Extractivism: understanding it better to fight back

A word that is more and more frequently used in reflections on the unequal dynamics between the North and the global South is extractivism. To demystify it a little, here is a short article that will give a very brief presentation.

First, extractivism is the massive exploitation of the resources of nature or the biosphere.  As a social, political and economic phenomenon, extractivism is not accidental or ancillary to capitalism.  It has been an essential factor in the historical development of capitalism, fully integrated into Western colonialism and imperialism. The monopolization of raw materials in the countries of the global South by the states of the North is an essential part of economic growth. Even today, it is an indispensable part of its functioning. Today, the configuration of global capitalism forces the countries of the South, under the imperatives of large trans-national corporations and organizations such as the IMF, to maintain an extractivist model in which economic activities are specialized almost exclusively in the exploitation and export of natural resources and raw materials.

The extractivist model, particularly in Latin America, has negative economic, human and ecological effects on the countries involved in this model. Economically, countries with an extractivist economic model are highly dependent on the import of finished products from abroad, which they have to pay more for.  This situation is highly problematic and is one of the main causes of the systemic indebtedness of the South American economies.

At the human level, extractivism generates violence and direct harm to the populations of the South, particularly to indigenous peoples. Under the constant and growing imperatives of accumulation, extractive industries always require larger territories and a greater quantity of resources to exploit. This generates processes of dispossession and expropriation of the territories and livelihoods of the people, especially indigenous communities. These expropriations are usually legalized, executed and legitimized by several states, partly due to the pressure of international agreements and institutions protecting the interests of multinationals. 

At the ecological level, the treatment of the countries of the South as a bottomless pit of resources to be plundered without any consideration for the ecological impacts is causing a fundamental imbalance of the ecosystems as well as the destruction of the multiple animal and plant species that live there. 

This briefly describes the concept. No matter how it is claimed to be reformed, humanized, improved, no matter how it is presented by elites and governments in the North and the South, extracti-vism is always colonial in origin, always violent, always ecocidal and always intolerable. The COP15 does not recognize or propose any solution to this major problem. On the contrary, it proposes essentially capitalist solutions that protect the interests of extractive companies and reinforce the colonial dynamic of Western control over the countries of the South. Opposing the COP15 is to oppose this dynamic of exploitation and oppression that is extractivism.