Faculty & Staff


Vivian Thomson

Associate Professor · Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1997

Contact Information


Associate Professor Vivian E. Thomson teaches in the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Department of Politics.  Her professional specialty is environmental policy and politics.

In 2001 she helped to create–and she now directs–the Environmental Thought and Practice B. A. program, one of the University’s most popular interdisciplinary undergraduate degree programs (www.virginia.edu/etp).  She also directs the University’s Panama Initiative, which was launched in 2007 by President Casteen, Provost Garson, and Vice Provost Grossman (http://www.panama.evsc.virginia.edu/).

Professor Thomson’s work extends outside of the University into the realm of environmental policy in practice.  She was appointed by Governors Warner and Kaine in 2002 and in 2006, respectively, to the State Air Pollution Control Board, the seven-member body that makes air pollution policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  She is past Vice Chair of the Board.

Her environmental policy writings include greenhouse gas emissions, energy, air pollution, and waste management.  She is recognized for her international work on trash management and greenhouse gas emissions trading.

During academic year 2001-2002 Professor Thomson was Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, where she taught American politics and environmental policy. In 2005-2006 Professor Thomson was Guest Scholar at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Professor Thomson’s book, Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport, is now in print (University of Virginia Press, 2009).  This work examines interstate trash transport in the United States within a broad social, economic, and cultural context that includes comparisons with practices in the EU and Japan.  Garbage In, Garbage Out was a Finalist in the 2010 Southern Environmental Law Center’s Reed writing competition.  Garbage In, Garbage Out has been hailed inside and outside academia as a “breath of fresh air,” “original, a substantial contribution to the field of environmental policy,” an “outstanding work,” and a “rich source of information.”

Professor Thomson’s latest book, *Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany* (Anthem Press) was published in February 2014.  Prof. Thomson offers domestic and cross-country analysis of state-national relations in climate policy in three powerful federal nations.  The resulting policy framework is called “sophisticated interdependence.” Preliminary reviews say the book is “packed with insights,” “provides rich material for scholars and policymakers,” “offers a politically astute roadmap,” and “skillfully identifies common ground to break today’s stalemates.”  http://www.anthempress.com/sophisticated-interdependence-in-climate-policy-pb

Professor Thomson has started book projects about air pollution control in Virginia (“The Ties That Bind: Air Pollution, Power, and Politics”) and authentic progress in Panama.

Professor Thomson’s language skills include German, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Professor Thomson’s detailed c.v. is at V. Thomson cv Sept. 2014.

Interviews with Prof. Thomson regarding her research:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaQpDUw7hqM  Emerald Planet TV
http://wina.com/podcasts/vivian-thomson/  WINA
http://www.wnrn.org/category/sunday-morning-wake-up-call/  WNRN

Recent Publications

2014. Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany. Anthem Press. 220 pp. http://www.anthempress.com/sophisticated-interdependence-in-climate-policy-pb.

2011. Vivian E. Thomson and Vicki Arroyo.  Upside-Down Cooperative Federalism: Climate Change Policymaking and the States.  Virginia Environmental Law Journal, 29(1): 1-61.

2009.  Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport (University of Virginia Press)

2007. TXU's expansion proposal: A Risk for Investors. Available at www.ceres.org.

2007. Regionalization of municipal solid waste management in Japan: Balancing the proximity principle with economic efficiency. Forthcoming in Environmental Management.

2006. Early observations on the European Union's greenhouse gas emission trading scheme: Insights for United States Policymakers. Available at www.pewclimate.org.

2006. Review of The Discovery of Global Warming (Spencer Weart). Journal of Politics 68(1).

2003. Grab bag ethics in environmental policymaking: a pragmatist's view. Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice, eds. Andrew Light and Avner de-Shalit (MIT Press: 2003)