Scott Lougheed – Feature Profile

We introduce you to:

Scott Lougheed, Master’s Candidate, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, ON B.A. (Hons.) Sociology, University of Victoria, BC Personal website: www.scottlougheed.com

How did you become interested in environmental sociology?

I have always had a fondness for cooking and food. Food is such an important component of our existence, it is fundamental to it, and yet we appear to be terribly alienated from our food. We no longer know how to feed ourselves, what food should go on our body, where our food comes from, how it was made, and where our food goes when it is not eaten. Thinking critically about food led me, therefore, to think critically about the environment. We are as alienated from the environment as we are from our food, and I think that this is a major issue. It is this food-environment-human connection and realizing that these things are not, in fact, discrete from each other that spurred my interest in environmental sociology. Of particular interest is in matters of waste and in exploring the construction of a boundary between “food” and “waste”.

What are your research interests?

The social construction of waste; Food waste; Industrial and commercial waste; Circuits of Waste; Science and Technology; Food & Production; Nutrition Science and scientific uncertainty; Citizen Science; Statistical Methods.

What research are you currently working on?

I am currently involved in an interdisciplinary research group led by Dr. Myra Hird (www.myrahird.com) exploring matters of waste. It is in this context that I am conducting my Master’s research, in addition to contributing to other projects. My Master’s research is centred on the process of defining and managing waste in the context of cheese production. The project is motivated by recent changes in legislation that make dumping of dairy whey on farmers’ fields much more difficult, changing how producers are to dispose of what is deemed to be a waste product. I have thus come to wonder how whey becomes waste? Expanding on that, what constitutes “waste” in cheese (and general food) production? What different methods are used in dealing with waste and wastewater such as whey, and how are these methods justified (or not) in the network of legislative, scientific, and organizational forces that influence these practices? What is the interplay between the tacit knowledge of cheese producers, scientific knowledge on waste and wastewater, and the expert knowledge mobilized by those who write legislation?

To answer these questions, I intend to employ a combination of in-depth interviews, participant observation in two cheese production facilities, and archival analysis of documents and legislation provided by government and cheese producers related to the legislation and regulation related to the definition and disposal of waste.

What are some of your more interesting findings that you would like to share with us?

My work, and the work of Dr. Hird’s research group, has only just begun as of fall 2011. People can look forward to receiving updates via upcoming conference presentations, articles, and through our organizational (www.wasteflow.ca) and personal (www.scottlougheed.com) websites.

What would you like to pursue with your research in the future?

I would like to continue to explore matters of food, and the construction and maintenance of the food-waste boundary. I would also like to continue to explore the translation and production of food- and waste-related knowledges in food production, and the role these knowledges play in the definition and management of waste.

What is your favourite place in Canada to spend time?

This is a challenging question since I find myself enjoying the unique character of any given part of Canada. I have to say, however, that hailing from Victoria BC has instilled in me a west coast bias. I have an affinity for the particular type of natural beauty that occurs there, along with the prevailing pace of life and attitude. There is something special about the prevalence of conifers, the mountainous horizon, and the sea air of the Coast that I find spectacular. In addition, the high concentration of local “craft” producers means that there is truly something unique about any local area. You get spoiled enjoying beer made just down to road, or eating salmon caught by your neighbour.

Is there a particular Canadian situation that  concerns you as a social scientist or impacts your research with respect to  the social-environment relationship?

Waste and food production are very tightly bound. What we put into the ground invariably ends up in the water, soil, air, and consequently our food and ourselves. There is no concrete barrier between the “waste” we produce and our bodies, or the bodies of non-human animals and plants. Waste matter is therefore a matter of considerable concern and an area of grave uncertainty that I seek to explore.

What are your professional affiliations?

I am affiliated with the department of Sociology at Queen’s University, as well as a member of the Canadian Sociological Association, Canada’s Waste Flow Project (www.wasteflow.ca), and the genera Research Group (www.generaresearchgroup.com)

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