted to work on. As a result, I developed, among other things, a sense of how cults work and of how religion holds power over people's minds. (These concerns led in part to my eventual PhD dissertation about religious environmentalism in the United States, particularly religious environmental attempts to address climate change. But I'm jumping ahead in the narrative.)

I then emigrated to the US in 1986, and bummed around the west as a mountain guide and rescue technician, worked in various other western resource-based jobs, including short stints in a mine, a timber mill, and so on, and two years helping to manage a boarding school for troubled youth, before finally beginning attending the University of Montana at the age of 28 in fall 1989.

A Late Bloomer.

As an undergraduate student in Zoology, I worked for Dr. Alan McQuillan at Wilderness Institute, part of the University of Montana Forestry School. I helped out with various conservation, wildlife, and wilderness projects, including the Cabinet Mountains Fisher Reintroduction Project, and was the coordinator of the Institute's field programs, a wonderful job that gave full reign to several of the deeper threads in my life. I was also an Earth First! activist and journalist during the early 1990s, based in Missoula, MT, and published, with my ex-wife Beverly Cherner, several issues of Earth First! Journal.

My first graduate school was the UMT Forestry School, where I studied economic development and sustainability in northern Japan and the Highlands of Scotland. I then went to the Maryland Policy School for six years for a PhD. I did graduate research work under some fairly hi-falutin' academics and survived. One factor which may be a strength or a weakness is a breadth of influences. I'm not a name-dropper, but, for example, I took classes in economics from, and was mentored by, both Herman Daly and Carmen Reinhart.  If you know anything about economics, you will understand that this is an interesting combination, to say the least.

Interesting as in the (apocryphal) Chinese curse.

My PhD was partly funded by a NOAA Sea Grant Fellowship, and I was involved with a number of different social science research projects, mostly under the tutelage of Dr. Mark Sagooff and Mr. David Wasserman, JD, an odd-couple research team that worked together for many years during the 1990s with Sea Grant and EPA funding. The one thing David and Mark do have in common is that they are both Jewish, and bring that faith's ancient and abiding humanitarianism to their work. I sometimes refer to this period, tongue in cheek, as my "rabbinical" education, and value it highly. Towards the end of the PhD experience I was able to spend two semesters at the University of Georgia's Institute of Ecology, where I worked under some interesting academics on some new problems and was able to test out my teaching skills, another valuable experience.

Altogether, I have degrees from the University of Montana in Biology (BA) and Resource Conservation (MS) (the latter from the Forestry School), and from the University of Maryland (PhD) in Environmental Policy Analysis. 

I came to Unity College in the year 2000 as temporary Assistant Professor, while still an ABD PhD candidate. Assigned to general education classes in sustainability and the economics and policy classes, I soon found outlets for the other threads in my life, particularly through the Unity College search and rescue team, and through the engineering work associated with the college campus sustainability programs.

I enjoy Unity College students, who are generally unspoiled young people from practical backgrounds, concerned about the environment and social and political issues. They prefer practical solutions and practical education, for the most part, and respond as well to being outdoors and doing things with their hands as they do to being in class thinking about things. We get along. I was also the college's first sustainability coordinator. I'm now a senior faculty member, a "full professor," and a faculty leader. Our efforts over the years to make the college an example of sustainability are now garnering the attention of the world's media, and, as one of the people responsible for these efforts,

I'm quite proud of our small college's sustainability efforts -- I call it "The Little College that Could", and indeed, former Unity College president Mitchell Thomashow will shortly publish a book about our experiences in campus sustainability.

My formal research area is now in renewable energy planning, climate mitigation and related quantitative analysis, and my teaching is in sustainability, economics, and renewable energy.

I have a good deal of published research, and give a lot of formal presentations. Most recently I've been contributing in the area of pedagogy relating to sustainability, particularly quantitative analysis. Students are often terrified of math, and their ability to understand climate change and economics suffers as a result. I've been thinking about, and experimenting with, different ways to address this problem, and have had some success, publishing and presenting on the results at various conferences.

Related to this very broad and eclectic background, in an ongoing internal research project, I try to reconcile Keynesian economics with ecological economics in very practical terms, and hope soon to take a sabbatical to write my thinking up as a short book. I recently gave a conference presentation on this topic, but the majority of my writings, what I've had time to do, are published in this Annex to my main blog.

I also have a moderately significant technical research project in wind energy measurement and modeling, until recently funded by the federal government and the state of Maine. As a result I maintain a repository of Maine wind data for use in the public interest and provide wind energy analysis for regional and local planning.

I use my blog, Sustainability Thought and Deed, to unite research, teaching and and praxis as seamlessly as I can. When you dabble in as many areas as I do, and teach for a very small college that repeatedly asks you to take on new roles and new subject areas, you have to find a way to bring it all together.

I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in January 2014. This is a minor honor in the UK. The RSA is a venerable institution (est. 1754) for academics and practitioners from industry and commerce that are interested in societal problems, and in particular how they can be addressed using science and technology. You can read about it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.