Environment and Development

The Department of Environment and Development focuses on efforts to reconcile poverty alleviation with environmental protection in a manner that contributes to peaceful conflict resolution. We emphasize sustained critical analysis in order to formulate solutions that do not just deal with surface issues but address the root causes of environmental problems and underdevelopment. Our approach is grounded in political ecology, an interdisciplinary perspective that highlights the importance of political economic structures and inequality in access to resources as key drivers in environmental conflict and global environmental change. Our teaching, based in principles of peace education, promotes student-centered learning and active participation through collaborative discussion. We take full advantage of our unique location in Costa Rica by including within all of our courses case studies and field visits to explore the many innovative sustainable development projects occurring throughout the country.

Our students have gone on to successful careers with a wide variety of organizations, including UN agencies, government offices around the world, NGOs both local and international, and progressive private sector firms. Many have also continued in higher education, pursuing doctoral degrees in the social sciences. By joining the Department, you therefore become part of a growing global network of scholars and practitioners working towards sustainable development and environmental peacebuilding.

The Department offers three Masters of Arts degrees:

  • MA in Environment, Development and Peace with optional several distinct specializations depending on students’ particular interests.

  • MA in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development

  • Dual MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development together with American University in Washington, DC.


Resident Faculty

 Jan Breitling (Germany)

Assistant Professor,

Jan Breitling holds a BSc in Tropical Forestry from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, Cartago, Costa Rica, a MSc in Environmental Sciences from Wageningen University and Research Centre, Netherlands, and is enrolled in the UPEACE Doctorate Program in Peace and Conflict Studies. His main areas of teaching and research are Environmental Governance, Conservation, Development, Neoliberal Globalization and Global Environmental Change, Political Ecology of Deforestation, Natural Resource Conflicts, and Environmental Security.


German, English and Spanish.


Brian Dowd-Uribe (United States)

Assistant Professor, Department Chair

Adjunct Research Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Brian Dowd-Uribe holds a PhD and MA in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz, and a BA in Latin American Studies, and a BS in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from the University of California San Diego. Prior to joining UPEACE Brian was a post-doctoral research scientist at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. His research and teaching interests include: food systems, human geography, political ecology, international development, agroecology, and water security. His regional interests include sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso), Latin America (Costa Rica) and the Western United States (California).  He teaches Water Security and Peace, Sustainable Agriculture, Human Vulnerabilities to Climate Change, and From Food Security to Food Sovereignty. . He is also a member of the Editorial Board of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, and the Peace and Conflict Review.


English, Spanish and French.


Robert Fletcher (United States)

Associate Professor

Robert Fletcher holds a BA in International Relations from the University of California, Davis and a PhD, MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His main research areas are Environmental Governance, Conservation, Development, Globalization, Tourism and Travel, Climate Change and Resistance and Social Movements where he has published extensively. Robert Fletcher teaches the following courses: Conservation and Development, Sustainable Tourism, Climate Change Governance, Natural Resource Management Field Course and Foundations Course in Peace and Conflict Studies.


English and Spanish.


Visiting Faculty

Jan Pronk (Netherlands)

Professor at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in the Netherlands. With experience in the government as Minister, Member of Parliament. Also work as Special representative Secretary General of the United Nations in Sudan.

Marco Quesada (Costa Rica)

Coordinator for Conservation International's Costa Rican Programme.

Mohit Mukherjee (India)

Director of the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education as well as a faculty member at UPEACE. He served for four years as Education Programme Manager of the Earth Charter Initiative.