STS - conferences, IST2012

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Anabel Marin

Last modified: 2012-05-24


This paper explores  the emergence of alternatives (niches) in the exploitation of natural resources (NRs) in three Latin American (LAC) countries, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Latin America countries are heavily specialised in NRs (over 60% of total exports of the region are explained by NRs). Activities based in NRs are considered to be very problematic for development (due to among other things their low technological and demand dynamism and rate of employment creation, high risk of long term environmental damage, trend to induce concentration of incomes and activities, etc.). The more common view in LAC is that NRs should be heavily taxed and instead other economic activities should be encouraged (in other words that structural change should be encouraged).  The paper proposes and explores a different view: Can NR activities be transformed so they can best serve economic (resilience), social (justice) and environmental (sustainability) challenges in the region?. Industries get transformed and re-structured through the development and growth of alternatives/niches, or new projects which propose technologies and organisational practices that departure from the conventional (or dominant) ones in a given industry. The paper investigates different types of transformative alternatives (or niches) in three types of activities in the region: the agricultural sector in Argentina, the exploitation of the Amazonian biodiversity in Brazil, and the exploitation of copper mines in Chile. Through fieldwork we have indentified three types of alternatives within each activity: Path- breaking, which aims to transform the industry and eventually take it in a different direction of change - or pathway, Path-repairing, which offers partial solutions to some of the problems of the dominant system, but do not challenge its main logic of development and Path creating, which aims to create new pathways for innovation in other sectors linked to the dominant system. The analysis focuses on understanding the of  degree of development and the barriers for growth of each type of alternative.