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David Bell

Archived Content

Faculty of Environmental Studies

Professor Emeritus, Senior Scholar and Former Dean, Faculty of Environmental Studies,
York University

Contact Information:
647-588-2873 (cell)

Research Interests
David Bell is interested in Governance for Sustainability – the transformation in decision-making practices, policies, institutions and culture that will be necessary to support sustainability in the public and private sectors. He has served as consultant and advisor to private sector companies and to governments at all 3 levels in Canada and internationally to the G8, the Government of China, and the Government of Jamaica.

A political scientist by training, David was an undergraduate at York University in its earliest years, graduating with his B. A. in 1965. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1969, and taught at Michigan State University for 2 years before returning to York in 1971. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (1981 87) and Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies from 1992 1996 at York University.

David is Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Environmental Studies and was until July 2003 the Director of the York Centre for Applied Sustainability (YCAS). This Centre, which he founded in 1996, has now evolved into the York University Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS).

David is currently the Chair of Learning for a Sustainable Future ( and co-chair of the Education Alliance for a Sustainable Ontario (EASO), and of the National Education for Sustainable Development Expert Council (NESDEC). He served as a member of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy ( from June 2003 to February 2007. From December 2002 until November 2006, David served as Chair Of the Board of Directors of Parc-Downsview-Park Inc. (, a federal Crown Corporation whose mandate is to create for the people of Canada an “urban greenspace for the enjoyment of future generations” at former CFB Downsview.

David was a member of the Environmental Task Force of the City of Toronto (1998 – 2000) and the Toronto Sustainability Round Table (2000 – 2003). David chaired the SRT Governance Working Group. He was a founding member of the International Sustainability Indicators Network (ISIN) and was also Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Voluntary Challenge and Registry (VCR Inc) from 1997 until 2004. He served for the Minister of Environment (Ontario) as Chair/facilitator of the Expert Panel on the Taro East Landfill which released its Final Report in October, 2000. In July 2005 he was appointed Chair/facilitator of the Toward Sustainability in York Region Advisory Group which presented its Report to the York Region Council in June 2006.

Selected Publications
David’s recent recent papers and chapters include “Education for Sustainable Development: Cure or Placebo?” forthcoming in Glen Toner and James Meadowcroft (eds) Innovation, Science and Environment: Special Edition – Charting Sustainable Development in Canada 1987-2027; “Governance Implications of Sustainable Transportation Policy”, presented to the International Forum On Strategy and Policy for Sustainable Transportation Development in China (June 2005, Beijing); “Voluntary Codes and the New Sustainability Paradigm” in Wes Cragg (ed.) Ethics Codes, Corporations and the Challenge of Globalization (Edward Elgar, 2005); “The Role of Government in Advancing Corporate Sustainability” (background paper for the G8 Environmental Futures Forum, 2002). Reprinted (abridged) in Robert Linus Olson and David Rejeski (eds) Environmentalism & the Technologies of Tomorrow: Shaping the Next Industrial Revolution. Island Press, 2004; “Towards a National Sustainable Development Framework for Jamaica: National Sustainable Development Framework Scan and Approaches for Process Management” (for the ENACT Project/Government of Jamaica, 2003); “Sustainable Urban Communities in Canada: From Rio to Johannesburg” (for the Canadian Earth Summit Secretariat, 2001).

David’s book publications include Resistance and Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973); Power, Influence and Authority: An Essay in Political Linguistics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975); and The Roots of Disunity: A Study of Canadian Political Culture (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992). He is the co-author (with Glen Toner) of 2 chapters in the UBC Press book, Sustainable Production (Glen Toner ed.) published in the Spring of 2006. His chapter on “Canadian Political Culture” will appear in the forthcoming edition of Canadian Politics in the 21st Century, co-edited by Glen Williams and Michael Whittington.

David was the writer and host of a series of 12 one hour radio broadcasts for the Open College (91.1FM Toronto) entitled "Sustainability: Canadian and Global Perspectives" that has been broadcast six times in Canada and once internationally by shortwave from Radio Peace International in Costa Rica. (Available in RealAudio at

David was Honorary Theme Editor of the Sustainable Development Theme of the Encyclopedia of the Life Support Systems (EOLSS), published in collaboration with UNESCO; and is an editor of the International Journal of Sustainable Development. He was a founding core faculty member of the Sustainable Enterprise Academy, developed by the Erivan K. Haub Program in Business and Sustainability in York University's Schulich School of Business.

In May 2007, the City of Toronto honoured David with a Green Toronto Award for Leadership in Sustainability.

In April 2009 David attended the UNESCO World Conference on the mid-point of the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) in Bonn where he facilitated a 5-hour workshop on “The Economic Pillar of Sustainable Development: The Education Dimension.” It was attended by 70 participants from 50 countries. Later that month, David delivered a luncheon keynote (“Genuine Prosperity for the Americas”) at the Private Sector Forum of the OAS “Summit of the Americas” in Trinidad. In 2009 he served as an advisor on sustainability issues to Nexen, Bosch Appliances, and NWMO.

David and his wife Kaaren live in Thornhill Ontario, and have two adult children and two grandchildren. A jazz bassist who years ago studied with Ray Brown at Oscar Peterson’s Advanced School of Contemporary Music, David plays gigs in and around Toronto.

Biographical Listings: Canadian Who’s Who; Who’s Who in Black Canada