Embrace it, accept it, or fight like hell: understanding diverse responses to extractive industrial development

  • Anna J. WillowEmail author


This article considers why some people welcome externally imposed resource extractive development projects while seemingly similar others vehemently reject them. Informed by an understanding of human cultural and political undertakings as components of complex and conjoined systems that are simultaneously social and ecological, I identify economic, political, environmental, and cultural experiences and values that guide individuals’ decisions to embrace, accept, or oppose extractive industry. Drawing on recent ethnographic research in northeastern British Columbia—where First Nations and Euro-Canadian citizens concurrently confront ongoing logging, extensive oil and gas extraction, construction of a third massive hydroelectric dam, and renewed metallurgical coal mining—I suggest that diverse responses are significantly influenced by whether or not individuals perceive extractive industry as having adverse economic effects, the level of trust they place in governmental decision making, and whether or not they connect extractive industry to injustice and violations of citizens’ rights. In an era of unprecedented human impact, I ultimately argue, local outcomes of global resource extraction debates have an important role to play in shaping the future of our societies and our world.


British Columbia Environmental sustainability Extractive industry Reflexivity Socioecological systems 



I am grateful to Treaty 8 Tribal Association, the British Columbia residents who took time out of busy schedules to contribute to my research, and the Ohio State University’s Human-Environment Learning Lab ( Transcription assistance was provided by Lisa Beiswenger and Jude Snowden.


This study was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Grant No. 9177: “Contested Developments and Cumulative Effects: Understanding Diverse Responses to Energy Resource Development in British Columbia’s Peace River Region”).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10668_2019_529_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 20 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyOhio State UniversityColumbus, OhioUSA

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