I am a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada and have been a visiting scholar at the University of São Paulo (USP) for many years. Currently, my research addresses interdisciplinary waste governance issues. Results from this work have been published recently in the book: “Urban Recycling Cooperatives: Building Resilient Communities” (2016, Routledge Taylor & Francis).
Sustainability and governance in resource management (e.g. solid waste co-production), poverty reduction, food security and food sovereignty, livelihoods and resilient communities are some of the specific topics that interest me. I apply a situated urban political ecology framework in my research which helps understand the political-economic processes, power relations, as well as material and discursive conflicts that shape current forms of uneven development and spaces with differentiated access to resources and public services in cities. My work with communities is committed to unravel socio-economic, environmental, cultural and political facets of informal and cooperative recycling. Since 2005 I work on Participatory Sustainable Waste Management (PSWM), initiated with an interdisciplinary university collaboration (between UVic and the University of São Paulo USP) with waste picker organizations and partners from governmental and grassroots organizations. The initial project has now evolved into a program with differentiated initiatives on waste governance and livelihood studies involving waste pickers in different geographic regions.
My research is collaborative, action-oriented, community-based, and mostly qualitative in nature. I publish my results in academic journals, books, book chapters and reports. And I make my research accessible to the general public through different communication forms (video, websites, pamphlets, booklets, banners).
I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on Development Geography, Urban Development in the global South, Qualitative Research Methods, Directions in Human Geography among others.
As a researcher and citizen, I am committed to exposing the injustices and violences authorized by colonial ontologies and reenacted by neocolonial structures and processes in everyday life. My work is dedicated to co-producing knowledge to help reduce poverty and environmental degradation and to recognize and learn from indigenous ontologies, as well as to supporting collective community engaged initiatives for social change.
I was born in Germany and grew up in Brazil, allowing me to become immersed into different cultural, economic, environmental and political contexts. I concluded my undergraduate degree in Biology at the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), in Brazil and continued with my doctoral studies at the University Tübingen, in Germany. My dissertation involved an in-depth and interdisciplinary analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of industrial production in the industrial center Cubatão, close to metropolitan São Paulo, Brazil. I used a bio-monitoring technique to determine the spatial distribution and scale of air pollutants (heavy metals) and applied qualitative research to understand the social and economic side of industrial impacts. The thesis is published by the University of Tübingen and an updated version was translated into Portuguese and published by EDUSP in Brazil.
After the completion of my Doctoral studies I worked for two years with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (WFP and FAO) on international development issues in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Ecuador. In 1992, I coordinated a bilateral research project between the University of Tübingen and the Federal University of Mato Grosso, in Brazil. As part of an interdisciplinary research group (Núcleo de Estudos Rurais e Urbanos – NERU) I focused on the social-economic and environmental impacts of mechanization and modernization in agriculture in the midwest of Brazil (Mato Grosso). After the conclusion of this project I moved to Australia, where I taught for four years in the Department of Geography, at the University of Newcastle. While in Australia, my research focused on sustainable rural development issues in Latin America.
In 2000, I came to the Geography Department at the University of Victoria and in 2006, I founded the Community-based Research Lab (CBRL), a research hub at UVic for participatory and action research on development issues (www.pswm.uvic.ca). This Lab hosts researchers and students committed to participatory research in Canada and abroad. Specific research areas are:
- Waste governance
- Geographies of waste (waste studies)
- Local development and the commons
- Social and environmental justice issues
- Participatory resource management
- Social/solidarity economy and ecological economy
- Community-based and participatory action research
In 2015 I worked as Visiting Professor at the Institut des Hautes Études de l’Amérique Latine (IHEAL), Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris (Pablo Neruda Chair – 2015).
I received several awards and most recently the EXCELLENCE 2015 UVic Social Sciences Outstanding Community Service Award.