A native of Melbourne, Australia, Sophie Webber is a doctoral student in UBC’s Department of Geography. Sophie is the recipient of a Killan Doctoral Scholarship and shares her research on climate change adaptation and industry.
What is the aim of your research?
My research aims to determine how the climate change adaptation 'industry' - an assemblage of government, consulting, scientists, global agencies, and international financiers and donors - establishes itself, how it operates, and what some of the political-economic effects of the industry are. I look to key sites of the industry: Pacific Islands where experiments in climate change adaptation are rife, and the World Bank offices in Sydney. In these sites, I will examine the new Green Climate Fund, a UNFCCC institution that aims to disperse US$100 billion annually for climate initiatives through the World Bank. Specifically, I will ask four key questions: (i) what mobile ideas, expertise and truth claims sustain the ecology of climate change adaptation projects, and how; (ii) how are expertise and finance co-constituted; (iii) how does 'successful' climate change adaptation travel and embed itself locally; and (iv) what are the effects of these projects?
What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
My preliminary research has suggested that climate change adaptation projects can have perverse effects; but given the abysmal progress of attempts to halt climate change to date, these projects are critical for some Pacific Islands. I hope my research will be able to extend and deepen critical analyses of actually-existing adaptation projects through multi-sited and comparative research in order to understand the limits and potentials of such interventions.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I love learning, thinking, and discovering. I am also passionate about, and endlessly intrigued by, both my discipline and my specific research. Graduate study was a wonderful way to keep exploring.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
The Geography graduate program at UBC is fantastic: huge, vibrant, exciting, and intellectually stimulating. I wanted to leave Australia to study for many reasons, but I was extremely lucky to end up here.
For you, what was the best surprise about graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best surprise about my program was the curiosity and acuity of all the other graduate students; we have a lovely community in our funny building. Of course, I am also always grateful for the opportunity to continue to investigate something I am passionate about.
What advice do you have for new graduate students coming to UBC/Vancouver?
I have lots of advice, as my friends will all attest to. But I think some important things to consider when pursuing graduate study are: make the most of the wonderful people in, and visiting, your department and university; and figure out early on (perhaps even before starting a PhD?) what you want to study and, most importantly, why.
What has winning a major award meant to you?
An award like this is great encouragement, and I feel very fortunate. This financial support will be invaluable for conducting my field research and sharing the results. Producing these academic achievements, however, is a collective effort, and my study is only possible with the help of an inspiring supervisory committee and extremely generous and patient research informants: I hope this award will recognize their efforts as well.