John Parkins – Feature Profile

We introduce you to:

Dr. John Parkins, Associate Professor, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology

How did you become interested in environmental sociology?

I became interested in environmental sociology through my interest in international development. After my undergraduate degree, I spent 2 years working in Tanzania, East Africa, and developed an interest in problems of rural development in particular. After returning to Canada, I discovered the rural sociology graduate program at the University of Alberta, and finished my graduate thesis on agroforestry systems in Kenya. From there, I worked for the Canadian Forest Service for 10 years before joining the University of Alberta in 2007.

What are your research interests?

I have two broad areas of interest. The first area involves the interactions and transitions between rural communities and rural industries. This work is focused primarily in the forest sector of Canada, but is also connected to other sectors such as agriculture and energy. The secondarea involves analysis of public deliberation within the field of natural resource and environmental management. This research is focused on a critique of current approaches to civic engagement methods of improvement.

What research are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new project in Tanzania that is funded by the International Development Research Centre. The project involves the introduction of dairy goats and root crops to rural villages with a goal of enhancing local food security and human nutrition. My role involves overall project coordination and research to enhance procedures for project monitoring and evaluation.

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

I am learning a lot from my graduate students these days. One student just completed research on risk perception of climate change between Egyptians and Egyptian Canadians. We found that Egyptians have a higher risk perception of climate change when compared to Egyptian Canadians (recent immigrants to Canada).The most remarkable insight for me is that new Egyptian immigrants appear to adopt a diminished sense of climate change risk very soon after arriving in this country, and media seems to play a major role in this story. This downward shift in risk perception has some important implications for Canada’s ability to respond in effective ways to the challenges of climate change.

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

I am becoming more interested in the linkages between culture and development, and I am working with several colleagues on a new proposal to explore alternative energy development landscapes through a lens of cultural landscapes and cultural values. We are hoping to conduct our research in New Brunswick and Alberta where communities are struggling with new energy proposals that range from wind, to hydro, to nuclear.

What is your favourite place in Canada to spend time?

I love to spend time in rural Canada and rural British Columbia in particular. My favorite town is Kaslo (70KM north of Nelson), and my favorite way to get there is on my bicycle. The newly renovated Kaslo Hotel is a great place to share a beverage with friends and enjoy the view of Kootenay Lake.

Is there a particular Canadian situation that concerns you as a social scientist?

One situation that concerns me is climate change. My concerns are more global than national, but climate change is such an important area for sociological analysis. Media and culture, civic engagement, social studies of science, community resilience, cumulative impact assessment, social justice, energy production and consumption, and so many other topics are linked into this situation. If not the front story, I find that climate change is so often the back story to the work that I do.

Visit John’s webpage to learn more about his research.

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