Poverty and Development

A theme of environment & society research has been the persistence of socio-economic poverty, and the social and environmental effects of interventions by varied institutions. By examining the geographic patterns of access to and control over natural resources at the human-environment interface, faculty in the department examine conventional and non-conventional explanations of social exclusion, poverty, and development. Crucial elements of power and power imbalances, political groupings, conflicts, issue framing, and risks provide a lens for assessing nature and development as social constructs around the world. Moreover, links to environmental resource use and management as well as potential tipping points and adaptive capacity to a variety of stressors are central to understanding and providing the capacity of freedom from poverty for people in both urban and rural settings.

Brian King considers how the emergence of sustainable development and conservation with development discourses shape landscapes while producing inequalities. Using a combination of methods, including ethnographic fieldwork, structured surveys, and semi-structured interviews, he is working to integrate space more directly into livelihood analyses and critical development studies.

Petra Tschakert examines livelihood risks, marginalization, and social vulnerability among resource-poor land managers and miners in West Africa. She is particularly interested in the role of networks in gaining access to and control over natural resources, recognition and participation in the context of social exclusion, and existential/livelihood tipping points and adaptive capacity as key concepts of livelihood resilience.


Karl Zimmerer's research is focused on food production as a key to addressing environment-poverty-development interconnections. His research combines household-level survey and analysis of development processes with cultural and environmental analysis of such geographic factors as local and scientific resource knowledge in landscape- and agro-ecological processes (plant-soil-water functions).