Gregory Thaler




I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Government at Cornell University in the United States. During the 2015-2016 academic year, I am an NSF GROW Fellow at LUCSUS, supported by the US National Science Foundation and the Swedish Research Council (VR). I hold an MA from Cornell University (2013) and a BA from Yale University (2007). Prior to beginning my PhD, I was a UNESCO-Fulbright Fellow and consultant with UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, a Fulbright Grantee in Ecuador, and an apprentice on an organic, community-supported farm in my home state of Maine.

Current Research

I am currently writing my dissertation on tropical forest governance in Brazil and Indonesia. Tropical deforestation is central to global trends of biodiversity loss, climate change, and agro-industrial expansion. Brazil and Indonesia are responsible for 60% of tropical rainforest clearing, but since 2005, deforestation has slowed in Brazil while accelerating in Indonesia. I investigate this divergence through a unique organizational ethnography of a transnational environmental NGO, combined with longitudinal household surveys and six municipal case studies from the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesian Borneo. I find that political-economic regimes structured around production or extraction explain differences in Brazilian and Indonesian development and deforestation, and I explore the histories and implications of these distinct regimes. My goal with this research is to contribute new perspectives on the political ecology of tropical land use change and development, as well as an improved understanding of the evolution of global environmental governance and the role played by transnational NGOs in environmental politics.

Broadly, my research interests focus on the political ecology and political economy of development in the humid tropics. I approach this work from a deeply interdisciplinary perspective, drawing especially on geography, anthropology, environmental sociology, ecological history, and conservation science. I seek through my work to take part in a community of people who recognize that human well-being is inseparable from ecological relationships, and who seek to develop responses to a socially and ecologically unjust global system.

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