Here I am, outside our new house in Davidson, on my way to my first day of classes! I am teaching Environmental Social Sciences, a required core course for the college’s new Environmental Studies major, and American Politics, in which I am focusing on the politics of reform. I am very much looking forward to teaching these two courses this fall — they will enable me to step back from my specific research on information-based governance and think more broadly about politics and the environment. And it will be great to learn from my students about their perspectives on the many different issues and topics that we will covering in both courses. If you’re interested, you can check out my syllabi on my Teaching page.
Otherwise, things have been going great so far — everyone has been incredibly friendly and welcoming, and have really been helpful in the settling-in process. Davidson has a beautiful campus and wonderful community, and I am looking forward to becoming a part of it.
To make the move out to Davidson this summer, my wife Sally and I decided to do a cross-country trip from California to North Carolina. We opted for the Northern Route, and stopped in some incredibly beautiful places, including Craters of the Moon NP in Idaho, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, and more. We also enjoyed seeing some of America’s mid-western cities, from Sioux City to Des Moines to Indianapolis. We did a fair amount of camping, and also stayed in some beautiful bed and breakfasts (in places like Grinnell, Iowa, Nashville, TN, and Lousville, KY). All in all, an amazing trip, with lots of highlights, including and especially the bison of Yellowstone! Along with the moose, antelope, elk and prarie dogs (!) we also were fortunate to see, they reminded us of the beauty and wonder of wildlife and the natural world.
This summer I took a short trip to Japan to conduct research on the status of Japanese environmental certifications and sustainability ratings. In my future research, I am planning to compare the evolution of these strategies in different countries, and from my past research, I knew that Japan has developed some innovative but not widely known programs (such as EcoMark). I was able to connect with some contacts I had made on a trip five years ago to the country, and made some new connections as well. Government, non-profit, and corporate entities are all working on some interesting projects relating to labeling, and I am looking forward to applying some of the frameworks and analytical tools I developed in my past research to these programs in Japan.
In June, I attended a small conference on eco-labels at the University of Michigan, which was hosted for the second year by the Ross School of Business Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise (and jointly sponsored by the Sustainability Consortium). I had attended the first conference in 2010, and it was great to see many of the same people, and compare notes on the state of eco-labels around the world. This year’s theme was “Informing Green Markets: What Makes a Difference and Why,” and there was a fantastic range of presentations on supplier choices about certification, corporate level reputation ratings, social norms and labeling, consumer awareness, and designing better systems.
My own presentation was on “Green” Demand: Consumer Preferences for Different Types of Product Ecolabels and Corporate Sustainability Ratings,” and discussed the results of my online survey of over 500 consumers. Overall, both academic researchers and practitioners from the private, government, and non-profit sectors attended the conference, which made for some engaging discussions among people who have thought a lot about the questions and issues that I have been grappling with and analyzing in my own research over the last several years. I look forward to staying in touch with the other attendees, and keeping up on their work in the field.