Session 1: 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Panel D: Justicia Ambiental: En Busca de Soluciones de Sostenibilidad en Latinoamérica

Moderator: Abby Cordova


La Represa Inambari: ¿desarrollo o destrucción?

Kate Reeves, Georgetown University

Using interviews with activists, scientists, and community leaders involved in the movement against the Inambari Dam, this report assesses the reasons why the hydroelectric project was not viewed to be the “clean energy” nor the “development” project that it was portrayed to be by the Peruvian government or the Brazilian company trying to build it, EGASUR. I found that these perceptions were due in part to the dam’s negative social impacts – including the displacement of over 15,000 people – and in part due the dam’s environmental consequences – including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, changes in water quality, loss of biodiversity, unnatural river flow patterns, and ecosystem deterioration. The report goes on to evaluate how these risk factors motivated a movement against the dam and analyze the factors that made this resistance movement a success.

For those living in the at-risk zone, the threat of displacement seemed to be the primary motivating factor, whereas many of those that joined in solidarity – NGOs, academics, and indigenous communities based in other parts of the shared river system – were motivated most strongly by the environmental concerns. The broad public mostly maintained an ambivalent attitude toward the dam; they were not necessarily dissuaded by the environmental or social impacts, but they were also not convinced that this project would benefit them given that nearly all of the energy produced from the dam would go to Brazil. I argue that the success of the resistance movement is a product of all three of these factors: the intensely personal grassroots organizing from those affected, the awareness campaigns about the dam’s potential impacts from civil society, and the lack of active advocacy to build the dam on the part of the public.

Futuros ecológicos desde el páramo: la resistencia contra extractivismos y los discursos de una transición justa en Cuenca, Ecuador

Leif Maynard, Bowdoin College

As the climate crisis grows more palpable, calls for a “just transition” to renewable energy have entered the mainstream. However, just transition discourses often ignore the socio-ecological implications of clean energy supply chains, particularly related to critical metal mining in the Global South. Through a month of collaborative ethnographic field research with anti-extractivist activists, researchers, and government officials in Cuenca, Ecuador, this project documents the experiences of communities on the front lines of green extractivism and elevates their perspectives on the energy transition. Using a political ecology lens, I explore the question: How are activists and communities resisting large scale extractive projects in the watershed of Cuenca, Ecuador, and what alternatives do these communities articulate for just energy transitions? My paper discusses four key takeaways: (1.) The practical and spiritual importance of clean water to the identities and livelihoods of Cuencanos fosters rural-urban solidarity in the struggle against extractivism. (2.) Different discourses on what constitutes environmental damage influence how impacts of mining and hydroelectric projects are understood; place-based knowledge held by local communities must be valued in decision-making processes. (3.) Strategies for resisting extractive projects included both direct action blockades and institutional advocacy. (4.) Frontline communities propose concrete visions of an ecological transition that reduces raw material extraction and challenges infinite economic growth. Ultimately, my findings suggest that in order to move towards a truly “just,” “sustainable,” and decolonial energy transition, degrowth and circular economies must be taken seriously in sustainable development theory and practice.

¿Por qué pagar? Los motivantes del pago de agua potable en México

Luis Elizondo Gracia, University of Notre Dame

Mexico is experiencing more severe droughts than ever before, depleting the national supply of water to critical levels, as seen this year in the water rationing in Monterrey, Mexico. Climate conditions, coupled with a characteristic mismanagement of both this resource and public finances, place the country, and millions of people, in a perilous situation. On top of this, around 30% of Mexicans do not pay their water utility bills, a vital source of income for municipalities as their funding for utilities is dependent on these bills. This brings us to the question, what are the most efficient policies that the government can put forward to increase payment compliance? Using a fixed effects, time series multivariate regression, constructed with data from two government surveys made by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, I have been able to identify a few key factors that drive citizens delinquent. While there are similar papers that attempt to answer the same question of increasing compliance, none have focused on an entire country's data. My work identifies a significant relationship between the perceived quality of the water, the perceived quality of the payment experience, suspension of service, and reduction of water flow. These results continue to add to the literature, and reinforce the call for local governments to adopt such proven strategies to battle payment delinquency, low tax morale, bad public finance, and the effects of climate change.