Social metabolism and conflicts over extractivism

Joan Martinez-Alier, Mariana Walter

Research output: Chapter in BookChapterResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


© Fábio de Castro, Barbara Hogenboom and Michiel Baud 2016, Respective authors 2016 and Eduardo Silva 2016. The natural resource conflict dimension of environmental governance is usually centred on the social and political aspects of production systems and has hardly addressed the biophysical features of the natural resources themselves. Here we aim to address renewable and non-renewable resource-extraction conflicts in Latin America in the context of a changing global social metabolism and increasing demands for environmental justice (M’Gonigle, 1999; Sneddon, Howarth and Norgaard, 2006; Gerber, Veuthey and Martínez-Alier, 2009; Martinez-Alier et al., 2010). "Social metabolism" refers to the manner in which human societies organize their growing exchanges of energy and materials with the environment (Fischer-Kowalski, 1997; Martinez-Alier, 2009). In this chapter we use a sociometabolic approach to examine the material flows (extraction, exports, imports) of Latin American economies and furthermore look into the socioenvironmental pressures and conflicts that they cause. Sociometabolic trends can be appraised using different and complementary indicators. For instance, the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production (HANPP) measures to what extent human activities appropriate the biomass available each year for ecosystems (Haberl et al., 2007). Other examples are indicators that study virtual water flows, the energy return on investment (EROI) or a product life cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Governance in Latin America
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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