Extraction, dissent & deforestation
Humans are converting forests for commercial uses at unprecedented rates, leading to decreases in biodiversity, climate change, and the loss of economically valuable land. However, the degree of environmental degradation differs among nations. For instance, in the biodiversity hotspot known as the Chocó Forest, Ecuador’s tree cover is more depleted than Colombia’s. Despite some economic and political similarities between the two counties, the nature and form of political dissent has caused differences in land use and thus the biophysical landscape of each country. In this study, I ask how dissidents prevented the tendency of extractive institutions to lead to environmental exploitation in Colombia versus Ecuador. I implement a comparative case study in order to uncover the effects of dissent, which resulted in different land-use practices. I show that the influence of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejécrito de Pueblo (FARC-EP) in Colombia mitigated environmental extraction from 1989-1999. This study explores the importance of extractive institutions, populism, and violence for environmental degradation. As there is a current surge of conflict and neo-populism around the world, these findings highlight how such political phenomena may result in biophysical changes, with important consequences for the future of our natural world.