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The POLIS Project on Ecological Governance is a centre for research and action situated in the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria. POLIS was founded by Dr. Michael M'Gonigle and established in 2000 through the Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy at the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada). POLIS is a place where academic and community researchers work with others to dismantle the notion of the environment as merely another sector, and to make ecological thinking and practice a core value and practice in all aspects of society. Among the many research centres investigating and promoting sustainability worldwide, POLIS is unique in its focus on transdisciplinary research, education and advocacy oriented to defining and cultivating ecological governance.

POLIS research, policy practice, education and action are rooted in place and seek to understand and tackle several pressing questions:

  • What does governance shaped by the principles of ecological sustainability look like?
  • How do we govern ourselves in ways that, at all levels, are ecologically sustainable?
  • How do we implement models of ecological governance at local and global levels?

Our collective efforts to respond to these questions traverse local and international levels, as seen in Michael M’Gonigle's innovative development of Green Legal Theory that aims to transform legal processes and institutions into active instruments of social sustainability, and in Oliver Brandes’ successful policy advocacy on water sustainability. Tackling these questions is also the focus of Bradley Bryan’s application of political and legal theory to questions of health and the environment, and Kelly Bannister’s projects to develop and support ethical guidelines and community research protocols that facilitate more equitable relationships between universities and First Nations communities. It underpins David Boyd’s work on sustainability law and the contributions toward more sustainable campuses of Jamie Biggar, Rachel Forbes and Susanne Porter-Bopp who have built a movement toward the “planetary university.” These and other POLIS initiatives are described in more detail under Research Areas and Projects.


Our name is taken from the ancient Greek word “polis” meaning “city state.” But, for the Greeks — and for us at POLIS — the word takes on a broader meaning, representing the highest of human ideals: the ability to make decisions collectively for the greater good. It is the root of words such as “politics” and “metropolis” – a term that represents a rootedness in place and community.

POLIS hosts an occassional Discussion Series, providing a forum for cross-fertilization on ecological governance that brings together students, faculty, community researchers, policy analysts and interested others. Past topics have included: privatization and the pubic domain; commodified property, religion and law; sustainable consumers; community-university partnerships; collective resource rights; and collaborative land use planning. See our news and events page for information about upcoming events.

Our intention at POLIS is to be a place of active learning and exchange where people can reflect, enhance their contributions to and understandings of ecological governance and become agents of change.

Listen to a POLIS Radio Interview
In January 2005, several POLIS Reseach Associates were interviewed by Betsy Nuse, a volunteer programmer at CFUV 101.9 FM, the University of Victoria's Campus and Community radio station. The interview aired in April 2005 on the program Not For Profit Radio. We are grateful to Betsy and CFUV 101.9 FM for permission to share the interview.
If you do not have flashplayer, click here to listen.

Page last updated: 09/26/2019