The Environmentalism of the Poor
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The Environmentalism of the Poor

A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation

Joan Martinez-Alier

The Environmentalism of the Poor has the explicit intention of helping to establish two emerging fields of study – political ecology and ecological economics – whilst also investigating the relations between them.
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Chapter 5: Mangroves Versus Shrimps

Joan Martinez-Alier


As we have seen, the clash between economy and environment is studied by ecological economics. I have also explained the birth of political ecology as the study of ecological distribution conflicts. This chapter will now turn to empirical research on one current ecological distribution conflict. I shall describe instances of resistance to shrimp farming. First, some remarks on sources of information are in order. The bibliography to the present book lists publications mostly in English and of academic origin, but there is an explosion of research and communication by activists themselves which recalls the beginning of the international socialist movement, though this time with wider geographical reach, with many more women activists, and using not only printed journals and leaflets but also the Internet. I have doubts concerning the preservation of source materials in NGO archives, or briefly posted on the Internet. The present chapter is based on information from around the world, some of it gathered through participant observation, most of it from the archives of the environmental organization Acción Ecológica from Ecuador. Shrimp are produced in two different ways. As for other commodities in world trade, by studying such filières or ‘product-regimes’ (as Konrad von Moltke calls them), we can identify and follow the interventions of different actors at different points in the chain, motivated by differents interests and values. Shrimps are fished in the sea (sometimes at the cost of destroying turtles) or they are ‘farmed’...

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