Development and Environment in Latin America: The Struggle over a Hegemonic Discourse
During the last decades of the twentieth century, increasing social environmental awareness added up to the gradual penetration of environmental thinking into the Latin American states’ developmental policymaking. For Ecuador, this cocktail resulted in the long-run in a particular discourse, which emerged in the dawn of the twenty-first century, buen vivir. Central to rationalize buen vivir was its socioecological dimension, founded on a harmonic relationship between society and nature.
Buen vivir was meant to materialize in a plan to save a significant portion of the Ecuadorian Amazonia from oil drilling by leaving about one quarter of the country’s oil reserves under the ground in exchange for an international monetary compensation: The Yasuní-ITT initiative. Despite the fact that the plan mobilized state and society, it succumbed to forty-years of dependence on oil of Ecuadorian economy, politics, and society. The termination of the initiative unveiled two antagonist environmental discourses traditionally held by the state and society. Whereas the state held the notion of natural resources available for commodification in the global market, society bet on other meanings of nature such as natural heritage and ancient peoples’ habitat and means of existence.
As outcomes of the foreseeable divorce between the antagonist environmental discourses that rested on different meanings of nature, buen vivir turned into a polyphonic concept and the struggle over a hegemonic environmental discourse resumed. It is argued that during the twenty-first century, one of the consequences of such a struggle is the construction of different meanings of development alike.