Book chapter

Environmentalism in Latin America (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

The environment is considered here as the product of the human interventions in natural systems through socially organized work processes. These processes also produce environmental conflicts, when different human groups try to make mutually exclusive uses of the same ecosystem. As a consequence, every society has a characteristic environment associated with particular landscapes, as well as a peculiar environmental culture, developed along time. Environmentalism, in this perspective, expresses the cultural values and political conducts of different social sectors resulting from the contradictions inherent to their role in the production of the environment, as well as those between the natural conditions necessary for the production of goods and the reproduction of human societies. In Latin America, this has led to the formation of at least three different environmentalisms: a liberal technocratic one, closely related with international organizations, centered on the concept of sustainable development; an ecological one, centered on the conflicts associated with the fracture of the social metabolism of nature due to an extra-activist approach to human and natural resources in the region, and a popular de facto environmentalism, associated both with peasant and indigenous groups that resist the transformation of their natural legacy into natural capital, and urban popular demands for the access to basic environmental conditions of life, such as potable water, sanitation, clean air, and public spaces.