Michael D. Mehta – Feature Profile

We introduce you to:

Dr. Michael D. Mehta, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Arts Thompson Rivers University

How did you become interested in environmental sociology?

Like a lot of people who work in the field, I came upon environmental sociology by accident. After my undergraduate degree in Psychology I completed a Master’s in Environmental Studies where I was exposed to many different ideas. It was the concept of risk and its applicability to environmental issues that most attracted me. When I enrolled in a PhD program in Sociology I moved more fully into environmental sociology as a specific field of inquiry. This wasn’t easy in Canada during the 1990s since few mentors existed. I was very lucky to secure a post-doctoral fellowship at Queen’s University with William Leiss where my work on environmental issues flourished and began to take on a policy perspective.

In 1995 I co-edited the first Canadian environmental sociology book, with Eric Ouellet, Environmental Sociology: Theory and Practice.

What are your research interests?

My main focus is on the intersection of science, society and technology using risk as a vehicle to explore environmental and human health issues. Over the years I have examined the following topics: nuclear safety, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.

What research are you currently working on?

In addition to my work on regulating products of nanotechnology, I am very interested in community based environmental initiatives and am working with a group of volunteers on Gabriola Island to replant bull kelp beds in the Strait of Georgia. View a video for more information on kelp restoration at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXZsQUkVgFw.

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

Thanks in large part to the concept of risk, I have found that risk controversies, public perceptions of risk, and debates in the public sphere regarding environmental issues have many common features.

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

I am very interested in “soft” energy systems and would like to develop an approach for studying tidal energy on the west coast of BC. A short newspaper article of mine on the topic discussed how we should think about combining technologies. See the following on tidal energy and desalination technology at http://www.flyingshingle.com/cgi-bin/coranto/viewnews.cgi?id=20091023535745955143

What is your favourite place in Canada to spend time?

I spend a lot of time at my small house on Gabriola Island BC. It’s a 576 square foot house, and the diving on the island is incredible. A video of the house can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiyBGxQDULw

An article of mine on small houses and their ecological footprint is at http://www.flyingshingle.com/cgi-bin/coranto/viewnews.cgi? id=20100103192814698611

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

It’s next to impossible to get clear, unbiased information on environmental issues from various levels of government or from industry in this country. We need a much more transparent system if environmental issues are ever to be addressed fully and comprehensively. I fear that little has been accomplished in recent decades to protect our natural world.

Visit Michael’s Blog (http://arts.blog.mytru.ca/) to learn more about his research.

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