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Professor David Humphreys

Profile summary

Professional biography

I was born on planet Earth and have lived here all my life. It's still a wonderful place to live but unfortunately it is no longer as safe around here as it used to be. This realisation has led me to devote my university career to research and teaching on global environmental degradation and how it should be addressed. I specialise in deforestation, climate change and global environmental governance. 

I landed at the Open University in 1995 after working for British Rail, as a merchant seaman and in Australian fashion retail. During a two-year career break in the 1980s I travelled extensively, developing concerns about global environmental degradation along the way. This eventually led to a PhD in international forest politics at City University London (supervisor: Professor Peter Willetts).

I have served as an advisor to the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development, as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Forest Institute and with five UK government delegations to the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). I have been a UK representative on two EU-funded research programmes on forest policy (COST Action E19 and COST Action FP1207) and have served as an author with four Global Forest Expert Panels convened by the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO). In 2011 I was a member of the Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE) team on academic capacity building in Afghanistan. I regularly speak before different audiences on the challenge of global heating and policies for tackling it. I support the agenda of Extinction Rebellion and have addressed two of their rallies in central London.

I have guest edited five special issues of peer-reviewed journals, most recently of Forest Policy and Economics (with Shonil Bhagwat). In 2015 I was appointed lead editor of Common Ground’s On Sustainability collection of academic journals, and academic lead for the annual International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability. You can find out about the next conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia in February 2023 here.  


1991   BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations, University of Kent at Canterbury
1995   PhD International Relations, City University London


2008   International Studies Association: Harold and Margaret Sprout Award
2015   Institute of Chartered Foresters: Honorary Fellowship
2016   The Open University: Teaching Award for Excellence in Innovation
2017   Higher Education Academy: National Teaching Fellowship 

Research interests

My current research interests centre on four interrelated areas at the interface of geography, environmental politics and international politics. The first is global environmental governance, with a particular interest in the United Nations Forum on Forests and other forest-related international organisations, including the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Research in this area also focuses on private sector governance schemes in shaping norms and rules, the interactions between public and private spheres in environmental governance, and the democratic regulation of business corporations. The second is environmental philosophy and environmental law, in particular the role that different rights claims play in shaping environmental politics and domestic and international law, with an interest in the moral claim that nature has rights that precede those of humans. The third is the relationship between science, technology and politics with particular interests in forest science, and geoengineering. The fourth is national forest policy in the United Kingdom within the context of pan-European forest policy. A common theme to all areas of research is the relationship between theory and practice and how research can help to generate policies and governance that promote long-term environmental sustainability.

I welcome applications from prospective PhD students interested in all areas of environmental geography, environmental policy and environmental politics.

I'm a member of the OpenSpace Research Centre.


Humphreys, D., V.Johnson, P. Jehlicka and W. Brown (eds) (2019) Environmental policy in an international context (Book 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University, 416pp. [DD319 set text]. 

Jehlicka, P. and D. Humphreys (eds) (2019) Environmental policy in an international context (Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, 432pp. [DD319 set text]. 

Humphreys, D. and S. Stober (eds) (2014) Transitions to Sustainability: Theoretical Debates for a Changing Planet, Champaign IL, Common Ground, 360pp.

Humphreys, D., N. Clark, S. Smith, P. Jehlicka and N. Bingham (eds) (2013) Environment: Sharing a Dynamic Planet – Introduction, Life, Water, Milton Keynes, The Open University, 470pp. [DST206 set text].

Humphreys, D and A. Blowers (eds) (2009) A Warming World, Milton Keynes, The Open University, 274pp. [DU311 set text].

Humphreys, D. (2006) Logjam: Deforestation and the Crisis of Global Governance, London: Earthscan, 302pp.

Humphreys, D. (ed.) (2004) Forests for the Future: National Forest Programmes in Europe, Luxembourg: European Communities, 345pp.

Thomas, A., S. Carr and D. Humphreys (eds) (2001) Environmental Policies and NGO Influence: Land Degradation and Sustainable Resource Management in Sub-Saharan Africa, London: Routledge, 201pp.

Humphreys, D. (1996) Forest Politics: The Evolution of International Cooperation, London: Earthscan, 299pp.

Journal articles

Oldekop, J.A., M. Gabay, D. Humphreys, J.F.M. Kamoto, D.N. Mutta, C. Song, J. Timko, L. Vang Rasmussen and D. Stoian (2021) 'A framework for analysing contextual factors shaping forest-poverty dynamics', Forest Policy and Economics 132 (102591).

Humphreys, D. (2019) 'Pedagogies of Change: Rethinking the Role of the University During the Climate Emergency', International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability: Annual Review 15(1): 53-70.  

Cashore, B., S. Bernstein, D. Humphreys, I. Visseren-Hamakers and K. Rietig (2019) 'Designing stakeholder learning dialogues for effective global governance', Policy and Society 38(1): 118-147.

Humphreys, D., B. Cashore, I.J. Visseren-Hamakers, W. de Jong, K. McGinley, A. Denvir, P. Caro-Torres and S. Lupberger (2017) 'Towards durable multistakeholder-generated solutions: The pilot application of a problem-oriented Policy Learning Protocol to legality verification and community rights in Peru', International Forestry Review 19(3): 278-293.

Bhagwat, S., D. Humphreys and N. Jones (2017) 'Forest governance in the Anthropocene: Challenges for theory and practice', Forest Policy and Economics 79: 1-7.

Humphreys, D. (2017) ‘Rights of Pachamama: The emergence of an Earth jurisprudence in the Americas’, Journal of International Relations and Development 20: 459-484.

Humphreys, D. (2016) ‘Integers, integrants and normative vectors: The problem of environmental policy integration under neoliberalism’, Environment and Planning C 34(3): 433-447.

de Jong, W. and D. Humphreys (2016) 'A failed Social Licence to Operate for the neoliberal modernization of Amazonian resource use: The underlying causes of the Bagua tragedy of Peru', Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research 89(5): 552-564.

Humphreys, D. (2015) ‘The reconstruction of the Beirut Central District: An urban geography of war and peace’, Spaces and Flows: An international journal of urban and extraurban studies, 6(4): 1-14.

Humphreys, D. (2015) ‘Negotiating the future under the shadow of the past: The eleventh session of the United Nations Forum on Forests and the 2015 renewal of the international arrangement on forests’, International Forestry Review 17(4): 385-399.

Humphreys, D. (2015) ‘Know your rights: Earth jurisprudence and environmental politics’, International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice 10(3-4): 1-14. 

Buizer, M., D. Humphreys and W. de Jong (2014) ‘Climate change and deforestation: the evolution of an intersecting policy domain’, Environmental Science and Policy 35: 1-11.

Satyal Pravat, P. and D. Humphreys (2013) ‘Using a multilevel approach to analyse the case of forest conflicts in the Terai, Nepal’, Forest Policy and Economics 33: 47-55.

Humphreys, D. (2011) ‘Smoke and mirrors: reflections on the science and politics of geoengineering’, Journal of Environment and Development 20(22): 99-120.

Humphreys, D. (2009). Discourse as ideology: Neoliberalism and the limits of international forest policy. Forest Policy and Economics, 11(5-6) pp. 319–325.

Humphreys, D. (2009) 'From Corporate Social Responsibility to the Democratic Regulation of Transnational Corporations', International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Social and Economic Sustainability 5(4): 207-218.

Humphreys, D. (2009) 'Environmental and Ecological Citizenship in Civil Society', The International Spectator 44(1): 171-183.

Humphreys, D. (2008) 'The politics of “Avoided Deforestation”: Historical context and contemporary issues', International Forestry Review 10(3): 433-442.

Humphreys, D. (2005) 'The Elusive Quest for a Global Forests Convention', Review of European Community and International Environmental Law (RECIEL) 14(1): 1-10.

Paterson, M., D. Humphreys and L. Pettiford, (2003) 'Conceptualizing Global Environmental Governance: From Interstate Regimes to Counter-Hegemonic Struggles', Global Environmental Politics 3(2): 1-10.

Other selected papers

Humphreys, D. and C. Lorne (2021) 'United Kingdom: Anatomy of a Public Policy Failure', in R. Akhtar (ed.) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreaks, Environment and Human Behaviour: International Case Studies, Cham, Switzerland, Springer, pp.251-268.

Gabay, M., J. Oldekkop, D. Humphreys, J. Kamoto, D..N. Mutta, N. Rai, C. Song, J. Timko, L.V. Rasmussen, J.Z. Cheek, D. Devcota and D. Stoyan (2020) 'Contextual factors shaping forest-poverty dynamics', in D.C, Miller, S. Mansourian and C. Wildburger (eds) Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations - A Global Assessment Report, IUFRO World Series 39, Vienna: International Union of Forest Research Organisations, pp.95-122. 

Humphreys. D. (2013) ‘Deforestation’, in C.G. Bates and J. Ciment (eds) Global Social Issues: An Encyclopaedia – Volume 1 (A – F), Armonk NY: Sharpe Reference, pp. 198-203.



A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Teaching interests

From 2007 to 2013 I was the qualification director for the BA(Hons) Environmental Studies. I have prepared teaching material for several Open University modules. With Nick Bingham I co-chaired the production of the University’s second level interdisciplinary module Environment: Sharing a dynamic planet (DST206). I recently co-chaired with Petr Jehlicka the production of the third level social sciences module Environmental policy in an international context (DD319).