Matthew Evenden

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Science, borders, and boundaries in the western Arctic : environmental histories of the Porcupine Caribou Herd (2018)

The annual migration of the Porcupine Caribou Herd is an important biological phenomenon that is central to the maintenance of dynamic environmental relationships in the transboundary western Arctic (northeastern Alaska and northern Yukon). In this dissertation, I argue that far from being a purely natural or unchanging biological process, the herd’s migration has an historical geography, which has been shaped by human societies, and structured by the establishment of political, conceptual, and metaphorical boundaries and borders throughout the twentieth century. Informed by recent research in the fields of transnational environmental history, the history and geography of science, and critical northern geography, I develop a conceptual framework that seeks to explicate the role of caribou science in boundary-making practices in the western Arctic. In four conceptually-linked case studies, I examine the scientific establishment and reinforcement of critical boundaries employed by state-based wildlife management agencies during the twentieth century. These include the shifting line between domesticated and wild animals; the boundaries drawn around species, subspecies, and caribou herd concepts; the violable spatial and conceptual boundary between industrial development and critical caribou habitat; and, finally, the illusory threshold between safe and unsafe levels of exposure to radioactive contamination for both caribou and people. Across these four case studies, each boundary emerges not as stable line drawn around the natural world, but rather as a contested site of knowledge production. Through an examination of scientific boundary-making practices, I show how scientists not only sought to demarcate natural boundaries, but also contested and transformed the placement of the very line that separated scientific from non-scientific knowledge, and determined which individuals and groups represented legitimate producers of scientific knowledge about migratory caribou herds.

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Unbuilt environments : unrealized geographies of energy and enterprise in the Stikine (2012)

This research examines the environmental history of development megaprojects in the Stikine River watershed in northwest British Columbia. Beginning in the late 1890s, this project analyses a series of infrastructure initiatives that were brought to the Stikine by the state, by entrepreneurs and by multinational corporations. Envisioned roads, railways, hydroelectric dams and mining ventures were never begun, never completed or left abandoned. In order to understand the impacts and outcomes of these projects, I develop the concept of unbuilt environments, a term which signals the environmental and social side-effects of planned but unrealized megaprojects that were conceived as development schemes, lucrative extractive economies or smaller-scale sustainable resource economies. Through an analysis of economies and megaprojects that did not or only partially materialized, this dissertation contributes to an understanding of the historical, geographical and economic development of an understudied area of northern Canada. I examine various phases of development in the region over a one hundred year period and ask what happens when plans go awry? What are the unintended outcomes? And how do the remains of one development process or project influence later schemes? Answers to these questions highlight the conflicts, tensions and contestations that follow the ambitions, calculations, assessments and failures of developers. I follow six case studies in my analysis of the unbuilt environment in the Stikine. The first two chapters are focused on the growth of economies around human-animal relationships and deal with the incipient development era preceding the Second World War. While not megaprojects, these development economies still left remains and are an important precursor to the modern era of infrastructure development and extractive economies. The discussion then moves to examine a range of cases in time and space ranging from railroad construction to hydro-electric development to mining projects and transmission line construction. To examine the Stikine with an eye to outcomes and side-effects is to raise questions about the particular legacies of development in a peripheral environment where extractive economies have been enormously important and where sustaining them has been difficult.

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Navigating bordered geographies : water governance along the Canada - United States border (2009)

This thesis investigates the rescaling of transboundary water governance across the Canada – U.S. border, focusing on three regional case studies: the Shared Waters Alliance, the Salish Sea Aboriginal Council, and the International Joint Commission Watershed Initiative. The case studies employ qualitative data drawn from interviews, participant observation, and quantitative data drawn from a comprehensive dataset that I created on transboundary water governance mechanisms over the period 1910 to the present. The analysis of the empirical material outlined above enables me to intervene in current debates over scale, governance, and borders, through mobilizing three bodies of literature: environmental governance, the politics of scale, and the social construction of borders. The resulting theoretical framework – which focuses on the rescaling of environmental governance within borderlands – contains three key conceptual claims. First, I argue that studying environmental governance at the site of the border helps to move discussions beyond a nation-state framework – challenging what Agnew refers to as the territorial trap. This is important given the nation-state focus of a significant proportion of the literature on environmental governance, an obvious over-sight considering the tendency of environmental issues (such as air and water pollution) to transcend national borders. Secondly, I argue that drawing on the “politics of scale” literature can offer new insights into processes of rescaling of environmental governance, specifically through interrogating local governance capacity in the context of devolution of environmental governance. In particular, my analysis challenges (often implicit) assumptions regarding the capacity of local actors to participate effectively in multi-scalar governance processes.Third, I argue that closer attention to borders can help refine critical assessments of transboundary environmental governance. Specifically, I suggest that all borders (even seemingly “natural” ones) are part of cultural construction and wider politics of power that help define and redefine the landscape. Pursuant to this, I explore how discursive (often-jingoistic) strategies are deployed to entrench borders – both physically and discursively. Understanding transboundary governance of water, in other words, requires close attention to the cultural politics of the border.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Icebergs dead ahead : anticipating increased maritime shipping in the Canadian Arctic (2017)

Shipping is a fundamental feature of life in the Canadian North. Climate change is opening waterways between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, introducing the possibility of new vessels plying these waters as a transitory space. Furthermore, community growth and economic development activities have increased domestic maritime traffic in the region as well. The regulation and support of shipping in the region has come under question as sea ice retreat reveals open waters. This thesis examines the question of how are the present and the prospective future of shipping in the Canadian Arctic managed and governed. I situate my work in the fields of critical polar studies, anticipatory geographies, and Arctic geopolitics. I use expert interviews with policy makers in Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, the Canadian Ice Service, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation, along with perspectives from officials at the World Wildlife Fund and the Centre for the North to answer these questions. I argue that the perception and anticipation of a well–managed and well–supported maritime space guides the actions of Canadian officials. Officials view shipping as a holistic activity where meaningful government intervention is limited. I further argue that the logic of prevention is most useful in understanding policy makers’ activities in this forum, and the effective presence in the region through management and support of shipping demonstrates the Canadian state’s sovereignty. Canada is at the forefront of regulations, support, and techniques to manage and support shipping in the Arctic, offering a perspective on present shipping, and how anticipating future shipping has shaped actions of the domestic agencies, the Arctic Council, and the International Maritime Organization.

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Afterlife of a mine : the tangled legacies of the Britannia mine (2016)

What happens to mining towns and their environments after they close? This question draws attention to both the social and cultural afterlives of mined landscapes, as well as the environmental legacies that follow mine closures. In this thesis, I explore these issues through a case study of the former copper mining town of Britannia Beach, BC. Located 30km north of Vancouver, on the eastern shore of Howe Sound, copper mining began at Britannia Beach with the opening of the Britannia mine in 1905. Production continued for the next 70 years, and at its peak, the Britannia mine was widely considered to be the largest copper producer in the British Commonwealth. Following its closure in 1974, the mine was redeveloped as a museum and heritage site, celebrating the history of mining at the Britannia and in BC. However, the site’s mining past continued to define and shape Britannia’s afterlife in other less celebratory ways. In the years after the mine closed, Britannia became mired in controversy over its longstanding pollution problems in the form of acid mine drainage. In examining the afterlife of this formerly mined site, I trace out the history of both of these legacies: cultural and environmental. I detail the redevelopment of the old mine as a museum and heritage site, and trace out ways in which the state and the mine’s various owners negotiated and developed remediation projects in order to address Britannia’s environmental issues. I focus on the tensions, conflicts and controversies that emerged between these cultural and environmental legacies -- between the desire to preserve and commemorate Britannia’s mining past and the need to remediate the mine. In tracing out the interplay between these dynamic and entangled legacies, I explore the ways in which different narratives of place, the past and the future were articulated through processes of commemoration and remediation.

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Children, caring, and contemporary environmental politics on the Peace River (2014)

This thesis concerns the place of children within the contemporary politics of environmental change on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia. Significant environmental controversies exist over the past and possible future hydroelectric development of the river and while children are not central to these, they have to come to be involved through various forms of outreach and education. I consider school units on the proposed ‘Site C Clean Energy Project’ and a regional stewardship education program in which children learn about and rear kokanee salmon, a material legacy of existing hydroelectric development on the Peace River. Specifically, I ask how and why children have come to figure within the contemporary environmental politics of the Peace. Drawing on theoretical and methodological scholarship in Children’s Geographies and Political Ecology, I lend close attention to the content, context, and ‘feelings’ of these cases. I argue that whether children have been enrolled intentionally or inadvertently, notions of care and responsibility frame their enrollment as part of environmental controversies on the Peace in both educational contexts. This thesis attests to the importance and interesting results of attending to children with relation to environmental politics. Echoing the students and teachers involved in the research, it draws attention to the importance of caring for children as young people relative to large-scale environmental change, while also encouraging attention to the potential implications of doing so, particularly in a (post)colonial context of environmental change. As a whole, this thesis contributes to recent political ecological scholarship that complicates questions of where environmental politics take place, and expands upon who and what are considered relevant to environmental politics. Its primary contribution is in its analysis of the two cases, and as it may encourage further consideration of the complexities of contemporary controversies of environmental change on the Peace River.

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