World-Systems Theory and the Environment 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. 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. Three Periods of Colonialism • Global Expansion 1492-1776: Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and the English. • 1776-1870: British Dominance. • 1870-1914: The “New Imperialism.” European colonies in 1674 World colonies, 1800 World colonies, 1900 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. 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. 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. Potosi, as described by Galeano in The Open Veins of Latin America The Recent History of Colonialism. Africa: • Ethiopia: 1944 • Ghana: 1957 • Seventeen African nations achieve independence in 1960. • South Africa: 1994 Asia: • Indonesia: 1949 • Vietnam: 1954, 1973 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. • Possible counter-example: China and rare earth minerals. (Or is it simply an indication of a changing world.) World-systems theorists argue that unequal ecological exchange continues to characterize coreperiphery 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.” 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. 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…?