If we want to meaningfully do something about the environment it is clear that we must heed Naomi Klein’s message that we have to – first of all – drastically – curtain oil/gas/coal consumption (and hence the companies that extract fossil fuels and promote their use!). See this scary interactive from the Guardian:
Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category
Interesting conference organised by my colleagues at the ISS:
The Political Economy of the Extractive Imperative in Latin America: Reducing poverty and inequality vs. ensuring inclusion and sustainability?
10 April 2015
International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Confirmed speakers include:
José Antonio Ocampo (Columbia)
Jean Grugel (Sheffield)
Laura Rival (Oxford)
Alfredo Saad Filho (SOAS)
Eduardo Silva (Tulane)
Rob Vos (FAO)
Carlos Zorilla (DECOIN)
International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA) invite paper submission for the upcoming international meeting on ‘The Political Economy of the Extractive Imperative in Latin America: Reducing poverty and inequality vs. ensuring inclusion and sustainability?’ Our aim is to bring together scholars working in various disciplines and traditions to critically reflect on the changes taking place in Latin America. Interested participants should send a 250-word abstract, paper title, full address and brief bio firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 December 2014.
Conference fee is 50 euros. Waivers are available for eligible scholars (PhD students, participants from developing countries, etc.).
Organizing team: Murat Arsel (ISS), Barbara Hogenboom (CEDLA), Lorenzo Pellegrini (ISS)
One of the prominent features of contemporary development politics and policies in Latin America is the prominent role of the state in directing and powering economic development. Accompanying increased state presence in economy and society, another consensus envisions the intensification of natural resource extraction as crucial for development. This extractivist drive is especially pronounced in the countries characterizing the ‘turn to the left’, which have at the same time played host to alternative development approaches, be it the concept of ‘buen vivir/vivir bien’ or the granting of constitutional rights to nature. While Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have become emblematic of these processes, their impact can be felt across much of the region.
This convergence between state prominence and intensified extraction has emerged within a particular context in which the electoral successes of the leaders in power have been underwritten by promises to eradicate what has been seen as the two cardinal sins of neoliberal policies: persistent poverty and societal inequality. Eschewing aggressive redistribution policies, these states have instead sought to achieve rapid, poverty-reducing growth accompanied with largely expanded expenditure for social policies.
An ‘extractive imperative’ was thus borne as natural resource extraction came to be seen simultaneously as source of income and employment generation (through investment in extractive facilities, infrastructure, etc.) but also of financing for increased social policy expenditure. According to this imperative, extraction needs to continue and expand regardless of prevailing circumstances (be it low/high prices of commodities, protests of indigenous groups, or environmental concerns), with the state playing a leading role in facilitating the process and capturing a large share of the ensuing revenues.
A vibrant debate has since emerged regarding the best way to characterize these attempts, with some commentators hailing the birth of a post-neoliberal paradigm and others asserting that we are witnessing reconstituted neoliberalism. Various continuing or new dynamics – such as increased investment from China and other forms of ‘South-South’ flows – further complicate the overall picture. This workshop aims to move beyond facile dichotomies to address the political economy of the ‘extractive imperative’ and the tensions it increasingly generates in Latin America. Specifically, the workshop will engage with these broad sets of questions:
· How effective have these states been in reducing poverty and inequality? How important is the role of extractive industries in their growth performance and in financing social policies? How durable are these policies within the context of fluctuating commodity prices?
· What role do environmental NGOs and activists, who were early supporters of the leaders promising an enhanced role for the state in socioeconomic development, play in this new era? What are the implications for democratic politics of the increased criminalization of environmental activism?
· Where do indigenous and other marginalized communities fit within this political sphere that is dominated by the state and its extractivist imperative? What are the potential cleavages between national poverty reduction strategies and the manifestation of their local impacts? Can meaningful and painstakingly gained indigenous rights –including socio-political inclusion, territorial integrity and the pursuit of alternative approaches to development and well-being – be fostered within the current conjuncture?
I have been in the Southern African region almost three weeks now and just returned to Lusaka from a very interesting trip across Eastern Zambia, Malawi and the Tete province in Mozambique. I traveled with my local research partner from the University of Zambia, Mr. Edwin Luwaya. Edwin is currently pursuing a PhD in engineering on charcoal burning, but is also interested in the broader socio-political dynamics around charcoal and therefore joined me on the trip. The purpose, especially in Zambia and Malawi, was to follow several charcoal chains away from or into major cities and do interviews with local charcoal consumers, transporters and producers, as well as with policy and NGO officers dealing with these issues. Charcoal is a huge issue in this part of the world (like in many other parts), as the far majority of people depend on it for cooking and other energy needs. It also has strong social and environmental implications, particularly in relation to tree-cutting and burning for production, with associated effects on soil, water and thus agricultural dynamics. While many studies and interventions have tried to understand and mediate these impacts and dynamics, they seem to have had remarkably little effect, and the same debates continue as they have done for a long time (though the environmental aspects has definitely become more important over the last years). My purpose is not to do an exhaustive study of charcoal chains, but rather to understand how this mode of energy is connected to broader regional energy dynamics, or what I call the ‘political economy of energy’ in Southern Africa. This is what the interviews focused on, and I think I’ve been able to get some interesting data. One of the fascinating things is how charcoal is transported, particularly by biker guys who sometimes carry up to 7 or 8 heavy bags of charcoal for miles and miles across sometimes steep hills. But you also see trucks, like the one in the picture that had broken down four days earlier and so the driver was waiting for spare parts to arrive.
From Southern Malawi, we moved into Mozambique’s Tete province, in order to get to Tete-city. Here, completely different energy dynamics dominate the discussions, although charcoal is ever-present on the roadside and town markets. Tete is a booming frontier town in regional energy dynamics, as many investors have come in from all over the world to exploit the abundant coal supplies in the province. We were very fortunate to have some people helping us in getting interviews with some of the key players. Fortunate also was that our hotel hosted a meeting to discuss the Environmental Impact Assessment of a large new dam project called Mphanda Nkuwa. This dam is supposed to boost energy generation capacity in Mozambique and is quite controversial due to its environmental and social implications, so it was very interesting to sit in the meeting and talk to some of the key players. After the meeting, we met up with one of the participants who had planned to visit a (coal-induced) resettled community called Cateme, some 50 kms from Tete-city. We tagged along, and experienced a surreal place. Built approximately two years ago, Cateme was a strange mix of neat little houses in straight rows with electricity and street lights, and a strange ‘unsettled-ness’ and alien feel that you don’t normally experience in other rural villages. The inhabitants – some 500 families that first lived in Moatize, the centre of the mining boom – soon told us why this was so: most of them didn’t want to be here, and saw little future in the place. It was too far from the markets they used to depend on in Moatize, so they could only sell their ware locally, and many things weren’t what they seemed. While the houses looked solid, they were not built on any foundation, while many started showing cracks. Moreover, many people could not afford the expensive electricity, so were still stuck without (and hence cooking on wood – see picture). What topped it all was the sign at the entrance of the village that said ‘take care of the environment’. The irony is acute: an international mining company that displaces people in order to bring enormous quantities of CO2 producing coal to the international market telling those same displaced people to take care of the environment! That is a raw deal indeed, and ‘raw’ is how best Tete can be described in general. Edwin used to work in the mines in the Zambian Copperbelt, and several times mentioned that Tete reminded him strongly of the boom periods there.
The trip made a big impression on both of us, and I don’t know yet what to make of it all. One thing is clear: if you are on the ‘wrong’ side of the socio-economic spectrum, then energy dynamics in the region present you with a raw deal indeed.
Wednesday 9 February I gave a speech at a briefing session for EU parliamentarians, policy makers and civil society representatives about the link between the EUs energy security and its development policy. It was an interesting meeting, with a keynote from the Commissioner for Development Pierbalgs, and interesting speeches by Jacqueline Hale, Senior Policy Analyst, EU External Relations at Open Society Foundation and Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India. The meeting was organised in the context of the EDC2020 project, which sought to inform EU policies and vision on development untill 2020.
My central argument was that there are several major contradictions in the EU policies on energy and development and their joint nexus and that the vital question for the future of this nexus should be whether the EU will start to openly accept and deal with these contradictions – and the capitalist political economy from which they emanate – or neglect these with the real possibility that they will become more intense and lead to increasingly negative outcomes for people and environments in Europe, developing countries and beyond.
Just back from China, and it was a most interesting trip. We worked hard on our research proposal on China’s global rise and the impact this will have / is having on natural resource extraction in South Africa and Brazil. As part of the programme we visited a petro-chemical company, which looks something like this:
While I had seen images of these Dark Mills before, being in the middle of it is quite something else and made a big impression. In this particular area they foremostly focus on making all kinds of plastics that we use in our daily lives…
N0w back from the trip we need to further work out the project proposal and make it into something that cannot possibly be rejected!