Dr Gary Bowden

Gary BowdenAssociate Professor
BA Honours (Western Washington University); MA, PhD (University of Calgary)

I was born and spent the early years of my life in Yakima, Washington. Like many people, my later interests were affected by formative experiences in my childhood. My father was a social service administrator, so I grew up in a household where social policy and processes of social change were discussed. We hiked, camped and climbed mountains, activities that contributed to my love of nature and interest in environmental matters. And, more dramatically, I was visiting my parents on May 18, 1980 when Mt. St. Helens erupted. The summit on which I had stood, along with a kilometer of the mountain’s elevation, disappeared in a matter of seconds. As tons of ash rained down on my parent’s house, my view of the world changed. I realized that things which I presumed to be essentially permanent and stable, such as a mountain, could under the right circumstances change dramatically in a very short period of time.

Research interests

At the most general level, my research interests involve the dynamics of stability and change in large scale systems. When, why, and at what rate does something change? What distinguishes fundamental change (transformation) from more minor forms of change (innovation, adaptation)? What factors promote stability or underpin systemic rigidity and the inability to change? Over time, this general interest has manifest itself in a variety of forms. At the micro level, I've examined factors affecting change through time in attitudes (e.g., attitudes toward unions), scientific knowledge (geologist's estimates of how much oil is in the ground) and ideology (the role of visual materials in fostering a neo-colonial worldview).

On the flip side, I've also examined the social dynamics of attitudinal opposition to change (e.g., climate change denial). At the more macro level, I've studied the rise to prominence of policy solutions (e.g. geo-engineering) designed to facilitate system stability (i.e., continued reliance on a fossil fuel based economy) and the social limits of human society to adapt to environmental change (e.g., the Norse Greenlanders).

Theoretically, the primary focus of my research involves the use of complex adaptive systems theory in order to develop an ecological (as opposed to environmental) sociology, i.e., a conceptual framework that incorporates social and ecological processes within a single framework.

Selected publications by area


  • Bowden, G. " Technological Tide: The Social Dynamics of Rising and Falling Interest in Geoengineering." Chapter 4, pages 45-57 in Shirley Thompson, Ryan Katz-Rosene and Chris Ling (eds.), Sustainability Soup. ESAC, 2015.
  • Bowden, G. “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Uncertainty, Innovation, and the Evolving Ecology of Climate Change Discourse” Chapter 7 (pages 67-78) in Ellen Rose (ed.), Proceedings of the Media Ecology Association, Volume 11. May, 2011.
  • Bowden, G. “From Environmental to Ecological Sociology: Implications for Health.”  Chapter 5 (123-137) in Helen Kopnina and Hans Keune (eds.), Health and Environment: Social Science Perspectives. New York: Nova Science. 2010.
  • Bowden, G. (editor) "Social Studies of the Environment" a themed issue of the Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, August, 1994

Science and Technology

  • Bowden, G. "Coming of Age in STS: Some Methodological Musings” Chapter 3 (pp. 64-79) in Markle, Petersen, Jasanoff and Pinch (eds.), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Sage: Beverly Hills, Ca. 1995
  • Bowden, G. "The Social Construction of Validity in Estimates of U.S. Crude Oil Reserves" Social Studies of Science, May, 1985, 15(2):207-240.
  • Bowden, G. "Estimating U.S. Crude Oil Resources: Organizational Interests, Political Economy and Historical Change" Pacific Sociological Review, October, 1982, 25(4):419-448.

Media/Communications/Visual Sociology

  • Bowden, G. “Reconstructing Colonialism: Graphic Layout and Design, and the Construction of Ideology” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, May, 2004, 41(2): 217-240.

Social Change

Complex Adaptive Systems

Chicago School Sociology

Canadian/American Comparison

  • Bowden, G. "Labour Unions in the Public Mind: The Canadian Case" Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, November, 1989, 26(5):123-42.

Supervision areas

Environmental Sociology; Sociology of Science and Technology; Sociology of Media and Communications; Visual Sociology; Social Movements and Social Change; Sociology of Disaster; Complex Adaptive Systems Theory; Chicago School Sociology

Please contact me to discuss possible supervision for undergraduate, MA, and PhD research projects.

Office: Carleton 134

Email:  Please see the UNB staff directory.

Tel: +1 (506) 452-6217