If you walked along Lake Concepción on August 26, 2020, you would have seen dead animals and massive amounts of dead fish floating on top of the polluted lake (Gonzáles, 2020). Lake Concepción is located in Concepción, Bolivia in the Chiquitano/Monkoxi territories. The area around the lake is protected but local authorities say that settler Mennonites seeking to establish mechanized agricultural farms and cattle ranches come anyway (Gonzáles, 2020;Romo, 2020). In Latin American countries like Bolivia, deforestation is mostly attributed to transnational demand for beef and soy but commodities like timber, oil and minerals also pose threats to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples land and homes in Latin American regions (Carrington, 2021, Mckay & Colque, 2015). Current transnational interestsfor beef from Bolivia are coming from China and Russia where they’ve signed trade deals in 2020 (Carrington, 2021). Extractivist industries (i.e. large-scale mechanized agriculture, logging, mining, and cattle ranches) contribute to deforestation, climate change, and the dispossession of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples living in areas of the Amazon which spans across eight countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname) are experiencing conflict over their land and natural resources and it threatens their livelihoods. This conflictextends beyond the borders of indigenous peoples’ territories and to the larger global community. Establishment of monocrops for soy and cattle ranches for beef production in areas of the Bolivian Amazon, two main contributors to deforestation, stems from transnational demand for soy and beef. Deforestation exacerbates climate change through loss of trees which cycle water, produce oxygen, and store carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas (GHG) thatcontributes to climate change. Deforestation of the Amazon releases stored carbon and contributes to climate change in addition to environmental degradation (pollution, physical altering of land, ecosystems disrupted, etc), a byproduct of unsustainable practices of extractive industries.
We are all social human beings in some way and are connected to one another through the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we use to grow food and develop. Climate change impacts the availability of natural resources and is a consequence of our social relations. How we relate to each other and nature impacts how and where we live because we all rely on the same natural resources (air, water, land). In this sense, climate change presents itself as a collective challenge to humanity. Cumulative actions of humans have caused environmental degradation (i.e. polluted water, air and land; destroyed or diminished ecosystems, etc.) that contribute to and exacerbate climate change (Foster, Clark, & York, 2010; Angus, 2016). About 80% of the carbon dioxide emitted since 1751 comes from the world’s wealthiest countries which include the United States, China, and Russia compared to about 1% from the world’s poorest countries which include Bolivia (Angus, 2016). These human actions, mediated by extractive industries and policies, are also dispossessing indigenous peoples of land and natural resources and are negatively impacting their health and well-being in disproportionate ways. --- Read more by downloading the complete paper below.
Technology is only as good as we are. That is, we can develop more fuel efficient cars or create a digital substitute for paper but these technologies are only as beneficial as we let them be. History has shown us that new efficiencies in a capitalist economy tend to increase consumption of materials such as oil and fuel efficient cars. I think we, the general population, look at technology and think it a “silver bullet” for solving environmental problems. When at the heart of the problem is our relationship with Earth. This essay will attempt to illustrate the ways in which technology can make environmental problems worse, how it might make it better, and the limits of technology with this respect.
Jevons Paradox can help us understand how technology can make environmental problems worse. Jevons Paradox is often thought of as an “extreme version of the rebound effect” (Foster et. al., p177). Simply stated, the “rebound effect” is where any efficiencies gained don’t necessarily led to a decrease in consumption of equal extent and instead leds to an increase (Foster et. al.). Jevons Paradox is similar except that technological efficiencies are said to led to an increase in consumption by more than a 100% (Foster et. al.). Efficiencies drive commodity cost down, thereby increasing affordability, demand and thus consumption. Another factor at play here are “profit-seeking behaviors” found in a capitalistic economy that drive both the desire to increase efficiencies and consumption. By increasing efficiency, a commodity becomes cheaper to produce which makes it more “affordable” to consumers and drives up consumption which help capitalist increase their “bottom line”. If the goal of technology is to help reduce over consumption of Earth resources and help conserve them, we must exercise some restraint on our part as a society in order for it to effectively address the environmental issue. It is our social relation to the Earth that makes technological solutions effective or ineffective. To help illustrate Jevons Paradox and what I mean by “social relationship to the Earth” we look to the automobile.
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English, Jonathan. “Why Is American Mass Transit So Bad? It’s a Long Story. - CityLab.”
City Lab. N.p., 2018. Web. 3 Feb. 2019.
Foster, John Bellamy., Brett. Clark, and Richard York. The Ecological Rift : Capitalism’s War on the Earth. Monthly Review Press, 2010. Print.
I am a Graduate Student at the University of Oregon (UO) School of Law studying Conflict and Dispute Resolution. I did my undergraduate work at UO majoring in General Social Science with a concentration in Globalization, Environment, and Policy.