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Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Re-thinking oil: compensation for non-production in Yasuní National Park challenging sumak kawsay and degrowth

  • Lucía Gallardo Fierro
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Transitions, Management, and Governance

Abstract

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was an innovative development proposal based on the non-production of oil in Yasuní National Park in Ecuador, in exchange for international compensation, eitherin the form of direct payment or payment for environmental services. My aim is to investigate how the different actors understand this compensation for non-production of oil in Ecuador, an oil dependent country. Using a chronological review of the Initiative and forty in-depth interviews with key players, I critically engage the ‘environmental narrative’ around the Initiative inspired by sumak kawsay -a philosophy of life based on non-mercantilist values, known as “well living” in English or “buen vivir” in Spanish- and degrowth. In this article I argue that understanding the Initiative as an environmental matter and not as a problem of oil rent dependency exemplifies the limits of sumak kawsay and degrowth as proposals for an alternative to development. Results from Yasuní show that the Initiative ended up reproducing the fictions of nature valuation instead of de-linking nature from the valuation process. By drawing on a critical political economic framework, this paper shows that categories such as “dependency” and “rent” are fundamental in understanding the challenges of moving away from extraction-based development in developing countries. In summary, failing to differentiate between payment for the non-production of oil and compensation from the environmental services, Yasuní was a ´lost ‘opportunity for a bottom-up debate on what to produce and what not.

Keywords

Sumak kawsay Degrowth Yasuní Nature Rent Dependency non-production of oil 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I want to mention deep thanks to Louis Lemkow for his supervision and constructive comments. I wish to acknowledge Giorgos Kallis, Bob Thompson, Diego Andrucci, Fikret Adaman, Melissa García Lamarca, Panagiota Kotsila, Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Dídac Jordà Capdevila. My gratitude to David Chávez for his theoretical support in spite of his doubts about sumak kawsay and degrowth as emancipatory narratives. I appreciate the time and the ideas of people who were interviewed. Research for this paper was supported by the Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENECYT).

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© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Ciència i Tecnología Ambientals (ICTA)BellaterraSpain

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