I am originally from Melbourne, Australia. I began my career as an environmental lawyer in a large corporate law firm before I switched to the environmental policy and social science fields during graduate studies at Harvard University. After working with Sheila Jasanoff at Harvard, I undertook postdoc training at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, which exposed me to the practices and challenges of interdisciplinary research. As well as being an academic, I strongly believe in working with and for environmental and social NGOs. In my "free time", I revel in making clay sculptures, bicycle riding, and reading or watching science fiction.
SJD, Environmental law and policy II Harvard University, 2000
LLM II Harvard University 1995
BA/LLB law, political science, history, literature II University of Melbourne, Australia, 1993
Chemicals policy and politics (including green chemistry, chemicals testing, biomonitoring) II sustainable food systems (including agroecology, policies for diversified farming systems, food sovereignty) II environmental STS II sustainability transitions II sustainability learning and societal change
At the Division of Society & Environment, I research across the broad field of environmental policy and societal change, drawing on STS, environmental justice, and social learning scholarship. My interdisciplinary work falls into three major domains: greening chemicals; sustainable food systems; and sustainability transitions.
1. Greening chemicals. I work on a range of issues associated with making the global chemical industry more sustainable and just. One current project looks at the role of socially robust knowledge in the ongoing transformation of the US chemical industry. Are chemical firms changing toward sustainability, and what is the role of societies in holding them accountable for their actions? What can we learn from the history of pollution prevention for the fate of the green chemistry movement? Another current project investigates the development of chemical testing regimes in the US and European Union, which is closely associated with chemical regulatory systems. Here, I study the politics of making endocrine disruptor screening programs and biomonitoring surveys as part of a larger, collaborative project.
Earlier, I did some work on biofuels but I concluded that the first generation of biofuels (ethanol from corn and sugarcane) was unlikely to make a sustainable contribution. These days, I am working on biobased chemicals – the fast-emerging sector of chemicals produced from agricultural biomass. My interests are in the social and environmental impacts of this transition; the emerging political economy of the flex-crop system; and the business and scientific knowledge involved. White biotechnology and synthetic biology are increasingly entwined with biobased chemicals and agriculture, as seen in the new CRISPR technology for gene editing.
In this work, I have served as an Associate Director of the Berkeley Green Chemistry Center. Among other activities, I have taught new interdisciplinary courses in green chemistry and the public ethics/politics of sustainable materials.
2. Sustainable food systems. Early, I researched sustainable food consumption issues, particularly in the seafood and food retailer areas. I examined, for example, how seafood consumer campaigns emerged; and how production and consumption systems are being linked through consumer campaigns, retailer actions, regulation, and innovative learning tools. In the past few years, I have moved further upstream into the world of agricultural production. Here, I am researching the development and implementation of policies to support diversified, agroecological farming systems, or systems that are founded on ecological farming methods and smallholder producer knowledge. I have become increasingly intrigued by the potential of food sovereignty to transform industrial food systems. It has been a steep learning curve for me but I enjoy very much the wide array of food and agriculture issues, from peasant farmers and food workers to gene editing and inter-cropping; and from developing country to developed country contexts.
STS also plays an important role in my analytical thinking. I am the lead author of a chapter on agriculture and food in the 4th edition of the STS Handbook. This chapter reviews the epistemic and material politics shaping industrial agriculture, and explores diverging pathways for more sustainable agriculture – organic and agroecological farming vs. sustainable intensification, artificial meat, and flex-crops. Recently, I took a STS approach to unpacking the politics of making agroecology legitimate as science, practice, and movement in North America.
As part of this body of work, I became one of the founding co-faculty directors of the Berkeley Food Institute. Please check out our website to see what we are doing!
3. Sustainability transitions. I am beginning new work on urgent transitions: the challenge of quickly moving beyond the carbon-industrial complex and market fundamentalism to a sustainable, just, diverse planet. For now, I am concentrating on food systems as my primary site of research. I am interested in the politics and dynamics of structural and cognitive change. I am also particularly intrigued by the right to regenerate or renew as a fundamental human and ecological right underlying societal change.
Within this domain, I am also picking up on one of my long-standing interests: the place of sustainability learning in bringing about transformations in ecological and social systems. How can we imagine new societal forms while reviving older but ecologically and socially sustainable forms? What are the information visualization methods and institutional platforms for community dialogue that can help create wider agreement on the necessity for transition away from what Richard Norgaard calls the ‘econocene’? (That is, the market-dominated world we live in now).
Kokai, Akos and Alastair Iles. under review. "Materials sovereignty: Socially shaping nanotechnology pathways."
Levy, Susie, Christine Meisner Rosen, and Alastair Iles. under review. "Rare Earth Elements in Electronics: A Lifecycle View".
Iles, Alastair, Abigail Martin, and Christine Meisner Rosen. Forthcoming. "Undoing Chemical Industry Lock-ins: Polyvinyl Chloride and Green Chemistry." Hyle: International Journal of the Philosophy of Chemistry.
Martin, Abigail, Christine Meisner Rosen, and Alastair Iles. 2016. "Applying Utilitarianism and Deontology in Managing Bisphenol-A Risks in the United States." Hyle: International Journal of the Philosophy of Chemistry.
Montenegro de Wit, Maywa and Alastair Iles. 2016. "Toward thick legitimacy: Creating a web of legitimacy for agroecology." Elementa. DOI 10.12952/journal.elementa.000115; https://elementascience.org/articles/115
Iles, Alastair. forthcoming. "Assuring Ethical Food: Sustainable Agriculture in An Era of Uncertainty." In Andrew Light and Ben Hale (eds). Routledge Companion on Environmental Ethics.
Iles, Alastair, Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, Maywa Montenegro, and Ryan Galt. 2016. Agricultural Systems: Co-Producing Knowledge and Food. In the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 4th edition, eds. U. Felt, R. Fouché, C. Miller, and L. Smith-Doerr, Ch. 33. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Karp, D. S., Baur, P., Atwill, E. R., De Master, K., Gennet, S., Iles, A., ... & Kremen, C. (2015). The Unintended Ecological and Social Impacts of Food Safety Regulations in California's Central Coast Region. BioScience, 65(12), 1173-1183.
Lei, S., Iles, A., & Kelly, M. (2015). Characterizing the networks of digital information that support collaborative adaptive forest management in Sierra Nevada forests. Environmental management, 56(1), 94-109.
Iles, A., & Montenegro de Wit, M. (2015). Sovereignty at what scale? An inquiry into multiple dimensions of food sovereignty. Globalizations, 12(4), 481-497.
Havice, E., & Iles, A. (2015). Shaping the aquaculture sustainability assemblage: Revealing the rule-making behind the rules. Geoforum, 58, 27-37.
Iles, A., & Martin, A. N. (2013). Expanding bioplastics production: sustainable business innovation in the chemical industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 38-49.
Miller, C. A., Iles, A., & Jones, C. F. (2013). The social dimensions of energy transitions. Science as Culture, 22(2), 135-148.
Iles, A. (2013). Choosing our mobile future: the degrees of just sustainability in technological alternatives. Science as Culture, 22(2), 164-171.
Iles, A. (2013). Greening chemistry: Emerging epistemic political tensions in California and the United States. Public Understanding of Science, 22(4), 460-478.
Hall, L., Iles, A., & Morello-Frosch, R. (2012). Litigating Toxic Risks Ahead of Regulation: Biomonitoring Science in the Courtroom. Stanford environmental law journal, 31(1), 3.
Iles, A., & Mulvihill, M. J. (2012). Collaboration across disciplines for sustainability: Green chemistry as an emerging multistakeholder community. Environmental science & technology, 46(11), 5643-5649.
Kremen, C., Iles, A., & Bacon, C. (2012). Diversified Farming Systems: An Agroecological, Systems-based Alternative to Modern Industrial Agriculture. Ecology and Society, 17(4), 44.
Iles, A., & Marsh, R. (2012). Nurturing diversified farming systems in industrialized countries: how public policy can contribute. Ecology and society, 17(4), 42.
Iles, A. (2008). Shifting to green chemistry: the need for innovations in sustainability marketing. Business Strategy and the Environment, 17(8), 524-535.
Iles, A. (2007). Identifying environmental health risks in consumer products: non-governmental organizations and civic epistemologies. Public understanding of science, 16(4), 371-391.
Iles, A. (2007). Seeing sustainability in business operations: US and British food retailer experiments with accountability. Business Strategy and the Environment, 16(4), 290-301.
Iles, A. (2007). Making the seafood industry more sustainable: creating production chain transparency and accountability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(6), 577-589.
Martello, ML and Iles, A. (2006). Framing, Methods, and Process in Coastal Zone and Agriculture Assessments. In Farrell, A. E. (ed). Assessments of regional and global environmental risks: designing processes for the effective use of science in decisionmaking. Resources for the Future. 111-119.
Iles, A. (2006). The international political economy of making consumption sustainable. Review of International Political Economy, 13(2), 340-358.
Iles, A. (2005). Learning in sustainable agriculture: food miles and missing objects. Environmental Values, 14(2), 163-183.
Iles, A. (2004). Making seafood sustainable: merging consumption and citizenship in the United States. Science and Public Policy, 31(2), 127-138.
Iles, Alastair. (2004). "Mapping environmental justice in technology flows: Computer waste impacts in Asia." Global Environmental Politics 4(4), 76-107.
Iles, A. (2004). Patching local and global knowledge together: Citizens inside the US chemical industry. S. Jasanoff and M. Martello Long (eds). Earthly politics: Local and global in environmental governance. 285-308. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Iles, A. (2003). Rethinking differential obligations: equity under the biodiversity convention. Leiden Journal of International Law, 16(02), 217-251.
CNR Teaching Award, 2015.
Faculty Mentor Award, UC Berkeley, 2013.
Robert Gordon Menzies Scholarship to Harvard University, 1994.
- 60 - Environmental Policy, Administration, and Law
- 98 - DIRECTED GROUP STDY
- 195 - Senior Thesis
- 197 - FIELD STUDY
- 198 - DIRECTED GROUP STDY
- 199 - SUPERV INDEP STUD
- 226 - Interdisciplinary Food and Agriculture Studies
- C234 - Green Chemistry: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability
- 261 - Sustainability and Society
- 290 - SPECIAL TOPICS ESPM
- 298 - DIRECT GROUP STUDY
- 299 - INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH
interviews appearing in:
Los Angeles Times
The Saturday Paper