Dr. Lauren Eastwood
Professor of Sociology
While I think of myself as an environmental sociologist, what this means to me is that I approach “the environment” with an eye to analyzing the social institutions that intersect with the natural world (broadly defined). In my own scholarship, I look at the ways in which human institutions and organizations frame particular environmental issues.
My primary research areas include civil society participation in policy making through the United Nations, the shifting politics of “fracking” and other forms of energy extraction, and activism in opposition to fossil fuel-based infrastructure.
The research I do through the United Nations is ethnographic and participatory, in the sense that I attend meetings associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (among others) in order to investigate how it is that policy is actually negotiated within the context of UN-based deliberations. In these areas, I pay particular attention to the ways in which non-governmental and indigenous peoples attempt to influence policy processes.
My research on energy extraction began in Wyoming and Montana (the Powder River Basin) with interviews of landowners who were experiencing (proposed or actual) coalbed methane or uranium extraction on their land. I have subsequently expanded the project to take into account a range of dynamics that are truly global in nature related to an increased emphasis on “natural gas” extraction as many nation states and corporations are positing natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a transition to renewables. In this sense, this research project has become aligned with my UN climate research in ways I had not originally anticipated.
Lastly, I have recently begun to investigate social movements in opposition to fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Increasingly, pipeline, fracking, tar sands extraction, and other projects are met with resistance from both climate activists and those who are concerned about the impacts on their local environment. In addition, this activism is being criminalized as the sanctions for engaging in anti-fossil fuel-based infrastructure are becoming greater as corporations influence policy decisions.
Dr. Eastwood was an Abe Fellow with the Social Science Research Council from 2009–2011. She was the 2011–2012 President of the Association of Third World Studies (now the Association of Global South Studies), an organization for which she serves as the United Nations Representative. Dr. Eastwood was the 2013–2015 Institutional Ethnography Division Chair for the Society for the Study of Social Problems.