How do countries who pledged to prioritize well-being over wealth manage just transition processes in their fossil-fuel-dependent regions? Max works with actors in Scotland and New Zealand as they design and act on just transition policies that move from fossil fuels to renewable sources, and hopes to capture the best examples and policies that emerge from these processes that could help others, like Canada, to undertake the transition. 

Faculty of Arts
United Kingdom
BEST (BUNAC Educational Scholarship Trust)
Research Description

My project traces the networks of state and non-state actors (companies, unions, and NGOs) working to achieve the just transition in Scotland and New Zealand. The just transition is intended to ensure communities and workers are not left behind in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy systems through community dialogue and long-term planning including skills retraining for the green economy. Both nations have regions that are 'dependent' on fossil fuel economies - Aberdeen in Scotland, 'Europe's oil capital', and Taranaki, one of New Zealand’s main oil regions. My research involves (i) charting the history of oil in Scotland and New Zealand since the mid-twentieth century, and (ii) mapping the contemporary politics of the just transition in Scotland and New Zealand.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

The Public Scholars program is one of the main reasons I applied to UBC for my doctoral studies. Being a Public Scholar enables me to publicize my research on community radio to a professional standard so that it is accessible beyond traditional formats of the written dissertation. The PhD process feels more fulfilling knowing that I have the backing of an initiative that encourages alternative methods like radio and podcasting.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The Public Scholars Initiative reimagines PhD research as contributing not only to academic fields but wider social objectives like democratizing access to knowledge and social justice. Working with fellow Public Scholars on projects ensures the PhD experience is also a collaborative process.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

Following my PhD I would like to continue working in radio to publicize my research in politics and geography. I would also like to continue teaching. Connecting with NGOs and media professionals during my PhD will hopefully open up opportunities in networks of policy and communications experts working towards the just transition.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My research engages with local communities in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Taranaki, New Zealand, to rethink more sustainable forms of regional development beyond fossil fuels. I also publicize my work on community radio to engage with people in the arts and the wider public to deliberate important political issues. Overall I hope to ground the challenging, more abstract policy work on the just transition with community development and deliberation at the grassroots level.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

My research contributes to the public good by democratizing our conversations about the economy and energy. I also hope to promote more environmentally and economically sustainable approaches to regional development, based on renewable energy systems and valuing public goods and services.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Pursuing a graduate degree allowed me to dedicate time to researching complex political issues like the just transition. I wanted to join a community of like-minded people committed to research, teaching, and activism around climate justice at UBC geography.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I wanted to work at the geography department at UBC which is home to a conscientious, hardworking, and eclectic mix of human and physical geographers working at the forefront of research and climate justice. The Public Scholars Initiative's commitment to reimagining the PhD was also central in my decision to study at UBC.