3: Unearthing Extractivism

Extractivism has become a buzzword in critical social scientific literature. Most typically, extractivism refers to natural resource extraction within extractive industries such as mining and energy, but also to farming, fishing and forestry, as well as to the primarisation of economies, particularly so in Latin America. Increasingly, however, scholars understand extractivism beyond the direct material sphere as a system, mode of production or pattern, that is, something less trivial than dispersed acts scattered in landscapes that exhaust a specific resource. Extractivism ought to be understood broadly a system for ongoing value extraction; the source of whatever is being extracted is being drained or depleted, instead of renewing the source by investing in its reproduction. Extractivism is the opposite of sustainability. Thus, our panel invites paper submission that tangle with the broadened scope of extractivism. We invite contributions that examine the more traditional natural resource industries mentioned above, and with expression of the ‘new extractivism,’ for example, social, intellectual, labour, ecosystem, and those that focus on money and debt – also those hidden in paradises. As extractivism is antithetical to sustainability, resistance and alternatives to extractivism may be seen as effort towards sustainability. However, in the current world system, the old ownership-based extractivism is no longer the only way to extract value, but increasingly it is the control of flows (including money) that are used to extract value. Successful resistance strategies to earlier natural resource extraction may not work against more ‘fuzzy’ types of extractivist practices that nevertheless drain value from a territory (which may be partly virtual as well). We invite papers that turn a critical eye, those that employ other knowledges to tackle extractivism in all its incarnations, conceptual and empirical, local and global, insidious and straightforward. Abstracts (max. 300 words) should be emailed to the panel chairs.

Chaired by Ossi I. Ollinaho (University of Helsinki), ossi.ollinaho@helsinki.fi, Sophia Hagolani-Albov (University of Helsinki), sophia.hagolani-albov@helsinki.fi and Markus Kröger (University of Helsinki), markus.kroger@helsinki.fi

Room 309

Sebastian Caballero Paz (University of Helsinki)

Just gold miners? Understanding the complexity of resource management in the Madre de Dios basin in Bolivia

The Amazon region has suffered significant impacts on its structure, and the main driver is
human activities such as extensive agriculture, mining, logging. All these have contributed to negative aspects like the loss of biodiversity, the forest and water degradation, social impacts, among others. Today, gold mining is an important economic activity but with severe negative impacts for the Amazon region. All the countries that share the Amazon have shown an increase in the mining activities in the past decades. In Bolivia, the artisanal, and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has more than 45.000 persons involved legally or illegally. This study will be conducted in the region of Madre de Dios river in the Bolivian Amazonia. There is a necessity of studies that analyze the social reality and the networks related to the mining extraction processes to understand aspects related to resource conflict, power relations and environmental consequences in a more profound way. The primary purpose of this study is to examine the ASGM as an extractive phenomenon and the implications on the social aspects (i.e. power relations, conflicts, social networks). The study recognizes the fact that there is limited knowledge of the different actors that are part (as beneficiaries or affected) of the ASGM in the rivers that are part of the Madre de Dios basin in Bolivia. The main objective is to explore the artisanal and small-scale gold mining activities through its social/environmental context and implications in the Madre de Dios basin. The extractivism process generates changes on the construction of territorialities and interaction between the actors, in many cases with juxtaposed forms of coexistence, believes and necessities. The dynamics of (power) relations that are inherent to extractives processes can overlap different territories; this can result in social conflicts for land and water recourses, violence, displacement, among others.

Álvaro Augusto Sanabria-Rangel (University of Lapland)

Participation Rights vs. the State Decision Powers Related to Extractivist Projects Affecting the Environment: the Colombian Case

The aim of this article is to discuss how the right to participation has developed in the Americas, in particular in Colombia as a means to oppose extractivist projects that are taking place by the state/ third parties and that have an impact on environmental rights and the right to a healthy environment. This article will begin discussing the scope, implications of the right to participation for communities that would face the consequences of extractivist projects and its legal limitations. It will later focus in the Colombian case, explaining the recent judicial decisions on the right to participation and how the most recent judicial developments have narrowed the interpretation of the right, making it inapplicable in cases related to the state power to decide if an extractivist project will take place in a local community or not. Finally, this article will analyse the right to participation and how it co-relates with other rights protected under the Inter-American System of human rights protection. The author predicts that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could find a violation to participation rights in Colombia as a result of a lack of an effective mechanism to participate and raise an opposition to extractivist projects.

Ossi I. Ollinaho (University of Helsinki) and Marcos Pedlowski (Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense)

The toxic turn in Brazilian agriculture: pesticides use as extractive activity

The paradigm of chemically intensive, extractive industrial agriculture has been fortified within one of the biggest agricultural producers, Brazil, under the new far-right government. We analyze the set of over 400 agro-chemicals liberated by the Bolsonaro government in its first year of rule, that is, 2019. While little more than one thirds of the liberated chemicals are banned in the European Union, maybe most conspicuously, two thirds of these liberated chemicals are made by Chinese companies. Also, Chinese companies produced nearly all of those chemicals that are banned in EU, that is, banned products. This paper theorizes the implications of this massive liberation and its Chinese domination to the Brazilian agricultural system and discuss it against the background of political economy of the global food system. Pesticides use is conceptualized as a particular form of extractive practice that entails both negative and positive values, but in which negative values tend to be much more prominent. We will analyze these negative values in empirical terms, for instance, looking at health problems that are especially acute in areas where aviation is used for spreading the toxins. Toxins also degrade the soil ecosystems, harming therefore the health and productivity of soils, which for its part necessitates more inputs engraving the problem further.

Barry Gills (University of Helsinki)

Extractivism: Emergent Organising Concept in the Social Sciences