Political Economy and the Environment: with specific reference to the Caribbean
Lecturer: Dr Keston Perry - University of the West of England
27 Apr 2021
Debates in political economy have shifted from resource extraction as a means of accumulation under capitalism to consider how workers, indigenous peoples, Black and other marginalized communities are dispossessed through climate devastation and breakdown.
Yet political economy has almost remained silent about the ways in which commodification in faraway places in the Global South, in particular the Caribbean that constituted plantation economies. These spaces comprised the most important resources for colonial powers (e.g. sugar, oil, coffee, and cotton, copper among others) to accumulate capital.
Natural spaces served as extractive landscapes for accumulation by metropolitan centers of power are today responsible for more than 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and became precursors for environment destruction, overexploitation, and resource overuse. These problems all contribute today to the uneven effects of climate breakdown and source of various climate injustices.
- Bullard, R. D. (1993) ‘The Threat of Environmental Racism’, Natural Resources & Environment, 7(3), pp. 23–56.
- Perry, K. K. (2020) ‘For politics, people, or the planet? The political economy of fossil fuel reform, energy dependence and climate policy in Haiti’, Energy Research & Social Science, 63, p. 101397.
- Rojas-Páez, G. (2017) ‘Understanding Environmental Harm and Justice Claims in the Global South: Crimes of the Powerful and Peoples’ Resistance’, in Rodríguez Goyes, D. et al. (eds) Environmental Crime in Latin America: The Theft of Nature and the Poisoning of the Land. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK (Palgrave Studies in Green Criminology), pp. 57–83.
- Sealey-Huggins, L. (2017) ‘“1.5°C to stay alive”: climate change, imperialism and justice for the Caribbean’, Third World Quarterly, 38(11), pp. 2444–2463.
- Wynter, S. (1994) ‘1492: A New World View” in eds. Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford, Race, Discourse and the Origin of the Americas: A New World New. Pp. 5-57.
Questions for Discussion
- What is the history of political economy and the environment from a Global South perspective?
- How does political economy take account of resource extraction, accumulation and effects of colonialism on the environment?
- In what ways have changes in environment reflect relations of power between global north and south?
- What is the relationship between the plantation economy and the environment? What are some blindspots in the political economy with respect to environment and the global south?
- To what extent are histories of dispossession, appropriation, colonization and enslavement present within new regimes of finance and accumulation regarding responses to climate change? Give examples.