“Conflictos de Contenido Ambiental"

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Folchi, M.

Folchi, M.  “Conflictos de Contenido Ambiental y ecologismo de los pobres: no siempre pobres, ni siempre ecologistasEcología Política No. 22, Ed. Icaria, (2001) pp. 79-100.

In this piece Folchi takes on the prevailing tenets marking the “environmentalism of the poor” frame, especially as Chile is concerned. He begins with a brief literature review in which he demonstrates the tendency of the ecologismo de los pobres school to locate the origin of Chilean environmental conflicts at the shift to the neoliberal model ushered in under Pinochet. Folchi argues that these studies neglect: 1) the long history of environmental conflict that goes back far beyond the 1973 coup; 2) the “ideological impurity” of many so-called environmentalist mobilizations (here he weaves ecological concerns into a fabric of social, material and traditional issues); and 3) the fact that environmental conflict can be generated by any kind of transformation, not necessarily degradation.

Under the Hapsburgs, the “common” status of the palma chilena was often a source of heated conflict that forced the colonial administration to choose between community access and the private property rights of landowners.

For instance, conflicts over fuel wood in early republican Chile were often played out between mine owners and hacendados, The issue over prohibition of the fraguas—or artisanal foundries—in mid-nineteenth century Santiago was one in which the poor artisans fought to continue contaminating the city’s air.

A community fought to get legislation passed that would regulate containment standards and require the neutralization of relaves de cobre to avoid toxic spills.
Environmental tension (tensión ambiental), to overcome Manichean approaches, and conflicts of an environmental nature (conflictos de contenido ambiental) to avoid the implication that tensions arise from a strict ideological defense of nature.

Folchi’s major gripe with the environmentalism of th poor thesis is that is resorts to linear, environmentalist, Manichean simplifications that neglect other social dimensions. Here I agree entirely, in fact, this is my basic critique of Martínez-Alier when I say that he doesn’t examine how the power that determines distributional conflicts is constructed. Folchi’s solution, however, doesn’t seem adequate, for he merely generates more boxes (note his innovation as shown in the difference between figures 2 and 3, p. 95) In line with Spivak, I think the problem is not so much the number of boxes that a framework resorts to, as much as the boxes themselves. 

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