| By A. Bebbington and J. Bury | Published in Subterranean Struggles: New Dynamics of Mining, Oil and Gas in Latin America. Edited by A. Bebbington and J.Bury. Austin: University of Texas Press. |
Excerpt: If the 2009 box- office hit Avatar showed anything, it was that the political ecology of the subsoil can make for great commercial success. Indeed, the film has it all. At a macropolitical economy level, it deals with resource wars (cf. Le Billon 2008); the interactions between (galactic) commodity chains and territorial dynamics (cf. Bridge 2008); extraction, dispossession, and the viability of capitalism (cf. Harvey 2003); and the endogenization of the subsoil to global political economy (cf. Huber and Emel 2008). It offered a critique of corporate social and environmental responsibility (cf. Emel 2002; Watts 2004b), a take on subaltern resistance, and an exploration of the challenges of alliance- building within a socioenvironmental movement (Horowitz 2010; Bebbington 2007b). And yet, while the extractive economy may make for great films, the topic has, until very recent times, remained relatively marginal to the wider political ecological enterprise. Indeed, it would seem fair to say that in the quarter century since Piers Blaikie’s and Harold Brookfield’s classic treatises on soil erosion and land degradation (Blaikie 1985; Blaikie and Brookfield 1987)— two books widely seen as launching the field of political ecology, at least within Geography (Walker 2005)—the subsoil has remained fairly hidden from view while the core enterprise of political ecology has moved forward with something of a surface bias.