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World-Systems Theory and the Environment. The Unequal Ecological Exchange Thesis Due to their economic, military, and political power, wealthy nations.

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Presentation on theme: "World-Systems Theory and the Environment. The Unequal Ecological Exchange Thesis Due to their economic, military, and political power, wealthy nations."— Presentation transcript:

1 World-Systems Theory and the Environment

2 The Unequal Ecological Exchange Thesis Due to their economic, military, and political power, wealthy nations have the capacity to: – Make environmental “withdrawals” from poor nations (in terms of natural resource extraction), and, – Make environmental “inputs” in poor nations in terms of pollution or waste.

3 World-systems theory pays great attention to the historical development of capitalism… Why are some countries wealthy (core) or others relatively poor (semi-periphery) or very poor (periphery)? The establishment of an international division of labor. The creation and maintenance of unequal terms of exchange. Processes of underdevelopment.

4 Three Periods of Colonialism Global Expansion : Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and the English : British Dominance : The “New Imperialism.”

5 European colonies in 1674 World colonies, 1900 World colonies, 1800

6 Colonialism and the Slave Trade – Peaked in 18th C – Colonial expansion and triangular trade – exchange between Europe, Africa, and the Americas – built from slave trade routes.

7 Colonial Commercial Relationships Shaped colonial economies. – Orientation away from a subsistence to a cash economy. – Extractive / external-market focus. Established a new international division of labor. – Colonies produce and export raw materials (minerals, timber, monoculture commodity agriculture). – Colonizers export manufactured goods. – Set up export dependence. Established unequal terms of exchange. Underdeveloped colonies. – Extracted tremendous wealth in terms of natural resources. – Created vast amounts of upheaval and social disruption.

8 The Unequal Ecological Exchange Thesis Due to their economic, military, and political power, wealthy nations have the capacity to: – Make environmental “withdrawals” from poor nations (in terms of natural resource extraction), and, – Make environmental “inputs” in poor nations in terms of pollution or waste.

9 Potosi, as described by Galeano in The Open Veins of Latin America

10 The Recent History of Colonialism. Africa: Ethiopia: 1944 Ghana: 1957 Seventeen African nations achieve independence in South Africa: 1994 Asia: Indonesia: 1949 Vietnam: 1954, 1973

11 World-systems theorists argue that relationships of unequal ecological exchange continue to characterize relationships between nations today. Two examples and a counter-example: Oil in Nigeria. Electronic waste in China. Electronic waste in China Possible counter-example: China and rare earth minerals. (Or is it simply an indication of a changing world.)China and rare earth minerals

12 World-systems theorists argue that unequal ecological exchange continues to characterize core- periphery relations. The international division of labor established during periods of colonialism still largely exists. Economic “development,” is often geared toward export production. – i.e. development in the form of railways or roads between mines and ports rather than meeting community needs. Economic development in the periphery is often its continued “underdevelopment.”

13 Modernization Theory: A Competing Perspective Natural resource extraction is a viable means of economic development, providing: – Influx of capital. – Local high-paying jobs. – Provision of services to communities. – Tax revenues for countries to invest in further development. Proposes the “environmental Kuznets curve” thesis: – As a poor nation’s economy grows in terms of GDP, its rates of environmental degradation will also increase. – As a nation develops, and its GDP reaches a certain size, rates of environmental degradation will decrease.

14 Criticisms of World-Systems Theory? Core/periphery relations between nations might overlook similar kinds of relations within nations? Overlooks real success stories in development? Other criticisms…?


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