Environmental Politics in Latin America: Elite dynamics, the left tide and sustainable development, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Environmental Politics in Latin America

Elite dynamics, the left tide and sustainable development, 1st Edition

Edited by Benedicte Bull, Mariel Cristina Aguilar-Stoen


220 pages

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Since colonial times the position of the social, political and economic elites in Latin America has been intimately connected to their control over natural resources. Consequently, struggles to protect the environment from over-exploitation and contamination have been related to marginalized groups’ struggles againstlocal, national and transnational elites. The recent rise of progressive, left-leaning governments – often supported by groups struggling for environmental justice – has challenged the established elites and raised expectations about new regimes for natural resource management.

Based on case-studies in eight Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, El Salvador and Guatemala), this book investigates the extent to which there have been elite shifts, how new governments have related to old elites, and how that has impacted on environmental governance and the management of natural resources. It examines the rise of new cadres of technocrats and the old economic and political elites’ struggle to remain influential. The book also discusses the challenges faced in trying to overcome structural inequalities to ensure a more sustainable and equitable governance of natural resources.

This timely book will be of great interest to researchers and masters students in development studies, environmental management and governance, geography, political science and Latin American area studies.


"The importance of elite politics to environmental governance is undeniable and yet the actual operations of this politics and the shifting constitution of elites have received far too little attention in studies of environmental governance in Latin America and beyond. This book provides a trove of valuable insights into the ways in which elites affect Latin American environments and the political possibilities for more equitable and sustainable relationships between society and natural resources. A super contribution."

Anthony Bebbington, Clark University, USA

"With the arrival of new left-wing governments to Latin America, and as elites shift in the region, this book offers an original look at their performance. Featuring several case studies, the chapters in this book simultaneously assess different economic sectors and countries governed by different versions of the Latin American left, both in terms of political power over society and over nature."

Eduardo Gudynas, Latin American Centre for Social Ecology, Uruguay

Table of Contents

1. Environmental governance and sustainable development in Latin America 2. Elites, classes and environmental governance: Conceptual and theoretical challenges Part 1: Agriculture and biotechnology 3. El Salvador: The challenge to entrenched elites and the difficult road to a sustainable development model 4. Bolivia: Emerging and traditional elites and the governance of the soy sector 5. Argentina: Government-agribusiness elite dynamics and its consequences for environmental governance 6. Ecuador: Changing biosafety frames and new political forces in Correa's governmenet Part 2: Mining 7. New elites around South America's strategic resources 8. Staying the same: Transnational elites, mining and environmental governance in Guatemala 9. Elite views on the use of water and energy in mining in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador Part 3: Forestry 10. REDD+ and forest governance in Latin America: The role of science-policy networks 11. State governments and forest policy: A new elite in the Brazilian Amazon? 12. Conclusion

About the Editors

Benedicte Bull is a Professor at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo, Norway.

Mariel Aguilar-Støen is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo, Norway.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Sustainable Development

This series uniquely brings together original and cutting-edge research on Sustainable Development. The books in this series tackle difficult and important issues in Sustainable Development including values and ethics; sustainability in higher education; climate compatible development; resilience; capitalism and de-growth; sustainable urban development; gender and participation; and well-being.

Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, the series promotes interdisciplinary research for an international readership. The series was recommended in the Guardian’s suggested reads for Development and Environment.

The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from young authors. To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (Rebecca.Brennan@tandf.co.uk).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy