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Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the concept of sustainable development has become the basis for a vast number of "green industries" from eco-tourism to carbon sequestration. In The "Greening" of Costa Rica, Ana Isla exposes the results of the economist's rejection of physical limits to growth, the biologist's fetish with such limits, and the indebtedness of peripheral countries.
Isla's case study is the 250 000 hectare Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area, created in the late 1990s as the result of Canada–Costa Rica debt-for-nature swaps. Rather than reducing poverty and creating equality, development in and around the conservation area has dispossessed and disenfranchised subsistence farmers, expropriating their land, water, knowledge, and labour.
Drawing on a decade of fieldwork in these communities, Isla exposes the duplicity of a neoliberal model in which the environment is converted into commercial assets such as carbon credits, intellectual property, cash crops, open-pit mining, and eco-tourism, few of whose benefits flow to the local population.
Part I: Embodied Foreign Debt in the National System of Conservation Areas
1 - Political Economy: Building Costa Rica's Neo-liberal State
2 - Political Ecology: Debt-for-Nature and Its Experts
Part II: Embodied Debt-for-Nature: Women, Peasants, Indigenous Peoples, and the Remaking of Nature
3 - The Land Plan in Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area: New Natures and New Workers in Fortuna, Z-Trece, Abanico, and Miramar
4 - Genetics as a Site of Biotechnology or Biopiracy: Dispossession of Indigenous Peoples' and Peasants' Knowledge
5 - Forests as Carbon Sinks: Dispossession of Peasant Access to the Forest
6 - Scenery as Eco-tourism: Dispossession of Peasant Agricultural Land and the Rise of Prostitution
7 - Medicinal Plants in Micro-enterprises: The Dispossession of Rural Women's Labour and Knowledge
8 - Mountains as Open-Pit Mining Sites: Dispossession of Peasants' Water and Livelihood
9 - The Need for Alternative Relations
Ana Isla is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Women's and Gender Studies at Brock University.
"The "Greening" of Costa Rica is a very interesting case study of the link between political ecology and political economy by a long-term observer of green development in Costa Rica."
- Mary Mellor, Emeritus Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University
"A powerful statement about the life-threatening and destructive moves of green capitalism and what they mean for the survival chances of populations whose ways of living and knowing are transformed into sources of exploitation, destroying not only their livelihoods but also the survival potential of our planet."
- Mechthild Hart, Professor Emeritus, School for New Learning, DePaul University