This week, Professor Anthony Bebbington delivered a public lecture on “Resource extraction, climate change and the right to live well”. Susanna Hecht, Professor in International History at the Graduate Institute, opened the event by highlighting Anthony Bebbington’s academic work on the political ecology of rural change and the impact of resource extraction on local communities, but also his strong link to activism.
Anthony Bebbington started by underlining the resurgence of investments in large scale infrastructure at the beginning of the century, exemplified by the China Belt and Road initiative. The mining and extractive industries rely on these large-scale infrastructures, which more and more will be integrated across continents. Spatial development is imagined through corridors, where extracted resources are moved toward the market.
Resource extraction, climate change and livelihoods are, however, strongly interlinked. Mining activities lead to increased CO2 emissions via land cover change, transport and energy infrastructure. Climate risks in turn also impact mining operations - via water scarcity for instance, which also affect the livelihoods of rural communities. The central question of Anthony Bebbington’s lecture is then how to induce policy change so as to reconcile the three concepts of resource extraction, climate change and living well.
His answer underscores that there are shorter routes to policy change focusing on impact assessments, expert meetings and policy proposals drafted by think-tanks but there are also longer - and likely more effective - routes to policy changes. The latter emphasize social processes and the construction of coherent narratives through society. During his talk, Anthony Bebbington provided some powerful illustrations of such trajectories of policy change related to resource extraction in both Amazonia and El Salvador.
At the end of the conference, Anthony Bebbington, Susanna Hecht, and the audience shared a vivid exchange on the construction of policies to resource extraction.