Jeff Romm

The research and educational interests of our group can be placed roughly in four categories. In the first and most developed, we explore relations between social distributions of power and wealth, economic growth, and natural resource qualities, and impacts of policy and organization on these relations. In the second, which we call 'public science’, we explore how scientific and cultural concepts, the organization of knowledge, and scientific research, affect public discourse about and actions toward environmental problems. The third focuses on the impacts of institutional relations on the management of watersheds and river basins. The fourth focuses on the interplay between policies toward race and toward natural resources in the United States.

Distribution, Growth, and Resource 'Sustainability': Our group studies how the dynamics of social distribution, economic growth, and ecosystems interact and respond to alternative forms of policy and organization. These studies range through farm, village, watershed, county, state, and national to global scales of analysis. The conceptual frameworks are chosen to suit the particular problem of interest, but come primarily from political science, ecology, economics and sociology. Members of the group, although each is focused on one or several of these disciplines, develop a shared capacity in the work of all members. Specific topics have included, for example: the dynamics of irrigation, groundwater and watershed regimes (India, Samoa, Philippines, United States); regional patterns of soil enhancement, conservation and decline (Philippines, Nepal); adoption of agroforestry, social forestry and community forestry at farm, village and regional levels (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, United States); forest and land use dynamics and ecological change (Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, United States); impacts of national and state policies on resource use and environmental possibilities (Vietnam, United States, India).

Watershed and Basin Policy: We are engaged in studies of potential policy responses to declines in watershed and river basin capacities arising from institutional mechanisms for negotiation and exchange. One issue is an absence of means for downstream investment in upstream watershed services and of upstream motives and capacities to increase downstream benefits. Another is the impact of jurisdictional boundaries on opportunities for coordination. Studies are proceeding in California and South and Southeast Asia.

Race and Resources: While there is a remarkable synchrony of sea-change shifts in American policies toward race and toward natural resources and environment, the two policy themes have been treated by scholars as if independent of one another. We have begun this path of study with the presumption that they are not independent of but are strongly related to one another. We have begun to explore these presumed relations through their joint impacts on land availability and access, labor opportunity and mobility, and the distribution and deployment of capital. Issues include the racial maldistribution of influence and opportunity on ‘public lands’; the impacts of environmental policies on access to residential and employment opportunity in metropolitan areas; means of resolving disparities between Native American treaty-based rights to natural resources and the jurisdictional frameworks that currently control these resources.

Resource policy and rural development, inter-governmental relations and resource use, water management, agro-forestry, and social forestry.
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1970