Introduction: Environment and Society in Contemporary Latin America

  • Fábio de Castro
  • Barbara Hogenboom
  • Michiel Baud


Societal change in Latin America is intimately related to nature and natural resources. In this resource-rich region, nature–society relations provide both opportunities and challenges in achieving more fair, equitable and sustainable development. Nearly half of the world’s tropical forests are found in the region, next to several other natural biomes, which together carry a wealth of biodiversity. It holds one-third of the world’s freshwater reserves and one-quarter of the potential arable land. And despite five centuries of extractive activities to serve global markets, the region still holds large volumes of important mineral reserves, including oil, gas, iron, copper and gold (Bovarnick, Alpizar and Schnell, 2010). On the other hand, this “biodiversity superpower” has seen a fast rate of biodiversity loss, increasing ecosystem degradation and one-third of the world’s carbon emissions, mostly a result of the expansion of extractive activities and land-use change (UNEP, 2012). Together, these economic and ecological developments affect a large number of different social groups in all Latin American countries, primarily in rural areas but also in cities. Next to mobilizations and conflicts that attract national and international attention, there are numerous local socioenvironmental tensions that lead to longstanding economic problems and social injustice.


Latin American Country Environmental Governance Green Economy Elite Group Governance Mode 
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Copyright information

© Fábio de Castro, Barbara Hogenboom and Michiel Baud 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fábio de Castro
  • Barbara Hogenboom
  • Michiel Baud

There are no affiliations available

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