Socioecological Transitions and Global Change
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Socioecological Transitions and Global Change

Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use

Edited by Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Helmut Haberl

This significant new book analyses fundamental changes in society-nature interaction: the socioeconomic use of materials, energy and land. The volume presents a number of case studies addressing transitions from an agrarian to an industrial socioecological regime, analysed within the materials and energy flow accounting (MEFA) framework. It is argued that by concentrating on the biophysical dimensions of change in the course of industrialization, social development issues can be explicitly linked to changes in the natural environment.
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Chapter 6: The Local Base of Transitions in Developing Countries

Clemens M. Grünbühel, Simron J. Singh and Marina Fischer-Kowalski


Clemens M. Grünbühel, Simron J. Singh and Marina Fischer-Kowalski 6.1 INTRODUCTION In this chapter, we look at the dynamics of rural communities in order to understand the local baseline of sociometabolic transitions. Our aim is to analyse how these communities organize their biophysical flows with their environment where an industrial transformation occurring at higher system levels produces changing framework conditions. While regional studies provide us with relevant quantitative time series evidence on the region’s shift from one socioecological regime to another and the rate at which this occurs, local studies allow only snapshots of the socioecological profile at the base of these national economies in transition. The three sites we focus on – Nalang in Laos, SangSaeng in Thailand and Trinket, an island in the Nicobar archipelago belonging to India – lie within the region of Southeast Asia. They differ in their history, political ecology, environmental setting, national context, ethnic composition, and – most importantly for this study – their economic portfolio and resource-use patterns. All three sites may be considered fairly ‘remote’ in terms of accessibility and ‘backward’ in relation to the overall economic development of their country. The Northeastern Thai and the Central Lao people are part of the ThaiLao cultural area (Wongthes and Sujit 1989), while the Nicobarese belong to the Austro-Asiatic group of insular Southeast Asia. While the Northeastern Thai practise permanent rice cultivation and the Lao practise a mixture of permanent rice farming and shifting cultivation, the Nicobarese engage primarily in fishing, hunting and horticulture,...

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