Thomas Homer-Dixon (born 1956 in Victoria, British Columbia) currently holds the Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario. He is a founding director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, at the University of Waterloo, and professor in the Centre for Environment and Business in the Faculty of Environment, with a cross-appointment to the Political Science Department in the Faculty of Arts. He was previously director of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, a division of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
Early life and education
Homer-Dixon was raised in a rural area outside Victoria, British Columbia. In his late teens and early twenties, he gained first-hand knowledge of Canada’s oil industry while working as a roughneck on oil rigs, a labourer in gas refineries, and a welder’s helper on pipeline construction. In 1980, he received a B.A. in political science from Carleton University in Ottawa. He then established the Canadian Student Pugwash organization, a forum for discussion of economics, political science, history, and public policy. He completed his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989.
Homer-Dixon began his teaching career at the University of Toronto in 1990 to lead several research projects examining links between environmental stress and violence in poor countries. In 1993, he joined the faculty of University College and the Department of Political Science, progressing to full professor status in 2006. During this time, he was director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, University College, moving on to be the Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies until 2007. In 2008, Homer-Dixon moved to the University of Waterloo, Ontario, to assume the role as the Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair of Global Systems at the newly created Balsillie School of International Affairs.
In the 1990s, at the University of Toronto, Homer-Dixon studied of the links between environmental stress and violent conflict. Two of his articles in the MIT journal International Security identified underlying mechanisms by which scarcities of natural resources like cropland and fresh water could contribute to insurgency, ethnic clashes, terrorism, and genocide in poor countries.
In the mid-1990s, Homer-Dixon researched the links between environmental stress and conflict. Homer-Dixon has also been interviewed in the Huffington Post about resilience and civilization.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times in April 2013, Homer-Dixon stated that Alberta's oil sands industry "is undermining Canadian democracy" and that "tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet." Dixon also claimed that "Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state" and that the oil sands industry "is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don't like."
Homer-Dixon was subsequently criticized by Jen Gerson in the National Post, who argued that referring to Canada as a "petro state" was erroneous since oil and natural gas provide only about 5% of Canada's total GDP. Regarding Homer-Dixon's claim that "equates resource extraction with low innovation", Gerson argued that Canada's current oilsands industry "required most a century of research, development and high-risk capital investment", while claiming that "For a professor of any repute to associate oilsands with low innovation is patently ignorant." In addition, Gerson stated that the oilsands industry "is pumping billions of dollars into an otherwise struggling economy", while quipping (about Homer-Dixon) that "It must be nice to be a professor who can call for the shuttering of an industry that millions of Canadians rely upon to pay their mortgages."
- The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization. Toronto: Knopf. 2006. ISBN 0-676-97722-7.
- The Ingenuity Gap. New York: Knopf. 2000. ISBN 0-375-40186-5.
- Environment, Scarcity, and Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1999. ISBN 0-691-02794-3.
- Population and Conflict. Liège: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. 1994. ISBN 2-87108-032-1.
- Environmental Scarcity and Global Security. New York: Foreign Policy Association. 1993. ISBN 0-87124-152-8.
- Balsillie School of International Affairs web site.
- WICI Welcome from the Director.
- “George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies.” Peace Magazine (July–August, 1996): 31.
- “Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Named for Trudeau.” UofT Magazine (Summer 2004).
- Thomas Homer-Dixon's official biography (Accessed March 5, 2007.)
- Carleton Alumni: Thomas Homer-Dixon BAHons (Poli Sci)/80
- Rockwell, Peigi . “Professor for Peace: Thomas Homer-Dixon.” Peace Magazine (June/July, 1993): 20.
- MIT library listing of Thomas Homer-Dixon's PhD thesis
- Homer-Dixon, Thomas. “Environmental Scarcities and Violent Conflict: Evidence from Cases.” International Security, Vol. 19, No. I, (Summer 1994): 5-40.
- Davis, Jeff. “New School Aims to Breathe Life into Global Affairs.” CIGI Online (February 20, 2008).
- Reinhart, Anthony. “Advantage Waterloo.” The Globe and Mail (July 3, 2009).
- Homer-Dixon, Thomas (Summer 1994). “Environmental Scarcities and Violent Conflict: Evidence from Cases.” International Security Vol. 19, No. I, pp. 5-40.
- Homer-Dixon, Thomas. “On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict.” International Security, Vol. 16, No.2, (Summer 1994): 76-116.
- Hurst, Linda. “The global guru World leaders are listening to.” Toronto Star (July 20, 1996): C1.
- Laver, Ross. “Looking for Trouble.” Maclean’s 107 (September 5, 1994): 18-22.
- Kennedy, Bingham. “Environmental Security: PRB Talks with Thomas Homer-Dixon.” Population Reference Bureau (January 2001).
- “Apocalypse Soon.” The Economist. 332.7873 (July 23, 1994): A25.
- Dembo, Ron. “Resilience and Civilization.” Interview in Huff Post Politics Canada (January 17, 2007).
- Homer-Dixon takes aim at 'tar sands disaster' in New York Times by Jill Mahoney, The Globe and Mail, April 1, 2013.
- Thomas Homer-Dixon: "The Tar Sands Disaster" on As It Happens, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, April 3, 2013.
- Op-Ed: The Tar Sands Disaster, (full article available at Speaker's Spotlight).
- Jen Gerson’s Western Front: Ontario prof mistakes personal views on oilsands for reasoned argument by Jen Gerson, National Post, April 3, 2013.
- The Upside of Down site
- Official site
- Bookshorts video
- Online interview from CBC Words at Large
- Audio interview with THECOMMENTARY.CA, November 2006
- Imagine BC biography and photos
- Video (and audio) interview/discussion with Homer-Dixon by John Horgan on Bloggingheads.tv
- Keynote Speech at the 2008 National Foreign Policy Conference by Homer-Dixon about "Energy and Climate Change: A Sustainable Future?", June 20, 2008.