Current Research

David A. Sonnenfeld, Ph.D.

Dept. of Environmental Studies

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF)

Research program

Most broadly, I am interested in understanding dynamics of social and institutional change with respect to the environment and natural resources. The common thread running through my empirical, field-based research has been how, when, and where (under what conditions) citizens and other civic actors have successfully influenced the design and functioning of core institutions, organizations, technologies, and processes in more environmentally sustainable and socially equitable directions ("greening" and democratization of science, technology, and society). To date, my research has involved three industrial sectors –  and pulp and paper, electronics, and food and agriculture, respectively – as well as more general analyses of dynamics of ecological modernization. Over the last two decades, my primary focus has been on newly industrializing countries and societies, especially in Southeast and East Asia. In recent years, the geographical scope of my interests have broadened to include northern Europe and elsewhere. While motivated to address contemporary social and environmental problems, I am fascinated by what we have to learn from both shorter and longer term historical perspectives, as well. General areas of interest include:

Elaborated description

Book in progress

Graduate research and training projects

  • "A Collaborative, Multi-sited, International Learning Project". With Bettina Bluemling, Wageningen University, the Netherlands; and Lei Zhang, Renmin University, Beijing, China. [précis]

    • Related talk, Dr. David O'Connor, "After Rio+20: the Future of Sustainable Development," SUNY-ESF, March 29, 2013 [flyer]
  • "Ethics Education in Environmental Science and Engineering". National Science Foundation, Program on Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE). Collaborative research and education project, with Dianne Quigley and Phil Brown, Brown University, 2010-13 (co-PI) [press release | related talk | faculty mentoring]

  • "Agro-Industrial Transformations Towards Sustainability: Southeast and East Asia in Global Perspective" (AGITS) Project, North-South Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF), Wageningen University, the Netherlands, 2000-2006 (cooperating faculty)

Research initiatives

  • Impacts of the Global Financial Crisis on Environmental Policymaking in Europe and North America

  • Ecological Modernization in Thailand's Electronics Industry [project outline]

  • Ecological Modernization in East & Southeast Asian High Performance Economies (with Arthur P.J. Mol, et al.) [proposal]

  • Thailand's Institutional Reforms in Global Perspective [précis]

  • Environmental Research Network Asia (ERNAsia), co-founder & advisory board member

Conferences, symposia, and meetings

  • Session on “New Directions in Environmental Sociology,” 2nd World Forum on Sociology, International Sociological Association, Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 2012 (co-organizer)

  • Panel on “Impacts of the Financial Crisis on Environmental Policymaking in the Netherlands,” Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, February 2012 (organizer & chair)

  • Workshop on "Research Ethics and Cultural Competence in Environmental Science, Engineering and Related Fields," SUNY-ESF, August 2011 [link] (co-organizer)

  • Scientific exchange with delegation from China on "Climate Change and Energy", International Visitor Leadership Program, US Department of State, SUNY-ESF, July 2011 [link] (co-organizer)

  • Sessions on "Social Theory and the Environment in the New World (dis)Order", Research Committee on Society and Environment (RC-24), International Sociological Association (ISA), XVIIth World Congress of Sociology, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010 (co-organizer and chair)

  • Thematic session on "Globalization and Environmental Governance," American Sociological Association, New York City, August 2007 (organizer and chair)

  • International workshop on "The Globalization of the Pulp and Paper Industry," Center for Paper Industry and Business Studies, a Sloan Industry Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, May 2007

  • International conference on "The Greening of Agro-Industries and Networks in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities," Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, October 2006 (co-chair) [CFP]

  • Session on "Communities, Natural Resources and the Environment," Research Committee on Society and Environment (RC-24), International Sociological Association (ISA), XVIth World Congress of Sociology, Durban, South Africa, July 2006 (co-organizer)

See also


Prospective Grad Students

David Sonnenfeld's Home Page

last updated May 30, 2014