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The "Greening" of Costa Rica

The "Greening" of Costa Rica: Women, Peasants, Indigenous Peoples, and the Remaking of Nature

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The "Greening" of Costa Rica
    Book Description:

    Drawing on a decade of fieldwork in these communities, Isla exposes the duplicity of a neoliberal model in which the environment is converted into commercial assets, few of whose benefits flow to the local population.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2003-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: The “Greening” of Costa Rica
    (pp. 3-32)

    When and how the Costa Rican neoliberal state became a “green” state is the subject of this book. Using a debt-for-nature exchange between Canada and Costa Rica, delivered from 1995 to 1999, I analyse the work of three nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area (ACA-Tilaran), now named the Arenal-Tempisque Conservation Area. I also examine their impact, on the lives of women and men – peasants and Indigenous peoples – as well as on nature itself. The context in which these NGOs operate is a combination of the economist’s assumptions of unlimited growth, the biologist’s concern with the natural limits...

  6. Part I: Foreign Debt, Debt-for-Nature, and the National System of Conservation Areas

    • 1 The Political Economy of Costa Rica’s Neoliberal State
      (pp. 35-47)

      This chapter discusses Costa Rica’s recasting as a neoliberal state. It examines the reasons why Costa Rica’s debt crisis had outcomes different than the other Latin American countries. In the 1980s, neoliberal economic policies led to higher interest rates and the cut-back in new commercial bank credit, resulting in increased difficulties in meeting the conditions imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. These conditionalities prompted riots of the poor in Peru, uprisings of the middle class in Argentina, and liberation movements elsewhere, such those as in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Neoliberals and conservatives alike have used these differences to...

    • 2 Political Ecology, Debt-for-Nature, and National Conservation Areas
      (pp. 48-66)

      The political ecology of the sustainable development framework proposes to address the debt and the environmental crises by expanding natural and human capital through marketing tropical nature and using poorly paid and unwaged work for capital accumulation. Sustainable development is a process whereby the natural resources base is not allowed to deteriorate. During the 1980s, the Costa Rican state effectively accommodated itself into this new framework, while USAID funds manufactured the political ecology of the country and pressured local powers to share geopolitical and commercial interests with transnational corporations. USAID took control of Costa Rica’s economy, and biologists took control...

  7. Part II Embodied Indebtedness:: The Remaking of People and Nature

    • 3 Nature and People in the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area
      (pp. 69-85)

      In this chapter, which is divided into two sections, I first describe the process of sustainable development in transforming nature and people into “natural” and “human” capital. In the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area (ACA-Tilaran), this transformation was accomplished by the land plan designed by WWF-C, and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE), advancing, as they see it, the possibility for a new era of economic growth in a material finite planet based on the local nature and the provisioning activities of subsistence economies. Secondly, I focus on local communities and their repositioning as expenditures or revenues within a sustainable development...

    • 4 Biological Diversity and the Dispossession of Peasants’ Knowledge
      (pp. 86-99)

      In Chapter 4, I show how the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the 1992 Earth Summit opened Costa Rica’s gene resources to NGOs and corporations, turning nature and community knowledge into areas of secrecy and paranoia. Different levels of dispossession and expropriation from the land are necessary to establish a wide terrain for corporate scientific research. The collection of highly selective genes from plants and animals was initiated in the conservation areas by parataxonomists working for international NGOs, and further developed through experiments by the pharmaceutical, medical, and agricultural industries of the developed world. Currently some scientists act as...

    • 5 Forests and Peasants’ Loss of Access
      (pp. 100-113)

      The aim of this chapter is to establish who pays the price of carbon credits, and to make the argument that by introducing carbon credits, the Kyoto Protocol launched a reconceptualization of the world’s rainforests. It also looks at the crisis of nature in the context of global warming as well as the crisis and resistance from the peasant communities.

      Since Kyoto, rainforests have been valued economically in terms of the amount of carbon they sequester. As carbon emissions became subject to trading on the open market, the rainforests in Costa Rica became valued as carbon sinks. Costa Rica was...

    • 6 Ecotourism and Social Development
      (pp. 114-131)

      Chapter 6 discusses the profound economic, social, and political transformations visited upon Costa Rica and its inhabitants, particularly Costa Rican women and children, since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Mainstream environmentalism, organized by white males in Costa Rica, has been dominated by a patriarchal male hierarchy that aims to enclose “wild areas” (nature and women) for recreation. Critics see ecotourism as an extension of the commodification of modern life and an integral part of modern consumer culture. Ecotourism sells the whole country, including its biodiversity, culture, and identity, and involves the high-volume movement of people over long...

    • 7 Women’s Microenterprises and Social Development
      (pp. 132-146)

      This chapter demonstrates how NGOs use the microenterprise model of sustainable development to incorporate rural women’s knowledge and labour into international markets.

      Under neoliberalism, microenterprises first strengthen NGOs with access to international donors, in order to achieve the dismantling of the state’s responsibility to uphold the rights of citizens; and second, the preference of northern consumers for organically produced medicinal plants and vegetables was considered a growing market expected to benefit rural areas economically. Medicinal plants production has been promoted as a sustainable development activity as well as a source of income for many women, who have been encouraged to...

    • 8 Mining and the Dispossession of Resources and Livelihoods
      (pp. 147-157)

      Over time the concept of globalization was established as a kind of level playing field whereby corporations were allowed to operate beyond various legal, social, ecological, cultural, or national barriers. The focus of the discussion here is people’s resistance to mining in that context.

      Rural women, peasants, and Indigenous communities in Costa Rica have had little success in their efforts to get Canadian mining corporations to address basic concerns about the potential impact of mining projects and to recognize the right of such citizens to reject such projects. Therefore, these communities believe that civil unrest is the only option left...

    • 9 The “Greening” of Capitalism
      (pp. 158-174)

      The three linked UN Conferences on Environment and Development proposed the sustainable development model of “green capitalism” as a means to defuse the ecological (climate change) and social (poverty) crises currently experienced throughout the world. This book has examined the societal and economic consequences of this economic development approach. Touted as a means to confront climate change and eliminate poverty, policies based on this model have actually destroyed the livelihoods of peasants and Indigenous peoples as well as formulated a new kind of domination.

      This section, first, reflects the broadening of the greening through the implementation of sustainable development as...

  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. 175-178)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 179-182)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-196)
  11. Index
    (pp. 197-208)