Reproducing the Imperial Mode of Living in Times of Climate Crisis: Green(ing) Extractivisms and Eco-territorial Conflicts in the Chilean, Mexican and Peruvian Mining Sector

Lorena E. Olarte-Sánchez, University of Vienna, Austria
Anna Preiser, University of Vienna, Austria
Nina Schlosser, Berlin School of Economics and Law, University of Vienna, Austria:

The climate crisis is coming to a head. The technological solutions for an energy transition, including solar panels and wind turbines, however, require a material base. Copper, lithium, and silver are imported from Latin American countries, the costs of which are externalized and unequally distributed over Nature and societies. Informed by the concept “imperial mode of living”, we identify how this transfer is possible, namely based on dominant discourses and practices that are legitimized by institutions, amongst others. Insights from dependency theory unveil extractivist structures which are currently greened and thus continue to safeguard this century-old exchange. The case studies on Chile, Peru, and Mexico show how the greening of extractivisms is facilitated but also contested by different collective actors. Certain discursive strategies on green extractivism and its partial institutionalization seem to reproduce an extractivist common sense. At the same time, as the lithium exploitation in the Salar de Atacama in Chile, the planned copper mining in the Tambo Valley in Peru, and the equally planned silver extraction in the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico demonstrate, eco-territorial conflicts also continue to occur in the course of “sustainable” mining. Based on our findings, we argue that the hegemonic strategies facing climate change reproduce both a green IML and green extractivisms and thus result in the exploitation of Nature, territories, and humans.

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