August 18, 2016

Exclusive, Ecología Política 51. Political Ecology in Latin America by Nemer E. Narchi

For nearly four decades studies in Political Ecology has proven the well known effects that power relations have over the quality of and availability and access to natural resources. Nonetheless, the neo-Maltusian discourse [1], which highlights population growth as the single-most salient factor promoting anthropogenic impacts on the environment, is still a prevailing idea among prominent thinkers and opinion leaders.

Optimal scenarios for understanding how unbalanced exercises of political and economical power create environmental costs and benefits can be observed throughout the world due to an overarching colonial past. However, when scrutinizing the recent history of Latin America, there is no question that the region could provide a myriad of textbook-scenarios.
In the last decades of the XX century the expectation of transcending colonialism were replaced with the shrinkage of state presence and the privatization of natural capital now available to mass scale exploitation. Latin America’s turn to the left at the beginning of this century generated expectations on alternative economic schemes. Instead, leftist governments generated revenues by expanding their access to and control of natural resources, but their position remained subordinate to global interests.

Latin America now faces a marked return to reactionary governments that will surely benefit from neoliberal and neo-extractivist schemes already set in place in a region heaped with development projects that include mining, agro-forestry, agro-industry, urbanization, and mega-tourism, among others. 

In such a regard, I deeply appreciate the appearance of the volume on the Political Ecology of Latin America that the journal Ecología Política has put together. The issue is highly diverse and well balanced. I deeply appreciate the existence of “Redes de Resistencia” a section dedicated to highlighting community action and analyzing local environmental resistance movements.

I think that the growing number of publications in the subject not only attest to the growing relevance of environmental conflict in the present, but remain an open invitation for Latin American studies scholars to heavily ponder environmental issues when studying the immense array of social and economic inequalities of the region. 

Ecología Política en América Latina:

This piece was written by LAP Editor Nemer E. Narchi, El Colegio de Michoacán, A.C.

[1] An explicit example of neo-Malthusian arguments can be seen in the comments of Dame Jane Goodall 

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