The political ecology of a complex socio-ecological system: Mother Earth and biodiversity governance in Bolivia

Due to the persistent struggle of its population, the Plurinational State of Bolivia is arguably one of the countries that has made most progress for the social inclusion of indigenous peoples and the recognition of their collective rights. Indigenous movements are likely to continue to affect Bolivian politics and even policy, especially due to the high dynamism that emerges while the country is trying to re-construct itself as a plurinational state. However, the tensions between the state and indigenous movements, and the transition between old and new ways of governing natural resources, could be forcing Bolivia to develop unorthodox solutions to complex problems. The potential emergence of new paradigms in Bolivia represents an extraordinary opportunity to understand how the country’s Biodiversity governance regime is structured and how it may be changing.

The purpose of my research is to advance the understanding of how biodiversity governance has evolved in Bolivia along with discourses of indigenous movements and the state, and to test whether ‘Mother Earth’ can be understood as an adaptive complex socio-ecological system amidst the contemporary debates on resilience analysis and Marxian political ecology, and therefore as the basis for a shift towards a new paradigm of development under a more resilient regime in face of climate change. In my research, I intend to extend a Marxian political ecology analysis to Biodiversity governance in Bolivia as embedded in a capitalist Earth/World-system, exploring natural value as a way of understanding metabolic flows between social and ecological sub-systems.

Ivan Zambrana Flores
Research Student