Karen Foster

Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
Dalhousie University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Critically assessing the pursuit of economic growth as a strategy for sustaining rural communities in Atlantic Canada.

Research relevance

This research will examine the connections between scaled-down economic production and consumption, climate change and the long-term sustainability of rural communities in Atlantic Canada.

Balancing Economic Growth and Sustainability in Rural Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada is one of the most rural areas in the developed world. It is the region’s rural nature and charm that attracts many tourists. But its rural character also has resulted in some serious challenges, such as a shrinking and aging population, decaying infrastructure, and the decline and disappearance of key industries.

Stimulating economic growth is often seen as a solution to these problems. But current research suggests there are ecological limits and consequences to economic growth. As Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada, Dr. Karen Foster will examine the tension between economic health and sustainability in the region.

Scientists believe human activity—and economic growth in particular—is a primary cause of global warming. There is increasing interest in the idea of transforming our society and economy using “degrowth” measures—that is, ecological economics strategies that would have us consume less, produce less, and live on a more local scale. This presents rural communities with a conundrum: economic growth is often deemed essential to their survival, but could threaten their long-term sustainability.

Using case studies and regional surveys, Foster will explore the potential of degrowth strategies in rural Atlantic Canada. She will also address the contradictions between rural ways of thinking, living and working and the kinds of changes degrowth would entail. Ultimately, Foster’s research will increase the understanding of alternative vision of sustainability in rural communities.