The Role of the Semi-Periphery in Ecologically Unequal Exchange: A Case Study of Land Investments in Cambodia
Ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) and the closely related concept of ecological imperialism emphasize the deep inequalities of the global economic system that allow the exploitation of peripheral natures by core countries. However, in the case of land grabbing in Cambodia discussed in this chapter, emerging or semi-peripheral economies are increasingly engaging in overseas economic activities that are arguably as exploitative. What is needed is greater theoretical conceptual clarity of the role of semi-peripheral countries in the global ecology/capitalist economy. To begin with, even as semi-peripheral countries are engaging in forms of ecological imperialism with peripheral countries, this chapter outlines the key ways in which they remain subordinate to core economies. Second, the dynamics driving ecological imperialism or EUE from the semi-periphery to their peripheral neighbors are distinct. Specifically, such countries face an intense, upward competition in a hierarchical capitalist global economy that pressures them to industrialize rapidly. In addition, such countries continue to engage in peripheral activities that are centered on the extraction and export of primary commodities. All these dynamics result in domestic environmental degradation. Coupled with increasing levels of consumption resulting from economic growth, these emerging economies are increasingly driven to externally secure land and resources while facing environmental crises at home.
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