Ecologically Unequal Exchange

Ecologically Unequal Exchange

Environmental Injustice in Comparative and Historical Perspective

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Springer Nature Switzerland AG






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PREFACE: R. Scott Frey, Paul K. Gellert, and Harry F. DahmsPART I: Theoretical Foundations of Ecologically Unequal Exchange 1. Paul Ciccantell, Sociology, Western Michigan University, "Ecological Unequal Exchange and Raw Materialism: The Material Foundations of the Capitalist World-Economy" The ecological unequal exchange literature analyzes one of the most important pillars of global inequality: the extraction of raw materials from and imposition of environmental damages on peripheral regions, populations and ecosystems in the capitalist world-economy for the benefit of thewealthy and powerful. This literature fills a glaring hole in world-systems analysis in the 1970s and1980s: the lack of attention to the role of and consequences for the natural environment in long termsocioeconomic change. This analytic tradition examined commodity chains from their sources through to consumption and waste disposal and often employed sophisticated quantitative analytic techniques to test theoretical models of the causes and consequences of ecological unequal exchange over time and around the world.In this paper, I seek to bring the ecological unequal exchange literature into dialogue with another world-systems theoretical model that integrates global and local natural and social processes over the long term, new historical materialism or, to put it more bluntly, raw materialism. This theoretical model focuses attention on the raw materials-based industries and linked transport systems that are used to solve the most fundamental challenge to rapid economic growth: how to acquire growing volumes of raw materials at lower costs and in greater and more secure volumes than other competing economies. One key part of this process of change is how historically many rising economies utilize raw materials access strategies that focus on stealing raw materials peripheries from established hegemons, since the high costs and huge economic political challenges of creatingraw materials supply systems have already been paid by the existing hegemon.The raw materials boom of the 2000s and first half of the 2010s based on China's rapid economic ascent led many firms, politicians and analysts to see a new "golden age" in which raw materials wealth could serve as the basis for development around the world by tying extractive peripheries to the Chinese market, a world in which the concept of unequal exchange seemed incredibly outdated.The dramatic decline in raw materials prices in 2014-15 because of the economic slowdown in China is rapidly transforming this golden era into widespread busts for firms and extraction regions. This historical juncture creates an opportunity for a more robust analysis integrating the insights of ecological unequal exchange and raw materialism to understand the multidimensional causes and consequences of global inequalities. 2. Mariko Frame, Environmental Studies, University of Utah, "Ecologically Unequal Exchange and Ecological Imperialism: Conceptualizing their Relation and Distinction"In the literature on ecologically unequal exchange and ecological imperialism, the role of the semiperiphery has been underexplored and ill-defined. Yet the increasing saturation of industrial capitalism throughout the emerging economies, combined with global ecological crises, has intensified their material and energy demands. This article seeks to contribute to a conceptualizationof the role of the semiperiphery in the global ecology from the framework of ecologically unequal exchange, and relatedly, ecological imperialism, specifically in its relation to the periphery. The large scale foreign investment in Cambodia's land sector, which has been largely driven by investors from East Asia, is examined as a case study. 3. Paul K. Gellert, Sociology, University of Tennessee, "Bunker's Ecologically Unequal Exchange,Foster's Metabolic Rift and Moore's World-Ecology: Distinctions with or without a Difference?"Three major works stand out among efforts by sociologists to understand, research and theorize the dialectical interpenetration of "nature" and "society" and the ways in which such "socionatures" are shaped by capitalism. Stephen G. Bunker (1984) introduced "ecologically unequal exchange" inUnderdeveloping the Amazon. John B. Foster (2000) uncovered and expanded the concept of "metabolic rift" in Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature. Finally, Jason W. Moore (2015) has recently added his critique of neo-Cartesian ontologies and offered "world-ecology" in Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. All three sociologists address the unjust manner in which dominant actors in the capitalist world-system simultaneously exploit labor and nonhuman nature while undermining sustainability or what James O'Connor (1988) called the "conditions of production" in a fourth major contribution on the "second contradiction of capitalism." In this paper, I explore whether and to what extant their approaches offer distinct ontologies, methodologies, research programs and agendas for praxis. 4. Shellen Wu, History, University of Tennessee, "History Matters: Contingency in the Creation of Ecologically Unequal Exchange"Social scientists have modeled ecologically unequal exchange using data sets, material flow charts, and regression analysis. A close examination of the data, however, also suggests flawed collection methods and historically contingent paths of development. This paper specifically examines issues of imperialism and environmental history in China, suggesting some ways in which the historicalapproach could temper sociological theories of unequal exchange. PART II: Cases of Ecologically Unequal Exchange5. Kirk Lawrence, Sociology, St. Joseph's College and Jason W. Moore, Fernand Braudel Center and Sociology, Binghamton University, "Exploring the Causes of Unequal Ecological Exchange: The Case of Energy" (abstract pending)6. Laura McKinney, Sociology, Tulane University, "The Entropy Curse"The natural resource curse hypothesis-as treated by diverse disciplines including economics, political science, and sociology, among others-is a widely adhered to explanation of development differentials witnessed the world over. Specifically, the hypothesis asserts that resource-abundant nations evidence poor performance on diverse indicators of development, though the bulk of the empirical focus centers on measures of economic growth. This body of work is often invoked toaccount for the relatively low levels of development observed in peripheral nations that are characteristically rural and resource rich. The purpose of this research is to critique the natural resource curse literature on the following conceptual and analytic grounds: 1) an essential lack of understanding of the ways in which all socioeconomic progress depends on environmental inputs; 2) fundamental flaws in the empirical bases upon which the hypothesis is purported to find support; and3) the theoretical implications of key "resource curse" findings that strongly support the theoretical predictions of global political economy perspectives in environmental sociology, particular those in the ecological unequal exchange tradition. The paper draws on physical science and thermodynamic principles to substantiate further the central claim that it is the liquidation of resources-not resource abundance per se-that stunts economic growth in the periphery. Moreover, the structure of the world-system and ecological unequal exchanges therein fuel the liquidation of resources that stunts development in less-developed nations. The theory and empirics presented support that ecological unequal exchanges and associated environmental losses in poor nations are driving unequal development. Thus, ecological unequal exchange is a root cause of global inequality, includingdifferentials in economic development. The paper concludes that the natural resource curse literature and related perspectives that seek to explain patterns of underdevelopment in peripheral areas would benefit greatly from the incorporation of an interdisciplinary perspective that includes physical (thermodynamic) principles and explicit attention to the unequal nature of ecological exchanges theworld over. A wide range of theoretical and empirical conclusions and implications are discussed as well as directions for future research. 7. Brett Clark, Sociology, University of Utah and Stefano B. Longo, Sociology and Anthropology,North Carolina State University, "Ecological Unequal Exchange in Global Marine Systems"The majority of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. Natural scientists have determined that fisheries and their associated ecosystems are being threatened on a scale unparalleled in human history. These changing conditions are broadly a consequence of the global capitalist system and the commodification of seafood. The growth imperative and the structure of theworld economy influences fishing practices, the organization of labor, the use of fish, and the trade of this commodity. At the same time, global marine systems are marked by unequal material-ecological exchanges that perpetuate inequalities and uneven environmental impacts, which disproportionately harm the environment and well-being of populations in the South. We highlight the ecological unequalexchange that is associated with marine systems, such as is the case with European companies buying fishing access in the exclusive economic zones of African nations, the export-oriented production of shrimp in the South, the use of slave labor in Southeast Asia to capture fish to be used as pet and livestock feed, and the link between the general expansion of aquaculture operations to produce high-end foods for the global North and the overall increase in the production of fishmeal andfish oil, which has particular social and ecological consequences in the South. 8. R. Scott Frey, Sociology, University of Tennessee, "The Globalization of Health and EnvironmentalRisks through the Transfer of Core Hazards to the Peripheral Zones of the World-System" (abstractpending)PART III: What Is to Be Done? Who Should Do It?9. Jackie Smith, Sociology, University of Pittsburgh, "Global Climate Justice Activism: 'The NewProtagonists' and their Projects for a Just Transition" (abstract pending)10. Christian Parenti, Global Liberal Studies, New York University, "Nature, Numbers, andDevelopmentalism: The Environment Making State in Early America" (abstract pending)11. J. Timmons Roberts, Environmental Studies and Sociology, Brown University, "Looking Back andLooking Forward: Ecologically Unequal Exchange and Global Climate Politics Before and AfterParis" (final confirmation pending)Since about 2003, several key factions of the G-77 and China negotiating group of developing nationshave seized on ideas that they are owed an ecological and climate debt as the world's nations debatea fair solution to climate change. An interchange between academics, non-governmentalorganizations, and national negotiators developed and brought these ideas to conceptions of "climatejustice" in who owes whom what in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiationsround culminating in Paris in December 2015. The idea of an ecologically unequal exchange' ofenergy and materials disproportionately flowing from the Global South to the Global North liesbeneath these claims. Since the extraction of resources and energy is one of the most damagingstages of the chain of commodity production, China in particular has argued for accounting ofresponsibility to be adjusted for where "embodied carbon" in export products is consumed, notcounted against the nation where it is produced. After briefly reviewing the history of these relatedideas I discuss current and some possible future directions of the debate over burden sharing' ofemissions reductions during and after the Paris round. Demands for "climate finance" from wealthy topoorer nations play an important part of this debate, as "conditional pledges" for actions throughintended national contributions far surpass unconditional ones. Evaluations by different organizationsof the adequacy of intended contributions vary sharply in the degree they consider equity, historicalresponsibility and/or carbon debt.EPILOGUE/ FINAL REFLECTIONS12. Harry F. Dahms, Sociology, University of Tennessee, "Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the 21stCentury: The Logic of Capital, the Perversion of the Social, and the Destruction of Nature"In the early twenty-first century, an entire set of issues, from the financial system, to internationalrelations, to the environment, appears in an unprecedented light. Certainties that prevailed during thesecond half of the twentieth century are giving way to an abundance of crises that are shaking thefoundations of the modern societies, especially existing regimes of political economy. Globalizationand neoliberalism signal the end of a trajectory of social progress that is being replaced by anincreasingly non-human or post-human type of progress that threatens human, animal, and plantspecies alike. Thus, the so-called "sixth extinction" needs to be related back to contradictoryprocesses that have been shaping the modern age and theorized as potentially representing theparadoxical culmination of human history, and its true end, on its own terms.REFERENCES11INDEX
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