Social Struggles over the Commodification of Nature: A Comparative Analysis of Two Resource Conflicts

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
M. Omar FARUQUE, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
Resource extraction in the era of neoliberal globalization has generated a ‘double movement.’ On the one hand, we see the rise of ‘land grab’ on a global scale to reinforce the commodification of nature. In response, there is a growing resistance movement to assert community rights over natural resources. In this paper, I will present a comparative analysis of two resource conflicts over the commodification of nature in Phulbari, a rural town in the northwest of Bangladesh and Melancthon, a rural township in the northwest of Toronto, Canada. A British mining company planned to build an open pit coal mine in Phulbari, which would require more than 6000 hectares of prime agricultural land. An American resource company planned to build a limestone quarry in Melancthon, which would need nearly 1000 hectares of potato firms. In both cases, capitalist industrial development would transform a rural community; grassroots communities did not support these resource extraction projects anticipating devastating consequences of slow violence unleashed by extractive industries. Gradually their struggles drew the wide-spread support of like-minded allies from within and outside progressive political groups and environmental movements. In the end, they succeeded to halt both projects. Opponents deployed more or less similar mobilization framings and tactics. However, there remained a noticeable difference between these two social struggles regarding the outcome. Drawing on social movement studies and institutionalism, I will analyze mobilization processes and outcomes of these resistance movements. I will ask: why the company behind the Melancthon quarry abandoned the project while the company behind the Phulbari coal mine remained hopeful to begin the project. My argument will emphasize the role of accountable, transparent, and democratic institutions to address the grievances of concerned citizens in the face of increasing commodification of nature.