Thomas Homer-Dixon

Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon

Award-Winning Author | Public Intellectual

Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon is one of Canada’s foremost public intellectuals and a bestselling author. He is considered among the world’s leading experts on the intricate links between nature, technology, and society, with his current research focusing on threats to global security in the 21st century. Tackling subjects such as economic instability and climate change as well as how people, organizations, and societies can better solve complex problems, Homer-Dixon shows audience how to adapt and prosper in a world of ever-increasing complexity.

Homer-Dixon is currently the founder and executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. Previously, he directed the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto for nearly two decades. In 2008, Homer-Dixon joined the faculty at the University of Waterloo where he founded the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation. He retired from his faculty position as a University Research Chair in 2021.

A bestselling author, Homer-Dixon has written multiple award-winning books, including The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization; The Ingenuity Gap: Can We Solve the Problems of the Future?; and Environment, Scarcity, and Violence. His latest book, Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril, was published in 2020. Homer-Dixon also writes regularly for the Globe and Mail and has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Scientific American, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He’s been called “one of the best-informed and most brilliant writers on global affairs today,” by The Guardian.

A sought-after speaker, Homer-Dixon has spoken at leading universities, to government agencies, and to major industry associations throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. He has also provided briefings to the Privy Council Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Defence in Canada; the Foreign Office in the United Kingdom; and to the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, and the State Department in the United States.

Homer-Dixon received a Bachelor or Arts in political science from Carleton University and a PhD from MIT in international relations, defense policy, and conflict theory.


Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril

Frightening pandemics, terrible inequality, racism and poverty, rising political authoritarianism, the inescapable climate crisis, and the resuscitated danger of nuclear war.

We know the story. Some choose not to see it. Each of these crises seems so much larger than any one of us can understand or handle. Yet today, they all seem to be going critical simultaneously. In this presentation, Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon explains why and how we got here and, most importantly, the powers we possess to renew our imperiled world.

Building Resilient Societies

Resilient people, organizations, and societies can withstand major shocks without catastrophic failure. They can be self-reliant, and they’re creative in response to novel challenges. How can we boost resilience in our technological, economic, and social systems?

Topics within this theme include:

  • Dealing with rising complexity.
  • Innovating better and faster.
  • Improving leadership.
  • Educating for prosperity in a turbulent world.

Addressing Our Environmental and Energy Challenges

The world economy is undergoing a multi-decade shift from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy. The shift will accelerate through the 21st century as oil becomes harder to produce and climate change worsens. In the past, similar technological shifts — like the introduction of the internal combustion engine and, more recently, the computer microchip — were periods of startling innovation, rapid economic growth, and enormous opportunity for entrepreneurial individuals and communities. How can we benefit from this shift?

Topics within this theme include:

  • Preparing for climate change.
  • Developing new sources of energy.
  • Creating sustainable communities.
  • Understanding 21st century economic trends.

Responding to Threats to Global Security

The modern world has seen a steady increase in the destructive power of militant sub-groups and even individuals. Put simply, smaller groups can do more damage and can hurt more people than ever before. Changes in the availability of key resources like water and land in developing countries, widening gaps between rich and poor, and demographic stress are also boosting motivations for violence. What do we need to do to understand and respond to these trends?

Topics within this theme include:

  • Identifying and mapping global security threats.
  • Protecting critical infrastructure.
  • Preventing terrorism.

The Environmental Impact of COVID-19

Global thought leader Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon breaks down the environmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic and its multiple lockdowns, we’ve dramatically changed our behaviour which has in turn resulted in both positive and negative changes to our environment. For example, our changed consumption behaviours have lowered our energy use and therefore lessoned carbon dioxide emissions. On the flipside, because of the lower pollution levels, we may actually see increased global warming at the planet’s surface because more solar radiation may penetrate the atmosphere.

Drawing on a range of examples to illustrate the diverse economic, social, and political implications of a global pandemic, Homer-Dixon explores the often-contradictory causations and effects of COVID-19’s environmental impact, as well as the changing attitudes towards government intervention and scientific facts/research.