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Brown studies power relationships and their impact on the natural world. She has done extensive ethnographic research on environmental protection movements around Lake Baikal in Russia. She has also examined environmental activism in Samara, Russia. Additionally, Brown has published on energy policy in U.S. states and water conservation policy in U.S. municipalities.
Uses three case studies of urban water conflict in the United States in order to identify and compare solutions. Examines the different approaches that these three cities adopted in the face of water stress and conflict, as well as the relative strength each approach brought to water conservation. Finds that entrenched conflict over local water resources usually requires action from a higher governing authority.
Finds that barriers to water conservation are often political, as well as those related to cost and lifestyle. Of particular importance are the distinctions between mandates and flexible policies and between end-use policies and infrastructure policies.
Puts forward one contributing factor to explain the apparent contradiction between arid locations and weak water conservation policies (and vice versa): the variable "visibility" of stressed water resources.
Identifies fractures in conservative political movements around the issue of climate change. Shows how these "green" Republicans frame their concern for energy and climate differently than traditional environmentalists, but that opportunities exist for bridging across the political divide.
Examines the nexus between lived experience and subjective perceptions of possibility. In Russia, with high levels of corruption and unpredictable governance, it becomes difficult even to imagine that social activism makes a difference.
While partisan dominance often determines the passage of policy agenda, there are alternate pathways to achieve environmentally beneficial policy in conservative states: consensus structures, bureaucratic action, and mobilizing countervailing interests.
Examines regulatory capture in state Public Utilities Commissions and finds that restricting campaign donations by regulated monopolies helps insulate commissioners from capture, particularly around issues related to the transition to non-carbon power.
Finds that some types of green energy policy are more likely to pass in Republican-dominated legislatures than others: those that appeal to conservative ideological commitments, such as market-driven solutions and tax breaks.