PhD Geography, University of Waterloo
MA (Geography), University of Waterloo
BA Geography, York University
Ecohealth & Ecosystem Approaches; Adaptive Management; Watershed Management; Complex Systems; Systems Approaches To Problem Solving; Geographic Information Systems; Ecological Footprint; Sustainability.
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J1P3
416 736 2100
My educational background is in the discipline of geography. However, my work is interdisciplinary (existing at the intersection of several of the disciplinary sciences and geographic subdisciplines) and transdisciplinary (as the problems I address require an approach that transcends traditional disciplinary bounds). It seems obvious to me that this type of work is fertile ground for geographers who (supposedly) are practitioners of a science which is both analytic and synthetic, makes use of qualitative as well as quantitative methods, and has a history of exploring relationships among human beings and their physical, social and built environments.
My approach to environmental studies and geography is best illustrated by comments made by Leslie Currie in a 1991 issue of The Canadian Geographer. Currie has commented that,
“people who write on the aims of geography but do not combine its analytic and integrative roles simultaneously are surely missing the boat.”
Currie was referring to the need for cumulative synthetic theory in geography, and lamenting the tendency of some geographers to identify too strongly with neighbouring systematic fields. In opposition to the divisive influence of traditional disciplinary science on geography, and to emphasise the importance of synthesis, he stated (1991) that;
“I really have no time at all for those great minds who emphasise a unity of science corresponding to a unity of reality and the divisiveness of petty disciplines. There are only ‘problems' to be tackled, applied or academic, and we must all contribute what we can. Essentially, this leaves the mature disciplines not only defining the problems but also judging the solutions in terms of their ground rules. One has to staunchly reject the numerous clarion calls to pursue knowledge where'er it may lead, since this means following physicists into their kind of climatology or economists into their sort of spatial economy, wherever their particular train tracks take them. We have to be willing to be naïve where specialist sciences are strong, knowing that we are sophisticated where they are weak.”
It is a task of those who undertake environmental studies to bring together the knowledge and tools of physical and social sciences such as geology, chemistry, economics and sociology, to bear on the applied or academic problems on which they ply their trade. But merely applying a variety disciplinary tools and knowledge sets to the problem is insufficient. Knowledge must be integrated in a such a way that our understanding of the issue at hand is enhanced in a way that the cumulative contribution of disciplinary understandings is unable to achieve. The geographer's focus on space and place provides both a theoretical anchor and a set of methods and techniques to do this.
Curry, Leslie (1991) "Guest Essay: The Need for Cumulative Synthetic Theory" in The Canadian Geographer, 35(1): 2-9.
(See http://www.yorku.ca/bunchmj for a more complete list, links to abstracts and full papers.)