Extractivism is the process of extracting natural resources from the Earth to sell on the world market.[1] It exists in an economy that depends primarily on the extraction or removal of natural resources that are considered valuable for exportation worldwide. Some examples of resources that are obtained through extraction include gold, diamonds, lumber and oil.[1] This economic model has become popular in many Latin American countries but is becoming increasingly prominent in other regions as well.[2]

Example of extractivism - open-pit mining - Russia

Many factors are involved in the process of extractivism. These include but are not limited to community members, transnational corporations (TNCs) and the government. Trends have demonstrated that countries do not often extract their own resources; extraction is often led from abroad.[3] These interactions have contributed to extractivism being rooted in the hegemonic order of global capitalism.[4] Extractivism is controversial because it exists at the intersection where economic growth and environmental protection meet. This intersection is known as the green economy. Extractivism has evolved in the wake of neo-liberal economic transitions to become a potential avenue for development to occur.[5] This development occurs through stabilizing growth rates and increasing direct foreign investment.[6]

However, while these short-term economic benefits can be substantial, extractivism as a development model is often critiqued for failing to deliver the improved living conditions it promises and failing to work collaboratively with already existing programs, therefore inflicting environmental, social and political consequences.[7] Extractivism also perpetuates the resource curse, a phenomenon that causes countries rich in natural resources to have slow economic growth, low development, corrupt governments and unequal distribution of wealth, since the wealth produced with the resource is exported to other countries or oligopolic companies, which use a part of the wealth generated to bribe local governments to increase extractivism, creating a positive feedback for unequal wealth distribution.[8]

Environmental concerns of extractivism include; climate change, soil depletion, deforestation, loss of food sovereignty, declining biodiversity and contamination of freshwater.[9] Social and political implications include violation of human rights, unsafe labour conditions, unequal wealth distribution and conflict.[10] As a result of this, extractivism remains a prominent debate in policy related discourse because while it sometimes delivers high economic gains in the short term, it also poses social and environmental dangers. Case studies in Latin America demonstrate these policy gaps.

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