David Matthews


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Getting to zero : a field-level perspective on organizational transitions towards carbon neutrality (2018)

Climate change policies are proliferating at a local and regional level. Within this landscape, organizational climate change action is shifting from voluntary to mandated, and organizations are grappling with new pressures to reduce their environmental impact. This dissertation explores organizational responses to climate change policy, though a field-level analysis of 132 organizations that were required to achieve carbon neutrality in British Columbia, Canada. The strategies organizations adopted or considered over a five-year period from the policy inception are examined using survey data and a content analysis of annual reports. This study shows that the organizations bound by the carbon neutral mandate quickly came to a common understanding of what the practical expression of carbon neutrality involved. Within five years of the policy introduction, and three years of the requirement to become carbon neutral, organizations were considering or adopting a large number of similar strategies in response to the legislative requirement to reduce their carbon emissions. This convergence of strategies can be explained by several factors. First, organizations drew cues about appropriate responses from the government, and from other organizations within the field, leading to isomorphism of strategies over time. Second, the organizations were working under a common set of institutional logics, or cultural assumptions about the rationale for pursuing strategies, leading them to consider the same practices appropriate for meeting carbon neutral goals. Finally, organizations were supported by similar networks of organizations, centralizing the field around a few key actors. Similarity in responses to the mandate to achieve carbon neutrality are reflective of the fact that organizations drew from the common sources of information and resources to meet emissions reduction targets.This work demonstrates that organizational responses to climate policy should be understood with reference to the field in which organizations are embedded, rather than simply as the sum of individual organizational actions. It also highlights the fact that if the institutional and cultural conditions are right, organizational fields can rapidly emerge and adapt to new policy imperatives to tackle climate change.

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Environmental change and economic transformation in northwest BC : settler and First Nations perspectives on environmental protection in the post-forestry era (2014)

This dissertation examines the way that resource-dependent communities in northwest British Columbia respond to environmental problems in the wake of industrial decline. Northwest communities face many challenges in revitalizing their economies, including significant declines in the health of their local resource base and the uncertain impacts of global climate change. Throughout most of the 20th century, the forestry-based economy dominated British Columbia, and relegated Aboriginal rights and the environmental movement to the margins of resource decision-making processes. The decline of forestry, and the weakening of historical structures have created openings for new social movements to influence resource development activities and community planning. Efforts to create a new industrial base thus unfold within a very different social and political environment than in the past era. The analytical body of this dissertation utilizes data from a study of community leaders and resource managers in three northwest towns. It is argued that environmental change represents an alpha-level risk that threatens the ability of these communities to subsist. However, responses to environmental problems are mitigated by the emergence of environmentalism and Aboriginal rights as important forces in the northwest, and by the continuing influence of relationships between northwest communities and external agencies that seek to exert control over the resource base. Settler communities seek to achieve balance between industrial and environmentalist imperatives, and see localized natural resource issues as continuations of the struggle between heartland and hinterland interests. However, climate change provokes stronger calls for environmental protection, and sensitizes these communities to their reliance upon wider society. In contrast, First Nations view themselves as independent from both industrial and environmentalist forces, and see environmental problems as issues to be managed through the assertion of their cultural and territorial rights. Findings reveal that opportunities for new social movements to influence resource development are shaped by the way that communities adapt to the contours of the post-staples economy. Moreover, theories of modernization and risk that find resonance in metropolitan settings may not apply in the peripheries of staples-producing regions.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Decentralization, social capital, and capability in environmental management : case study of Tambon Maeta, Chiang Mai, Thailand (2015)

This research uses social capital concepts to study changes of capability in environmental self-management in Tambon Maeta, Chiang Mai, Thailand, after decentralization. From the macro perspective, this research found that the Maeta social network’s structure was much changed by decentralization, with noticeably greater social capital and capability in environmental management evident following the transition. Decentralization extended the size of the network, increased diversity in the population of Maeta network members, and expanded the number of political resources held by people in the network. In turn, this reshaping of the social network generated greater embedded resources, which are a determinate of social capital. This study found that, at the relational level, people in Tambon Maeta use social linkages as a main channel for resource exchange, both between organizations and between local government and local people. Local organizations’ and local governments’ capabilities in environmental management stem partly from the social capital of their respective leaders, such that their access to embedded resources in the Tambon Maeta social network is determined by the strength of ties between these leaders. The stronger the linkages, the greater the ability of local organizations to receive and share resources. For individuals, ordinary people who have stronger ties with local government officers can receive superior information more promptly, which affects their capability in environmental use and supervision. The results of this research demonstrate that decentralization can promote rural people’s capability in environmental self-management even when a central government has not directly transferred authority over environmental regulations to local governments. In addition, building strong relationships with local environmental groups can increase a local government’s capability in environmental management.

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Environment, development, trust, and well-being in the Tsawwassen First Nation (2014)

On December 6, 2007, the Tsawwassen First Nation became the second First Nation in British Columbia to sign a modern treaty with the BC Provincial and Canadian Federal governments. Given the small number of Modern treaties in BC and how recent many of them are, little systematic attention has focused on outcomes or the effects of Aboriginal self-governance on well-being. Additionally, no research to date has focused on well-being and self-governance in the three modern treaty Nations in BC. To fill this gap in their own community, the Tsawwassen First Nation commissioned a survey measuring multiple aspects of well-being. The two chapters of this thesis are based on the qualitative and quantitative data collected for this survey over the summer of 2012, and as a whole, represent baseline analyses of well-being in the Tsawwassen community.The thesis utilizes a well-being framework based on a standard Personal Well-being Index. It undertakes both quantitative and qualitative analyses of survey results focusing on the influence of Tsawwassen Members’ satisfaction with the health of the local environment on self-reported well-being, and finds that satisfaction with the health of the local environment is a highly statistically significant predictor of overall well-being in the Tsawwassen community. The thesis also analyzes two seemingly paradoxical perspectives held in the community: that the health of the natural environment is important to the well-being of the community; and that development of Tsawwassen lands for commercial purposes will benefit the community. As these perspectives are often seen as at odds with each other, this thesis examines trust in the Tsawwassen Government, following the hypothesis that trust relationships in the community, particularly trust in the Tsawwassen Government, acts as a mediator of the two perspectives. This analysis concludes that satisfaction with the health of the local environment along with trust, both generalized and institutional, positively influences well-being in the community.

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When the fishing’s gone : understanding how fisheries management affects the informal economy and social capital in the Nuxalk Nation (2010)

In the field of resource management, the importance of understanding how policy affects people is now recognized as a fundamental aspect of sustainable management. This perspective underlies this study of how management policies within the British Columbia commercial fisheries have affected the Nuxalk Nation, located on the central coast of British Columbia. Though their contemporary participation in the commercial fisheries has been extensive, this community has witnessed a substantial decline in participation, roughly a 95% decline since 1953. Today about 12 community members hold commercial fishing licenses. Findings suggest that the virtual collapse of the local commercial fishery extends well beyond the visible losses such as employment, fishing boats, and related income. At a social and cultural level, the Nuxalkmc have witnessed changes in their ability to access and exchange traditional resources, engage in social and kinship networks, and perform acts of generalized reciprocity so important to social capital and resilience elsewhere. This study examines these dimensions by using theories of social capital and the informal economy as tools for unearthing the less visible and unaccounted losses in the Nuxalk Nation. Findings call for a reconsideration of the priority paid to direct versus indirect losses (wherein the latter may be more consequential than the former), and where the cultural and social consequences in particular may constitute what is elsewhere referred to as a ‘cascading’ loss. This study employs two primary research methods. First, we undertake a comprehensive review of relevant fisheries policies and historic information to evaluate the distinction between commercial and food fisheries. Second, semi-structured interviews with forty-one members of the Nuxalk Nation were conducted gather local articulations about social, cultural and economic changes associated with decreased involvement in the commercial fisheries.

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