Malcolm

My Story

I've had an unusually diverse career in research.

It all started when I was a teenager growing up in British Columbia, where deforestation was (and is) a serious issue. Climate change was also just starting to hit the news. The environment became the first public issue to really fire me up.

When I started university, I wasn't sure what I would study. I was reasonably good at mathematics and found physical sciences interesting, but I also liked literature and the humanities. At UVic I discovered the social sciences, and it was a revelation to me that I could examine environmental problems from a social (including political and economic) perspective. I followed my passion and became a sociologist. I also moved to California.

In the 1990s and early 2000s the hot issue was globalization, and everyone--including me -- thought it had potentially huge implications. I decided to write my PhD dissertation about the politics of globalization. Why did governments that had so often suppressed globalization in the past suddenly want it so badly? I looked at this question from the perspective of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, interviewing more than one hundred people who helped build and shape free trade in North America.

After finishing my PhD at U.C. Berkeley and a postdoc in San Diego, I took my first faculty job -- at Bristol University, in England. Based in the geography department, I got the chance to return to my first passion -- the environment -- while working closely with world-leading natural and physical scientists. I also added skills in data analysis, taking advantage of the exceptional expertise at Bristol in multilevel modelling. I began crunching numbers, and found myself studying trust: something I now see as central to pretty much any and every social issue.

Most recently, in 2017, I moved to beautiful northern Sweden, and took a job as a full professor at Umeå University -- back in my original discipline of sociology. Here I am now pursuing a diversity of projects, including in new areas like immigration, but above all on public attitudes towards environmental policy.

My message is simple: Environmental policy works great, and we just don't do it enough. My research investigates how public attitudes influence what governments do (and too often don't do) about environmental problems.