Shaun Bartone – Feature Profile

We introduce you to:

Shaun Bartone, Ph.D. Sociology Candidate, New Brunswick Community College MA Sociology, New School for Social Research NY; Juris Doctor, City University of New York Law School; MSW Planning and Policy, Boston College; BA Sociology, Rhode Island College

Personal Quote

My favourite quote, which is indirectly about me: “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” J.B.S. Haldane, British geneticist, 1892-1964.

How did you become interested in environmental sociology?

I had been working in the field of urban planning and community organization for over a decade (90’s-00’s), but less from an environmental perspective, and more from the perspective of social justice. During this time, I was also active in green politics and becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues, especially land use, agriculture, the toxic impacts of industrialization, and resource conservation. Around 2005 I became acutely aware of the impending crisis of climate change and energy constraints, and the massive impact these changes were beginning to have on western industrial societies, as well as developing nations. From 2005-2007, I chaired the Energy and Sustainability Committee for the Town of Easthampton, Massachusetts (USA) and wrote the 20-year Plan for Sustainability for the town. I also began an investigation of ecology movements such as Transition Towns. After moving to Atlantic Canada in 2009, I pursued my research on environmental sociology at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, which is one of the few universities in Canada to offer a Ph.D. in environmental sociology.

What are your research interests?

Ecological sociology; complexity, chaos and systems theory; networks and communities; social movements and culture; urban planning; gender, feminist and queer theory.

What research are you currently working on?

Niklas Luhmann’s theory of “ecological communication” as applied to ecology movements, in particular, Transition Towns.

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

Most ecology movements, like Transition Towns, presume a stable population that supports itself through its own local resources; ecological adaptations consist of investing in fixed infrastructure, like wind and solar power. Yet the social impact of climate change and energy constraints (which materialize as economic collapse) cause mass migration. Populations move away from catastrophic climate conditions and economic collapse and toward areas with resources and relative stability. Though migration is also a form of adaptation, the social dislocation caused by mass migration is extreme. Few if any ecology movements offer credible solutions to the phenomenon of mass migration.

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

I would like to revisit queer theory and explore the links between (1) queer theory and chaos theory; (2) queers and nature, especially queer involvement in ecology movements.

What is your favourite place in Canada to spend time?

I love the beautiful wetland forests in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the Maritime shoreline.

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

The most concerning issue in Canada is it’s project to become an ‘energy superpower’, mainly through the development of the Tar Sands, but also through offshore oil drilling and shale gas fracking. These ‘dirty energy’ sources are all connected through energy markets: fracked shale gas becomes a feeder fuel for mining the Tar Sands. Fossil fuel industries weaken the viability of cleaner industries in Canada by shifting public and private investment toward fossil fuel exports, and make the whole Canadian economy more dependent on fossil fuels. Likewise, over-investment in car and truck transportation (fossil fuels again) drives the growth of urban sprawl in Canada, which is destroying our wetlands, forests, species habitats and localized agriculture. Burning fossil fuels is the chief source of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began, causing catastrophic climate change.

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