Drexel’s Robert J. Brulle Receives Highest Honor in American Environmental Sociology


Bob Brulle
Robert J. Brulle, PhD, professor of sociology and environmental science

Robert Brulle, PhD, a professor of sociology and environmental science in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the 2016 recipient of the Frederick Buttel Distinguished Contribution Award. Brulle received the highest honor from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environment and Technology in recognition of his service, innovation and publications in environmental sociology.

Brulle’s work represents the emphasis Drexel’s Sociology Program, has placed on the dissection of global issues, such as decisions on environmental use and protection.

“Dr. Brulle deserves this award for his brilliance and vision as a scholar, for his courage to take on the oil and gas industry, for his generosity to our section, and for his profound level of collegiality to our community,” said University of Oregon associate professor, Kari Norgaard, PhD, one of his nominators.

Brulle is also the co-winner of the ASA’s Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award for the book, Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2015), which he co-edited with Oklahoma State University professor, Riley Dunlap, PhD.

The Schnaiberg Award is given biannually to publications of special noteworthiness in the field of environmental sociology. Climate Change and Society is the result of five years of work, and aligns the research of 37 sociologists to provide a thorough state of the knowledge on what sociology can tell us about the causes, consequences and responses to climate change.

Brulle’s research and advocacy has focused heavily on climate change, leading him to play a principal role in the formation of the ASA Task Force for Sociology and Global Climate Change, which ultimately cumulated in Climate Change and Society.

“Bob was my partner throughout the full process, quite frankly, I’m not sure the book would have been finished without Bob’s strong contribution.” Dunlap wrote in his nomination letter, reflecting on Brulle’s work on the volume. The book received a strong commendation from the ASA and critics alike.

Brulle made his first major impact in the field of environmental sociology with his research on U.S. environmental movements. He is also known for his book, Agency, Democracy, and Nature: The U.S. Environmental Movement from a Critical Theory Perspective (MIT Press, 2000).

In Brulle’s nomination, University of South Florida professor, Rob Benford, PhD, praised his rigorous and innovative methodological approach in this line of research, stating “Bob’s research is characterized by painstaking, systematic methods. This meticulous research not only has already served him well in his published works, it also constitutes an invaluable resource he, his students and other scholars will be able to mine for years to come.”

Brulle was also recognized for his efforts to engage in public sociology, as a spokesperson for his research and that of other social scientists studying climate change. He has contributed to national media coverage of climate change and its effects, including stories by, PBS Frontline, NPR and the Washington Post.

Harvard University professor, Naomi Oreskes, PhD, commended Brulle in her nomination letter, stating “He has been a clear and consistent voice in talking to the mass media about his scholarly findings in a way that has greatly helped to foster public understanding of the role that industry-funded disinformation has played in clouding public debate.”

“Dr. Brulle’s tireless efforts to describe the secretive foundation of the climate denial apparatus have been influential in shaping the climate change debate in Congress,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. “This is not a minor feat, as very few academics have the courage or capacity to stand up to such a powerful and relentless industry, yet Dr. Brulle continues his research unabashed and unintimidated. I am thankful to Dr. Brulle for bringing the light of scientific analysis in a new and important way into one of the most consequential policy issues facing our planet.”

Brulle worked alongside Whitehouse to investigate the role of the fossil fuel industry in funding disinformation campaigns about climate change.

He has also aided emerging scholars along the way. While serving with ASA’s Environment and Technology Section spent time mentoring emerging environmental sociologists and promoting their work in public venues.

“Dr. Brulle has consistently been a generous colleague who reaches out to younger scholars, offers encouragement and assistance,” said Norgaard. “Within the competitive norms of the academic world, this kind of encouragement and support for younger scholars is unfortunately far too rare. Yet it is truly a powerful way to build the discipline of environmental sociology.”

The Buttel award is named for Frederick Buttel, a professor of rural sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It was established after his death at age 56 in 2005 to recognize individuals for outstanding service, innovation, or publication in environmental sociology or sociology of technology.

Members of the news media who are interested in speaking with Brulle should contact Emily Storz at els332@drexel.edu or 215.895.2705.

Tagged with: