Pathways to post-extractivism in Latin America

It is often said that extraction of minerals and hydrocarbons lies at the core of modern economic and social development, but accelerating climate change and rapid digitalisation of productive processes are challenging received wisdom. In Latin America, policies that promote extractivism as the primary path to inclusive development are hotly contested. Building on past research (on the Yasuní Initiative and other  attempts by Ecuador to break away from its dependency on oil, as well as on collaborative research with Latin American economists on the governance of ecosystem services and their provision), this new research programme investigates collective efforts at various scales which aim to diversify the economy and overcome structural dependency on foreign investment and technologies.

As part of this overall programme, and in collaboration with Mary Menton and colleagues at the University of Sussex, I am currently looking at the role of mobilised civil society actors (‘environmental defenders’) who fight against the destructive impact of economic restructuring, especially in rural areas, and the violence to which they are being subjected by a range of state- or corporation-sponsored shadow organisations.

In collaboration with Antonio Ioris (Cardiff University) and agrocultures collaborators (, I am also looking at extractivism as a form of environmental imaginary linked to the advance of global commodity frontiers in the Amazon.

Finally, and building on the 2018 UNEP report Trade in Environmentally Sound Technologies: Implications for Developing Countries to which I contributed, I am exploring with collaborators and students the role played by symmetric partnerships and trade regulations in facilitating the emergence of technological innovation in MLICs to accelerate the diffusion of green technologies for the benefit of all countries as they transition toward zero-carbon emissions.

Laura Rival
Professor of Anthropology of Development