Sacrificing the Forest: Environmental and Social Struggles in Chiapas

By Karen L. O'Brien | Go to book overview

9

Sacrificing the Forest

Driving Forces, Countervailing Pressures

The Selva Lacandona is not a homogeneous entity, and the driving forces of deforestation and countervailing pressures for conservation have contributed differentially to the present-day configuration of tropical forests in the region. Examining the political ecology of deforestation from a geographical perspective helps to explain how this configuration of forest cover came about, and why settlement patterns, ejidal structures, and protected areas have taken on their particular shapes.

The growing recognition that deforestation reflects the outcome of a complex array of factors can be considered a paradigm shift in understanding and explaining the causes of tropical deforestation. The direct causes of deforestation in the Selva. Lacandona, including colonization, logging, petroleum exploration, and the expansion of both the agricultural frontier and cattle ranching, are clearly valid explanations for the continuing loss of forest. However, an analysis of the underlying causes indicates that a much deeper web of relationships is responsible for forest loss in this diverse region.

Through the analysis presented in the previous chapters, it becomes clear that the destruction of Mexico's largest remaining tropical rain forest reflects the way that production relations have played themselves out in the Selva Lacandona, with the actual circumstances varying both spatially and temporally. In fact, the Selva Lacandona has been sacrificed to the same economic, social, and political relations that have created an increasingly marginalized population in Chiapas. It should be no surprise that the land use decisions made by disparate actors in the Selva Lacandona follow the logic of these relations.

The driving forces of deforestation and the countervailing pressures of conservation have been distinguished here, not only because they

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Sacrificing the Forest: Environmental and Social Struggles in Chiapas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Figures viii
  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Political Ecology of Deforestation 15
  • 3 - Reconfiguring the Selva Lacandona 35
  • 4 - Facilitating Access 61
  • 5 - Agricultural Changes and Continuities 89
  • 6 - Colonizing the Selva 110
  • 7 - Refugees and Rebels 133
  • 8 - Conservation Strategies 152
  • 9 - Sacrificing the Forest 176
  • Notes 185
  • References 190
  • Index 201
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