I am involved with several research projects at the human-environment interface. Each research area seeks to (a) detail how environment and development policy objectives are defined rhetorically, substantiated scientifically, organized administratively and negotiated politically; (b) expose program/policy tensions that produce undesirable and inequitable social and environmental conditions; and (c) describe the emergence of new governance arrangements that reconcile program tensions and produce alternative and more socially and ecologically just outcomes.

Please us the links below to read a little more about each of my current and past research projects. 

Research Projects


Environmental Change

and Wildfires in the American West

 "Win-win" Development and Carbon Markets: Lessons from South India 

Practicing Critical Environmental Interdisciplinarity

Outdoor Recreation,

Leave no Trace and REI Consumption

Urbanization, Environmental Change and Wildfires in the American West

The American West is undergoing dramatic social and environmental changes. This regional transformation is perhaps most evident at the urban periphery where decades of urban sprawl and land cover change are coinciding with the effects of global climate change. This project explores the confluence of these changes and focuses specifically on the relationship between wildfires, vulnerability and affluence. Much of this research was performed as a researcher in the Lane Center for the American West and in the Spatial History Project lab at Stanford University. 

This research describes diverse factors producing risk across demographic groups and the many individuals and institutions that have benefited financially from the spread of urban settlements into areas historically prone to wildfires. The project also demonstrates how scientific and mainstream management discourses conceal these lucrative drivers of risk/wealth by depoliticizing the socio-economic root causes of costly and injurious fire hazards. FInally, this research grapples with questions concerning the ontology of vulnerability such as how it exists amidst social privilege and how multiple vulnerabilities become interlinked over time and space. These trends and developments are examined using a blend of tools and concepts from political ecology, environmental history, science studies, environmental policy and GIScience. 

My recent book, Flame and Fortune in the American West: Urban Development, Environmental Change and the Great Oakland Hills Fire (University of California Press, 2017) examines these processes in great detail. More details on the book can be found here. This book is part of the UC Press series: Critical Environments: Nature, Science and Politics.  

Related Publications

IR         C. Eriksen, G. Simon, T. Prior , F. Roth  et al. Rethinking the Interplay Between Vulnerability and Affluence for Disaster Resilience

2018    G. Simon. How the West Was Spun: The De-politicization of Fire in the American West In, Handbook on Critical Physical Geography

Eds. R. Lave, C. Biermann, S. Lane. Palgrave Macmillan

2017    G Simon. Don't Blame California Wildfires on a 'Perfect Storm of Weather Events The Conversation 

2017    C Eriksen and G Simon. The Affluence-Vulnerability Interface: Intersecting Scales of Risk, Privilege and Disaster

Environment and Planning A 49:2 pp. 293-313

2017    G. Simon. Flame and Fortune in the American West: Urban Development, Environmental Change and the Great Oakland Hills Fire. University of California

             Press, Oakland, CA. (Critical Environments Book Series, Eds: J Guthman, J Kosek, R Lave)

2016    A. Kinoshita, A. Chin, G. Simon, C. Briles, T. Hogue, A. O’Dowd, A. Gerlak, A. Uribe. Wildfire, Water and Society: Toward Integrative Research in the    

             “Anthropocene” Anthropocene 16 pp. 16-27

2015    A. Chin, L. An, J.L. Florsheim, L.R. Laurencio, R.A. Marston, A.P. Solverson, G. Simon, E. Stinson, E. Wohl. Investigating feedbacks in

human-landscape systems: Lessons following a wildfire in Colorado, USA Geomorphology 252 pp.40-50

2014    G. Simon. Vulnerability-in-Production: A Spatial History of Nature, Affluence and Fire in Oakland, California

Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104:6 pp. 1199-1221

2013    G. Simon and S. Dooling. Flame and Fortune in California: The Material and Political Dimensions of Vulnerability

Global Environmental Change 23:6 pp. 1410-1423

2012    G. Simon. Development, Risk Momentum and the Ecology of Vulnerability: A Historical-Relational Analysis of the 1991 Oakland Hills

Firestorm In, Cities, Nature, Development: The Politics and Production of Urban Vulnerabilities Eds. G. Simon and S. Dooling. Ashgate Publishing Aldershot, UK.

2012    S. Dooling and G. Simon. (Co-Editors) Cities, Nature, Development: The Politics and Production of Urban Vulnerabilities Ashgate

Publishing. Aldershot, UK. 

"Win-Win" Development and Carbon Markets: Lessons from South India

Nearly half the world's population use traditional cooking technologies in their homes. In India and elsewhere around the developing world, international and local development agencies, non-profit groups and corporate financiers are teaming up to replace these high emission devices with cleaner burning varieties. Most research on this topic takes a normative approach to evaluate the economic, engineering and health impacts of stoves. As a result, the dynamic, culturally nuanced, and micro-scale politics of stove distribution and adoption go largely unexamined. 

This research -- which is funded by a National Science Foundation Geography and Spatial Sciences Program Award (1539746) and also a Sustainable Energy Transition Initiative (SETI) Collaborative Research on Energy Program grant -- critically explores challenges, opportunities and implications of mobilizing household cooking technologies to advance health, development and environmental initiatives, including climate change, forest loss and household air pollution mitigation. Of particular interest are the implications of using carbon finance to fund these large scale cookstove replacement projects. This research understands that assumptions over how stoves will work and be used by households once installed do not always match the needs, practices and preferences of targeted rural village members.

My present research is located in the Indian States of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and extends previous research conducted in Maharashtra. The research is also informed by my past position as a Core Advisor to United Nations Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Using diverse research methods, this project aims to investigate mainstream program assumptions, describe both challenges and opportunities associated with these carbon financed projects, and detail how nearby actors and intermediaries are able to rework project outcomes in locally appropriate ways.  

Related Publications

IR       G. Simon, C Peterson, E Anderson, B Berve, M Caturia, I Rivera. Multiple Temporalities of Household Labour: Women’s Empowerment and    

           Polychronic, Collectivized and Hybrid Time

IR       G. Simon, B. Wee, D. Chatti, E. Anderson. Drawing on Knowledge: Visual Narrative Analysis of Women’s Fuelwood Collection in South India 

2019  G. Simon and C Peterson. Disingenuous Forests: A Historical Political Ecology of Fuelwood Collection in South India Journal of Historical

           Geography 63:1 pp. 34-47

2018  G. Simon. The Rise of Disingenuous Natures and Neoliberal Stealth Unknown-Knowns Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space pp. 47-              51 (In, Reflecting on Neoliberal Natures: An Exchange (eds. P. Bigger and J. Dempsey))

2014  G. Simon. If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Into the Kitchen: Obligatory Passage Points and Mutually Supported Impediments at the    

           Climate-Development Interface Area 46:3 pp. 268-277

2014  G. Simon, R. Bailis, J. Baumgarner, J. Hyman, A. Laurent. Current Debates and Future Research Needs in the Clean Cookstove Sector

           Energy for Sustainable Development 20 pp. 49-57

2012  G. Simon, A. Bumpus, P. Mann. Win-Win Scenarios at the Climate-Development Interface: Challenges and Opportunities for Cookstove        

           Replacement Programs Through Carbon Finance Global Environmental Change 22:1 pp. 275-287

2011  D. Biehler and G. Simon. The Great Indoors: Research Frontiers on Indoor Environments as Active Political Ecological Spaces

           Progress in Human Geography 35: 2 pp. 172-192

2010  G. Simon. Mobilizing Cookstoves for Development: A Dual Adoption Framework Analysis of Collaborative Technology Innovations in

           Western India Environment and Planning A 42 pp. 2011-2030

2009  G. Simon. Geographies of Mediation: Market Development and the Rural Broker in Maharashtra, India

           Political Geography 28:3 pp. 197-207

Practicing Critical Environmental Interdiscplinarity 

Calls for interdisciplinarity within the environmental social and natural sciences are increasingly common. We are told that understanding and solving social/environmental issues requires intensive collaboration that transcends traditional academic boundaries. While this is certainly true, there remain knowledge gaps -- in both research and practice -- in terms of how we understand and engage with interdiscipinarity. Most research on interdisciplinarity focuses on how to develop new pedagogical frameworks, synthesis concepts and integrative tools. This research builds on these foundations and asks how interdisciplinary education and research programs can best utilize the skills and insights of both physical and social scientists to explore core political ecology concepts such as social justice, equity, unevenness and spatial relationality. 

Related Publications

2020  G. Simon and K. Kelly. Critical Environmental Inquiry: A Handbook. Guilford Press

2016  G. Simon. How regions do work, and the work we do: a constructive critique of regions in political ecology Journal of Political Ecology 23 pp. 197-203

2014  R. Lave, M. Wilson, E. Barron, C. Biermann, M. Carey, M. Doyle, C. Duvall, L. Johnson, M. Lane, J. Lorimer, N. McClintock, D. Munroe, R. Pain,

           J. Proctor, B. Rhoads, M. Robertson, J. Rossi, N. Sayre, G. Simon, M. Tadaki, and C. Van Dyke. Intervention: Critical Physical Geography

The Canadian Geographer 58:1 pp. 1-10

2013  G. Simon, B. Wee, A. Chin et al. Synthesis for the Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences: Integrating Systems Approaches and Service

           Learning Journal of College Science Teaching 42:5 pp. 46-53

2010  G. Simon and J. Graybill. Geography in Interdisciplinarity: Towards a Third Conversation Geoforum 41: 3 pp. 356-363

2010  P. Alagona and G. Simon. The Role of Field Study in Humanistic and Interdisciplinary Environmental Education

           Journal of Experiential Education 32: 3 pp. 191-206

2006  J. Graybill, S. Dooling, A. Greve, V. Shandas, J. Withey, G. Simon. A Rough Guide to Interdisciplinarity: Graduate Student Perspectives

           Bioscience 56: 9 pp. 757-763

Outdoor Recreation, Leave No Trace and REI Consumption

Each year, millions of individuals participate in outdoor recreation activities – from hiking and camping to rafting and skiing. The Leave No Trace (LNT) program has emerged as the official environmental education and outreach policy managing recreational use in parks and wilderness areas throughout the United States. Increasingly, a central part of the outdoor recreation experience involves participating in an expansive and rapidly growing industry of outdoor retailers and outfitters. Indeed, some might argue shopping at stores like Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI) has become as much a part of the outdoor recreation experience as hiking down the trail or pitching a tent. Contemporary outdoor recreation is therefore inextricable from a vast market that includes global chains of clothing and equipment production that extends far beyond park or protected area boundaries.

This research examines contradictions that emerge at the interface between conservation and consumption. Because LNT only focuses on what happens inside recreation areas, it obscures the more distant and dispersed impacts of recreation-based consumption. As a result, it provides an incomplete account of outdoor recreation’s environmental consequences. Leave No Trace thus embodies an environmental program that fails to connect local and global systems. Moreover, the industry's reliance on LNT through ethical consumerism campaigns only increases levels of consumption. The overall objective of this project is therefore to understand the relationship between a complex industry comprised of marketing strategies and profit-seeking incentives and the identities and behavior of individual consumer recreationists. 

Related Publications

2013  G. Simon and P. Alagona. Contradictions at the Confluence of Commerce, Consumption and Conservation; or, An REI Shopper Camps in

           the Forest, Does Anyone Notice? Geoforum 45 pp. 225-236

2012  P. Alagona and G. Simon. Leave No Trace Starts at Home: A Response to Critics and Vision for the Future Ethics, Policy and

           Environment 15:1 pp. 119-124

2009  G. Simon and P. Alagona. Beyond ‘Leave no Trace’ Ethics, Policy and Environment 12:1 pp. 17-34

Gregory L Simon

Department of Geography and Environmental Science

University of Colorado Denver

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