Environmental Research Network: An interview with Dominic Boyer and Maria Dolores Sanchez Galera

This is part of our special feature, The Frontlines of Environmental Politics in Europe.


The environmental research network is an opportunity for CES members to further discussions on the topic of the environment and its inextricable link with politics, science, technology, economy, sociology, and the law. Dominic Boyer and Maria Dolores Sanchez Galera explain the origins of the network, focusing on the connection between environmental issues and the economy and energy transition.

—Camilla Carlesi for EuropeNow


EuropeNow What were your main goals in creating the Environmental Research Network and did you personally get involved in this enterprise?

Dominic Boyer The environmental research network is a new initiative within the Council for European Studies (CES). It attempts to respond to the many urgent social, political, and institutional issues that the world is facing today, which are mostly related to environmental problems. We are aware of the surging interest in environmental studies among students and institutions. Thus, we believe it is a good time to focus this attention and create a platform for people to share research and enhance conversations on the topic. What brings me to this role are both my academic and professional backgrounds. Environmental issues have been part of my research for fifteen years now. Over the past decade, I have tried to help shape the conversation in environmental humanities, in particular, energy humanities. I have a long-standing connection to CES, since I was member of the board in the past. After a period of absence from the center, I thought leading this network could be a terrific opportunity for me to reconnect with CES and continue nourishing my interest in the topic.

Maria Dolores Sanchez Galera Since I was a student, I have always been involved with environmental law. Interest in this topic has grown so much over the years—it has become related to almost every field. As a lawyer who is currently working in the areas of economics, sustainability, energy, and transformational trends, I witnessed how the consensus of the majority has come around environmental concerns. Just by looking at the new metrics of governance, at the global level, it is clear that climate change has taken upon a new role. For me, this research network represents a space of communication and learning.

EuropeNow The network focuses on six areas of research, “Populism and Environmental Security,” “Climate Change, Resilience and Infrastructure,” “Energy Transition and Climate Mitigation,” “Food and Water Security,” “Emerging Technology and Environmental Sustainability,” and “New Economic Models and Practices.” How does your own research align with these themes?

Maria Dolores Sanchez Galera I have been doing research on the environment for some time. Early on, I focused on educational and cultural challenges, then I was drawn toward the economic aspect. Currently, I am working on normative arrangements toward the common good and exploring generative economic models and other theories, such as the civilian economy tradition, the buen vivir, the degrowth movement, and happiness economics in relation to the environment. I use a legal perspective, which is very interdisciplinary. I believe that working on new economic models is essential to face environmental problems. As a society, we are embedded in financial systems. Through my research, I attempt to make plausible the possibility that unconventional economic models, which focus on non-extractive practices are also relevant, as are legal theories, to achieve a better normative framework.

Dominic Boyer I tend to not hierarchize the importance of environmental topics because they are all relevant to me. However, in my own research, I mainly focus on the energy transition and, to a lesser extent, on climate adaptation. The reason behind this choice is that energy touches upon all of the other areas in one way or another. The primary issue I focus on is the link between energy and the magnitude and growth of its use, along with the type of dominant energy resources today, notably fossil fuels. For me, it is hard to think about solving environmental problems without managing the energy transition in a just and sustainable way. This is the main motivation behind my research focus, even if I also acknowledge the relevance of other matters, such as water and food.

EuropeNow How does research link to action in the mitigating of environmental issues?

Dominic Boyer  I think that Europe is a positive example, generally speaking, since it is where the models of a sustainable modernity are being pioneered and institutionalized more vigorously. Studying these models provides us with an opportunity to compare, contrast, engage, and learn from best practices, legal frameworks, and political movements. Within this context, academic research has an important role to play in terms of understanding what is happening in the world. However, none of these changes will occur strictly through research, since a political momentum is necessary.


Maria Dolores Sanchez Galera is a research fellow member of the “Pascual Madoz” Institute of Land Urbanism and Environmental Law of Carlos III University (Madrid), specializing in Energy Law and the Social aspects of sustainable development, and is part of the Scientific Committee of the Economy of Francesco. She is a Member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) (Spain), engaged with energy poverty and cooperation issues, and cultural and educational issues for the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She has extensively taught in European Energy Law, Environmental Law, cultural heritage, and sustainability, and she has recently published a monograph focusing on educational and cultural challenges of the EU Sustainability Model. She has published extensively in International journals on different environmental and energy law topics. 


Dominic Boyer is an anthropologist and environmental researcher who teaches at Rice University where he also served as Founding Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (2013-2019). His most recent books are Energopolitics (Duke UP, 2019), which analyzes the politics of wind power development in Southern Mexico and Hyposubjects (Open Humanities Press, 2021), an experimental collaboration with Timothy Morton concerning politics in the Anthropocene. With Cymene Howe, he made a documentary film about Iceland’s first major glacier (Okjökull) lost to climate change, Not Ok: a little movie about a small glacier at the end of the world (2018). 


Camilla Carlesi is a master student in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies at the University of Glasgow (Scotland), the University of Trento (Italy), and Charles University of Prague (Czech Republic). She holds a BA in international relations from John Cabot University in Rome, with a minor in communications. She currently works as a digital fellow at the Council for European Studies. Previously, she also worked at the US Embassy to Italy, the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics and Human Rights, and the Italian Ministry of Youth and Civil Service. Her interests range from environmental security to peacekeeping, conflict, and terrorism studies. Her academic work has been recognized at the COP26 research challenge and by the Growing Thought Leadership Award.


Published on May 18, 2022.


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