Susanna Hecht


Professor of Urban Planning
Faculty Cluster Leader, Global Environment and Resources

Home Department: Urban Planning

Areas of Interest

Political ecologies of land use change, especially tropical forest; Environmental history and the history of environmentalisms; Indigenous and comparative knowledge systems in history and development; Rural development and resource governance; Climate change and forest politics; Gender and natural resources




Dr. Susanna Hecht’s research focuses largely on land use change in the Latin American tropics. Her work represents a remarkable integration of the humanities, including the history of ideas, social and environmental history, and the social sciences of development into the dynamics and sciences of tropical and planetary change. As one of the founding thinkers of Political Ecology— now a widespread interdisciplinary approach in geography, anthropology, development studies and environmental sciences— she has consistently carved out new analytic terrain through highly active tropical and archival research. As an advocate for social justice, she makes theoretical and practical linkages between what may at first seem arcane investigations but that change the discourses, practices and questions that ultimately become transformational in the field. While her findings when first published are controversial, they ultimately become the centering references, recasting the ideation of the tropics and illuminating its usually unexplored social and political history. With social nature at its center, her research actually marks out future scholarly terrain in terms of heterodox methods given the kinds of planetary changes we now confront. Dr. Hecht has always been attentive to theory, but also at least as much to what the world itself has to say. Thus the research speaks through the past, the present and the future and to the natures and societies we are inhabiting. And that we must act as well as talk.

Selected Research

Dr. Hecht’s research has been supported by numerous research agencies and foundations including US National Science Foundation, NASA, National Academy of Sciences, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies,  Guggenheim Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, National Geographic Society among many others. Her work has also been supported by activist agencies including the CIFOR (the International Center for Forestry Research), CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) EarthWatch, WWF, Environmental Defense Fund, Resources for the Future. Dr Hecht has  worked with the governments of Brazil, El Salvador, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia and for European and US development agencies such as GTZ, as well as The World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank, and many non government organizations. Hecht is a member of the UC Climate Solutions Group, the 50-person consortium of the UC system that is working on climate change and climate change policy, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Her recent book, Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha won the  Eleanor Melville Award for best book in Latin American  environmental history from the American Historical Association, and the Carl O Sauer Award.