Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Gillian Galford

Second Advisor

Jennie C. Stephens


Intersections of food, energy, and water systems (the FEW nexus) pose many sustainability and governance challenges, including risks to ecosystems, inequitable distribution of benefits and harms across populations, and reliance on distant sources for food, energy, and water. Nexus-based approaches can offer more holistic pathways for societal transitions to FEW systems that are just and sustainable, but tend to focus narrowly on inputs (e.g. water ‘for’ energy) in ways that do little to address the historical roots and structural underpinnings of current system inadequacies, thus risking their perpetuation.

This dissertation widens the FEW nexus in two contexts in which the nexus extends well beyond inputs, and uses network analysis to characterize the rapidly-shifting global energy system at the core of extractive activities in both cases. Chapter 2 provides an integrated assessment of the trans-boundary FEW nexus in the Denver region, considering impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing of the Niobrara shale on both agricultural activity and water resources.

Chapter 3 extends the FEW nexus to incorporate materials and directly address embodied injustices and transboundary sustainability, and illustrates this expanded framing by linking the northward expansion of the ‘forest frontier’ to the James Bay hydroelectric megaproject in Eeyou Istchee/ Jamesie, Quebec. We estimate the region's interlinked forest disturbances from hydropower, mining, clearcutting, fire, and roads since 1975 to be about 106,000 km2, an area four times the size of Vermont, which receives about one-third of its electricity from Hydro-Quebec.

Finally, Chapter 4 employs network analysis to examine global oil and gas extraction from 2014 to 2018, highlighting cooperation (‘collusion’) among global investor-owned, hybrid, and national oil and gas companies in the face of existential threats to the industry that crystallized around the US election of 2016. At a system level, the interdependence, global reach, and combined power of the major extractors point to the necessity of a supply-side approach to the reduction of global carbon emissions.



Number of Pages

270 p.