David Boyd

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

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.

Southward from the blazing sun: climate change, migration and the experiences of cross-border migrants in South Africa (2022)

People who migrate, at least in part, for reasons relating to climate/environmental change most often move within their country or region. Given that the countries of Southern Africa experience significant effects of anthropogenic climate change, it is important to study the phenomenon of climate migration in this region. Through a historical analysis of the phenomenon of environmental migration in the context as well as an exploration of the lived experiences of African cross-border migrants in South Africa, this thesis provides an introduction to this topic. Climate migration is inherently multicausal and inextricably connected with broad structures of power, such as capitalism and neo-imperialism. Moreover, the concept is often misappropriated and misunderstood to advance a view of migration that emphasizes security rather than human rights or migrant self-determination. Thus, we must be careful how we employ this terminology. However, broader and more contextualized understandings of climate migration can be used to push the boundaries of contemporary migration paradigms, such as the forced/voluntary dichotomy, the concept of the refugee, and modern emphases on securitization. Interviews with Zimbabwean, Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Johannesburg and Musina illuminated the various failures of the South African government in regularizing the stays of migrants and providing them with social services. However, even against these great odds, migrants continue to carve out a space for themselves in a sometimes-hostile South African society. Migration cannot be seen as homogeneously perverse or criminal; it is a fact of life for many people in Southern Africa and will continue to be so—especially in these times of political transformation, economic struggles, and climate change.

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Environmental justice and the enforcement of air pollution laws in Canada (2021)

Ambient air pollution is one of the leading health and environmental concerns worldwide, including in Canada. To manage air pollution and its impacts, Canadian governments create and enforce various laws and regulations. Most areas in Canada usually experience good air quality, but some communities are disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution, constituting an environmental injustice. While these concepts of ambient air pollution, environmental enforcement, and environmental justice have each been studied either in isolation or in pairs in Canada, no research has examined the three together. In particular, patterns of enforcement of air pollution laws are understudied, and it is not known whether enforcement varies according to the characteristics of different communities. This study seeks to address these gaps and investigate the nexus of air pollution, environmental law enforcement, and environmental justice in Canada by examining the following research questions: RQ1: How do enforcement data availability and quality vary between and within provinces? RQ2: What are the demonstrated models of enforcement? How do they vary across jurisdictions, time, or other factors? RQ3: What types of violations or offenders appear to be prioritized for enforcement action in Canada? RQ4: How are the sociodemographic characteristics of areas in which enforcement actions occur different from the provincial averages of those characteristics? I created a dataset of enforcement actions against air pollution law violations using data gathered from eight provinces and the federal government, which I then analyzed using descriptive statistics and geospatial techniques. I developed a rubric to evaluate and compare jurisdictions’ data availabilities and qualities and found that all were generally poor and incomplete, which violates the community right to know and the individual right to information. Through descriptive statistics, I observed that across provincial and federal jurisdictions, regulators appear to employ a cooperative approach to enforcement. Environmental priorities and enforcement outcomes do not seem to align on several levels, especially regarding large emitters and repeat offenders of air pollution laws. Finally, geospatial analyses revealed some environmental injustice patterns related to the location of enforcement actions. I offer several recommendations to improve enforcement strategies within and beyond existing policy systems.

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The Canadian outdoors from the perspective of recent immigrants in Metro Vancouver: Nature nurtures newcomers (2020)

People are increasingly alienated from nature, which can reduce human well-being, pro-environmental behavior, and emotional connection to the natural world (Soga & Gaston, 2016). In an era marked by climate change and ecological collapse, understanding, reinforcing, and facilitating socioecological interactions can support and advance human and environmental well-being. Such a transition requires widespread individual and collective buy-in and action for transformative structural change. Despite this need for widespread environmental protection, immigrants have historically been excluded from natural spaces and from the project of environmental sustainability (Kloek et al., 2015; Kloek et al., 2013). To promote pro-environmental behavior and support the well-being of Metro Vancouver’s immigrant population, it is essential to analyze this population’s relationships to nature, particularly in Canada.Lived experiences, sociocultural norms, and familiarity with nature affect an individual’s relationship to and value of nature and a particular natural space (Chan et al., 2016). Research demonstrates that immigrants from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds display unique use patterns and relationships to their host country’s natural spaces (Jay & Schraml 2009; Kloek et al., 2013; Rishbeth & Finney, 2006). Understanding immigrants’ values of and interactions with outdoor spaces requires identifying the meanings, benefits, and capabilities that arise from their socio-ecological interactions. This research aimed to characterize the relationship that some recent immigrants to Metro Vancouver had to the area’s natural spaces. Using 27 qualitative semi-structured interviews and oral background surveys, this study aimed to consider the ways in which recent immigrants used, perceived, and derived value from their relationships with nature in Canada. Respondents emphasized that nature supported a unique set of ecosystem services that facilitated their acculturation, adaptation, and socialization into Canada and Canadian society. These perceived benefits suggest that acculturation may be a new category of cultural ecosystem services that newcomers derive from interactions with their host country’s nature. This research is an initial step towards understanding the web of values and services that immigrant stakeholders have with nature in Metro Vancouver. Such an understanding can facilitate a more inclusive and representative approach to social-ecological system management.

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Adaptive capacity in social-environmental crisis: the case of the red tide/salmon farming conflict in Chiloe (Chile) (2019)

In 2016, a large social movement developed on the Island of Chiloé in protest against the consequences of the worst harmful algal blooms in Chile’s history, as well against the salmon farming industry that had, during the same period, dumped 9,000 tonnes of dead fish into the sea less than 75 nautical miles off Chiloé, doing so with the national government’s authorization.Research on coastal zones had shown that these communities are suffering a broad array of stressors that challenges them socially, culturally and economically. Climate change impacts, decreases in marine species, global market pressures, among others, are slowly changing disturbances that increase their local vulnerabilities. Yet, limited attention has been put on coastal communities that are also exposed to large industrial developments, and the role of social conflict as a driver of change in converging social and environmental shocks as the Chiloé crisis illustrates. Thus, through a qualitative approach, this research describes the perceptions of Chiloé inhabitants regarding the multiple shocks of the red tide/salmon crisis, and its impact on their social adaptive capacity. Results suggest that social adaptive capacity is extremely challenged to a breakdown point, due to an overall environmental uncertainty that dominates knowledge and perceptions regarding environmental changes, and consequently, livelihoods opportunities and governance. Specifically, there are opposing narratives about the causes and consequences of the algal blooms and marine degradation. While government blames climate change, key players in the movement claim that industrial salmon farming toxicity is the main cause. A few positive outcomes are associated with the social movement’s efforts such as a Supreme Court decision in favor of the communities. However, national and local institutional responses seem short-term oriented and uncertainty undermines their ability to address future environmental challenges. Thus, this thesis contributes to the literature that examines multiple stressors, vulnerability, and adaptive capacity, by putting at the center the role of social drivers of change, and specifically, social conflict. Finally, by illustrating people’s knowledge as an experience of uncertainty that impacts the other domains of adaptive capacity, this research contributes to the under-theorized role of knowledge in the adaptive capacity and resilience theoretical framework.

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