George Hoberg


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


@ghoberg is without doubt a #GreatSupervisor: supportive, helpful, understanding... but above all, he makes his supervision feel like a collaboration (as much as possible), the best way to make a student feel confident and prepare him for what lies ahead. Thanks! #UBC #IRES_UBC


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Deliberating climate change mitigation options and policies in British Columbia's forests (2018)

Global efforts are urgently needed to mitigate climate change, which involves changing business-as-usual activities to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and increase removals of carbon from the atmosphere. Because of their role as carbon sinks, forests offer climate mitigation potential when and if they are managed effectively. The role of forest management in mitigating climate change is a central concern for the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC). The province faces a decision context where publicly owned forests occupy 60% of the land base and the role of forests in mitigating climate change is scientifically established and politically acknowledged. At the same time, a policy gap exists and little is known in terms of public opinion on forest carbon mitigation options and policy. Drawing upon the idea that any future forest carbon management activities and policies will require strong public and political support and acceptability, I seek to identify what are BC’s public and stakeholders’ perceptions on advantages and issues associated with existing and prospective mitigation options in the forests. First, I analyze the extent of policy change brought by the Forest Carbon Offset Protocol, which until 2016 was one of the only significant forest carbon policy options in BC. I conclude that while policy changes occurred, notably by allowing for offset projects, the extent of these changes is limited by numerous barriers. Second, I explore these barriers and provide recommendations for the future uptake of forest carbon offset. Third, I describe the result of an online survey of BC’s general public that indicates overall support for eight different forest mitigation options, with greater preference for rehabilitation and conservation-focused strategies. Fourth I report on the result of an extensive analytic-deliberative engagement process with stakeholders and indigenous people across BC where participants indicated support for six mitigation strategies, with high consensus between regions and sectoral groups. Fifth, I evaluate the analytic-deliberative process and provide recommendations for the design of similar methodologies. The dissertation concludes that, notwithstanding apparent differences in preferences and priorities, an opportunity exists to move forward with a set of comprehensive, multi-faceted forest carbon mitigation actions and policies.

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Common Pool Resources and State Intervention: Why, When and How (2010)

The objective of this dissertation is to understand why, when and how a state or other agent should intervene in a common pool social-ecological system. The answers to these questions provide the building blocks of an intervention framework to assist policy analysts identify institutional failure related to the appropriation of a common pool resource and design appropriate institutional change. The dissertation rejects the use of institutional paradigms such as centralization or decentralization and follows a problem based approach to institutional change. The Institutional Analysis and Development framework provides the research’s methodological structure. The common pool resource intervention framework is developed in three parts. The first building block is developed by answering the ‘why’ and ‘when’ questions through a review of common pool resource and institutional literature. The result is an institutional failure model to assess the risk of resource degradation and identify its sources. The second building block is devised through a review of institutional change literature and the role of the state within that change. The outcome is a typology of state intervention modes that guides the intensity of intervention, if intervention is necessary. Finally, to understand how to intervene, the dissertation undertakes a content analysis of 16 case studies of institutional change within common pool resource social-ecological systems. The outcome is the third component of the framework: a set of intervention properties providing a structure and method of intervention. Chapter 7 provides a test case using the commercial harvest of salal in British Columbia. The intervention framework is intended to bridge theoretical literature with the practical requirements of resource managers. The research and test of the intervention framework shows that a problem-based approach is a useful method to respond to common pool resource dilemmas. By avoiding the top-down application of institutional paradigms as panaceas, the method can avoid scale-mismatch when resource degradation is threatened and unnecessary intrusion when intervention is unwarranted. The results contribute to institutional theory by revealing properties of social change and providing links between institutional forms in time.

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Forest Policy in Northeastern British Columbia from the 1990s to Early 2000s - Comparing Approaches to Explaining Policy Change (2009)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Justice, reconciliation, and solidarity: religious environmental organizations in the construction and tailoring of climate change messages in the Trans Mountain resistance (2020)

Religious environmental organizations (REOs) are emerging religious actors in broader environmental and resistance movements that frame and respond to environmental issues in religious or moral terms. However, religious environmental framing across different audiences and settings in the context of climate movements remain under-explored. Examining how REOs construct and tailor climate change messaging to religious audiences in the Trans Mountain resistance, this study adopted a framing approach and conducted content and frame analyses on 15 semi-structured interviews, 107 movement texts, and 709 social media texts from seven REOs. This study argues that REOs constructed stewardship, bio-region, and interconnectedness frames that converged on reconciliation-based messaging of justice. Crystallization of this message was deeply embedded in the unsettling encounters and critical self-reflexivity of religious settlers related to ongoing and historical injustices and connections between colonialism and the religious institutions with which they associate. Given this background, REOs sought to ground their messages in education, advocacy, and activism in the wider web of resistance. Additionally, REOs adopted messaging strategies to communicate the urgency of climate change in a broader discourse of responsibilities of religious communities to reconciliation. This study offers four contributions to religious environmentalism, settler colonial studies, and climate change communication literature. First, it clarifies conceptual usages of religious environmental frames, explains the interaction of frame components underlining frame construction, and conceptualizes frame bridging processes towards justice. Second, self-reflexivity of religious actors in reconciliation-based messaging offers preliminary conceptualization of religious settler consciousness as an important pathway towards decolonized solidarity efforts in Indigenous-settler contexts. Third, the role and network formation of religious actors that distinguish the religious environmental movement highlight the movement’s potential alignment with and support for Indigenous-led climate movements. And last, in communicating climate change to religious audiences, message tailoring calls for greater attention to audience-centric approaches in light of opportunities and challenges. Empirically, this study documents REOs in forming a distinctive religious environmental movement specifically out of the Pacific Northwest of Canada and its intersection with Indigenous-led resistances to expanding fossil fuel infrastructures.

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The Effects of Framing on Support for Political Action on Climate Change (2015)

The scientific community has come to a consensus that immediate action is necessary to arrest the deleterious effects posed by anthropogenic climate change. However, widespread public support for climate mitigation policies has been seriously lacking. The literature has identified that the way climate change is being communicated and individual characteristics both pose barriers to increased support for political action on climate change. This study investigates the potential role of sociological and psychological factors affecting an individual’s support for political action on climate change. This study also evaluates how various climate change frames are perceived by different individuals, and how that perception may alter political support for climate change action. To do so individuals’ values and worldviews are assessed and related to their perception of economic and moral frames are more effective at stimulating people to support the fossil fuel divestment campaign that is sweeping across North America. The sample for this study was students from four research-based Canadian universities. Data was collected via an online survey hosted by Univariate and OLS multiple regressions were used to analyze the data.This study found that framing climate change as a moral issue was more effective at motivating support for political action than framing that climate change as an economic issue. It was also discovered that environmental and communitarian worldviews play a role in a person’s support for political action on climate change. These findings provide insight into how best to communicate the risks of climate change to enhance support for political action, and specifically the fossil free divestment campaign. Our findings also shed light on which worldviews should be targeted to by communication to foster support for climate action.

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Forest conservation in Argentina: Early analysis of the forest law implementation in the Chaco ecoregion (2013)

Argentina is a federal republic, where livestock and agriculture have shown spectacular development due to commodity-oriented policies and land-use change, resulting in a consequent loss of native forests. In this context, in 2007, the Argentinean government enacted National Law 26.331 of Minimum Standards for the Environmental Protection of Native Forests (Forest Law) whose objectives are, among others, to promote the conservation of native forests through land-use planning. This process has been developed in different ways in the provinces of the country. This research is focused on the Provinces of Salta, Santiago del Estero and Córdoba in northern Argentina - Chaco Ecoregion. These provinces have shown high deforestation rates and some conflicts with the Forest Law’s administration. The analysis focuses on the Forest Law implementation, and is undertaken considering the extent to which objectives have been met so far, and the main forces, factors or drivers affecting the Law’s implementation in the three provinces. The evaluation of the Law is focused on its outputs (budget and deforestation rates). Impacts on forest conservation, local economy or social benefits (outcomes) are not analyzed since it is too early to evaluate them.This research is based on secondary data analysis, available public data from governmental and non-governmental institutions, unpublished data requested of institution representatives, and through the analysis of unpublished valuable information gathered in the course of interviews conducted by myself, for a non-academic study.The results show that local implementation of the Forest Law is highly affected by external forces. Despite the fact that some provinces have followed the guidelines provided by the regulation, the Forest Law has not been effective so far, since high deforestation rates still occur. However, many forest conservation projects have benefited from the law, which could have long-term visible effects. The problems related to its effective implementation are not related to the Forest Law itself, but to the inconsistency of the Provincial Forest Laws with the national regulation, the degree in which the Provincial Forest Laws reflect the participatory process that originated them, and with their control and monitoring.

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Perceptions of advocacy and credibility in policy-relevant natural resource science (2013)

There is an ongoing need for scientific information to inform natural resource policy decisions, and scientists are viewed as reliable sources of expertise and objectivity at the interface between science and policy. One important question at this interface is whether or not scientists should advocate policy outcomes, and if so, under what conditions? While advocacy can be advantageous to natural resource management policy formation, the risk of scientific credibility loss is often a major deterrent from scientist engagement in advocacy and policy decisions. This study draws upon the results of a web survey of professional foresters and biologists, academic scientists, and a sample of multi-disciplinary undergraduate students on support for advocacy, and issues of advocacy and credibility in natural resource management science. Responses from the four groups were analyzed to examine the influence of science values, environmental values, and socio-demographic characteristics on an individual’s support for advocacy by scientists. Another objective of the study was to explore the relationship between support for advocacy and perceptions of credibility. Science values and political affiliation were found to be significant influences on a respondent’s support for advocacy, consistent with previous research. No significant differences in support for advocacy were found between the four groups, however the results identify differences in the values and credibility perceptions of professional foresters, biologists, and academic scientists. Risks to credibility were observed to increase with higher levels of advocacy. The results suggest credibility of source and mode of communication as other influences on a respondent’s perception of credibility. Drawing on the results from both components of this study, expert advocacy receives broad support, and political advocacy poses considerable risks to the credibility of scientists. The results also reinforce a number of guidelines for credibility protection, and highlight avenues for future research.

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making the new relationship work: crown-first nations shared decision-making in the "Great Bear Rainforest" (2012)

Many of the First Nations of British Columbia, and the Province itself through the vision of the New Relationship, are seeking institutions for shared decision-making regarding land and resources. Efforts have faced numerous setbacks, including the cancellation of the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act in 2009. These setbacks, mirrored by slow progress in British Columbia’s treaty negotiations, leave the Province and First Nations of British Columbia still in search of an agreeable approach to planning and governing land and resource use. The framework developed between the Crown and the Coastal First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest since 2001 is among the most advanced cases of Crown-First Nations shared decision-making and provides insight into some of the principles of First Nations consultation, accommodation and land use planning for British Columbia and Canada.The objectives of this thesis are two-fold. First, this thesis assesses whether the Coastal First Nations have acquired a share of governmental decision-making authority for three types of decisions: land use zones, ecosystem-based management (EBM) operating rules, and approval of operational plans. Second, this thesis provides an overview of the unique government-to-government process that evolved for the resource management for British Columbia’s North and Central Coast, and the framework for shared decision-making that has been established between the Crown and the Coastal First Nations regarding the three land use planning decision functions under investigation.This thesis concludes that, due to the nature of the agreements under Canadian law, the Province ultimately retains decision-making authority on all three decision functions, but the Parties have committed to making decisions by consensus for each of the three functions. To date, the Province and the Coastal First Nations have succeeded in reaching consensus on the designation of land use zones and EBM operating rules, and are now beginning engagement on operational plan approval. Using parallel agreements by the Haida Nation for comparison, this thesis concludes that the Haida Nation, a member of the Coastal First Nations, has acquired a share of governmental decision-making authority that will stand as a closely watched case of Crown-First Nation shared decision-making in British Columbia.

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Public Interest Standing and the Environment: Setting Boundaries of Participation in Energy and Natural Resource Decision Making (2012)

Public participation processes are touted as an effective way to increase the capacity and legitimacy of policy making. Yet the focus in the public participation literature is primarily on issues of design, assuming a neutral, unbiased public that can be inserted into any public participation process. Consequently, attention is rarely given to who gets to participate in such processes. Recent changes to the Canadian environmental assessment process, an environmental decision making process with a strong public participation component, raise critical questions about who gets to participate. Specifically, the process narrowed the criteria of who can participate to those who are “directly affected”. The result is that a process designed to determine whether a particular project is in the public’s interest has restricted participation from any who were interested to those with the most direct material interests. The directly affected criteria, however, is not new. It is known in the context of administrative law as the test of standing. The test of standing asks who can legitimately bring forth a complaint before the court. As such, it is design to exclude more than include. Through a discussion of the theoretical relationship of representation this thesis presents arguments for why one might seek particular kinds of input for particular kinds of decisions. Analysis of several court cases where the standing test is applied is then used to illustrate both the restrictive nature of the test, as well as ambiguities regarding what constitutes being ‘affected’. This analysis suggests that the consequences of this criterion are that it undermines the ability of participants to effectively represent the public interest. The thesis concludes that restricting participation to the “directly affected” is far too narrow a test for processes like environmental assessment that are designed to determine the public interest.

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A preliminary evaluation of the results-based Forest and Range Practices Act: fostering innovation in forest practices? (2011)

In 2004 the British Columbia (BC) government introduced the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and described it as a ‘results-based’ approach to forest management. This research sought to evaluate the potential effectiveness of the FRPA regime in achieving one of its stated goals - ‘to foster the development of innovative forest practices and provide professional freedom to manage in the delivery of defined results’ (BC, 2004). Research methods included a review of the first 65 Forest Stewardship Plans (FSP’s) approved under FRPA to identify the potential for innovation indicated by practice commitments for three key environmental values – soils, biodiversity and riparian areas. A web survey and phone interviews with the prescribing foresters who developed these plans helped to build an understanding of the factors influencing their willingness to innovate under FRPA with respect to practices designed to manage for these three values. This thesis describes how the FRPA framework is not purely performance-based, but is rather a complex mixture of regulatory approaches. It includes the application of a ‘default practice’ approach for most environmental values that licensees may choose to implement or to propose alternative practices for approval. Early FSP’s indicated limited potential for innovation with only 10% of forest practice commitments reflecting approaches that were alternative to the default practices. These alternative forest practices are often better characterized as providing increased flexibility in the application of a default practice, rather than being truly new and innovative.Key reasons for this response include a perception by prescribing foresters that the default forest practices are reasonably effective, leaving little incentive to identify alternatives, and the overriding importance of receiving approval for their first FSP’s within the requisite timelines. The development of alternative forest practices was perceived as potentially time consuming and costly, and could put at risk the certainty of government approval for their FSP, and reasons for this perception are discussed. Further research to evaluate the actual degree of innovation reflected in practices on the ground, as well as the suggested likelihood of increasing innovation in practices over time is recommended.

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