As a geographer, I feel obliged to register a complaint about the proliferating and geographically criminal use of “the Global South” to refer to what others call poor countries, the developing world, or the Third World. To any resident of Australia or New Zealand, the expression jars. It must do the same to those in Chile, Argentina, or South Africa who look north at relatively poorer places. And what about where poverty and deprivation are a northern phenomenon (politically-divided Korea, culturally-divided aboriginal Australia and Canada)? Read the rest of this entry »
Mozambique rarely appears in the worldview of people in Madagascar, despite straddling the same latitudes just across the water from each other. Yet the two countries have much in common, as I discovered on a recent road trip with Priya Rangan to gather botanical samples and stories about baobabs.
Today’s attention-grabbing environmental issues in Madagascar are certainly different than a decade or two ago. At the time, deforestation and biodiversity conservation dominated attention, and social justice researchers worried about how the establishment of new parks and forest-use regulations affected rural communities living off the land. Today, we add to these concerns a burgeoning litany of events representing a globalization of Madagascar’s environment: we read about agricultural ‘land grabs’, booms in gem mining reminiscent of the Wild West, the actions of international mining companies in exploration and major mining projects, land potentially sequestered for biofuels or carbon sequestration, illegal exploitation of tropical hardwoods, and the refocusing of biodiversity conservation towards reducing deforestation carbon emissions via the REDD+ process. Barry Ferguson calls these new trends a ‘natural resource rush’ in his excellent blog posting.
The social justice impacts of these trends are as yet unclear. They can provide benefits, but, given history in Madagascar and elsewhere, they have the potential to be problematic: farmers losing access to ancestral land, farmers unwillingly moved into low-paid wage labour, social divisions exacerbated by elite capture of the benefits of foreign projects. What surprises me is the apparent lack of rural social movements in a position to contest, shape, and negotiate with such trends, projects, and events. Read the rest of this entry »
For the fifth time since 2004, earlier this year I travelled to Mpumalanga province, South Africa, to co-lead a field study program with my colleague Priya Rangan of Monash University. Two dozen students from Australia, and each day a new fascinating topic and field site visits.