Environmental Impacts of Transnational Corporations in the Global South: Volume 33

Cover of Environmental Impacts of Transnational Corporations in the Global South

Table of contents

(10 chapters)

Part I Extractive Industries, Social Conflict and Dispossession in the Global South


This paper examines the current tendencies associated with transnational mining capital in the context of the current period of neoliberal globalization dominated by transnational corporations, and examines the usefulness of the category accumulation by dispossession, Harvey’s adapted version of Marx’s original accumulation. After a review of the original concept by Marx an evaluation of Harvey’s concept is presented. The current state of affairs in the mining industry is examined, in particular, considering the present level of large scale mining or mega-mining. In addition, this paper examines the associated social conflicts addressing the social and environmental impacts, which have resulted from these recent tendencies, not to mention the problems of increased use of corporate management of social resistance, and repression, on the part of the State, especially with regards to the criminalization of social protest. Moreover, the tendency toward reprimarization in several countries is considered and the degree to which this coincides with ongoing expropriation by the State is addressed, followed by an assessment of the relevance of the concept of accumulation by dispossession in the present day.


The historian Patrick Wolfe reminds us that the settler colonial logic of eliminating native societies to gain unrestricted access to their territory is not a phenomenon confined to the distant past. As Wolfe (2006, p. 388) writes, “settler colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.” In the Gulf of Carpentaria region in Australia’s Northern Territory this settler colonial “logic of elimination” continues through mining projects that extract capital for transnational corporations while contaminating Indigenous land, overriding Indigenous law and custom and undermining Indigenous livelihoods. However, some Garawa, Gudanji, Marra, and Yanyuwa peoples are using creative ways to fight back, exhibiting “story paintings” to show how their people experience the destructive impacts of mining. We cannot know yet the full impact of this creative activism. But their body of work suggests it has the potential to challenge colonial institutions from below, inspiring growing networks of resistance and a collective meaning-making through storytelling that is led by Indigenous peoples on behalf of the living world.


The World Bank report Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 is only the most recent reminder of how much poorer Africa is becoming, losing more than US$100 billion annually from minerals, oil, and gas extraction, according to (quite conservatively framed) environmentally sensitive adjustments of wealth. With popular opposition to socioeconomic, political, and ecological abuses rising rapidly in Africa, a robust debate may be useful: between those practicing anti-extractivist resistance, and those technocrats in states and international agencies who promote “ecological modernization” strategies. The latter typically aim to generate full-cost environmental accounting, and to do so they typically utilize market-related techniques to value, measure, and price nature. Between the grassroots and technocratic standpoints, a layer of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) do not yet appear capable of grappling with anti-extractivist politics with either sufficient intellectual tools or political courage. They instead revert to easier terrains within ecological modernization: revenue transparency, project damage mitigation, Free Prior and Informed Consent (community consultation and permission), and other assimilationist reforms. More attention to political-economic and political-ecological trends – including the end of the commodity super-cycle, worsening climate change, financial turbulence and the potential end of a 40-year long globalization process – might assist anti-extractivist activists and NGO reformers alike. Both could then gravitate to broader, more effective ways of conceptualizing extraction and unequal ecological exchange, especially in Africa’s hardest hit and most extreme sites of devastation.


Transnational corporation (TNC)-led oil investments have been widely encouraged as a mechanism for the development of the Global South. Even though the sector is characterized by major accidents, oil-based developmentalist narratives claim that such accidents are merely isolated incidents that can be administratively addressed, redressed behaviorally through education of certain individuals, or corrected through individually targeted post-event legislation. Adapting Harvey Molotch’s (1970) political economy methodology of “accident research”, this paper argues that such “accidents” are, in fact, routine in the entire value chain of the oil system dominated by, among others, military-backed TNCs which increasingly collaborate with national and local oil companies similarly wedded to the ideology of growth. Based on this analysis, existing policy focus on improving technology, instituting and enforcing more environmental regulations, and the pursuit of economic nationalism in the form of withdrawing from globalization are ineffective. In such a red-hot system, built on rapidly spinning wheels of accumulation, the pursuit of slow growth characterized by breaking the chains of monopoly and oligopoly, putting commonly generated rent to common uses, and freeing labor from regulations that rob it of its produce has more potency to address the enigma of petroleum accidents in the global south.

Part II Environmental Conflicts and Transnational Value Chains in the Global South


The present effects of transnational corporations (TNCs) on social, health, and environmental aspects of local societies have a long history. The pre-conditions for the insertion of the types of economic initiatives now seen in the Global South, and driven by TNCs, were set through histories of colonialism and development schemes. These initiatives disrupted local economies and modified environments, delivering profound effects on livelihoods. These effects were experienced as structural violence, and have produced social suffering through the decades.

In this paper, we compare two African cases across time; the conjunction of development initiatives and structural adjustment in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe in the early 1990s and industrial plantation forestry in present-day Uganda. Each case presents a specific constellation of political and economic forces that has produced prejudicial effects on local populations in their time period of application and are, essentially, different versions of structural violence that produce social suffering. While each case depicts a specific type of violent encounter manifest at a particular historical moment, these are comparable in the domains of environmental impacts, disruptions to societies, co-opting of local economies, disordering of systems of meaning and social reproduction, and nefarious effects on well-being. We analyze the conjunction of these effects through a theoretical lens of structural violence and social suffering. Our analysis draws particular attention to the role of TNCs in driving this structural violence and its effects.


The present study evaluates the principal forms of socioenvironmental damage suffered by local traditional populations and indigenous communities as a result of the installation and operation of the Pecém Industrial and Shipping Complex. The main problem being pollution in the municipalities of São Gonçalo do Amarante and Caucaia, which is in the Brazilian state of Ceará. As a theoretical framework, we use the concept of “environmental justice,” and “environmental racism.” The latter were used to understand the process of “deterritorialization” of these communities that resulted in extensive impacts on the natural environment, as well as the way of life and productive practices of these communities. Our analyses confirm the destruction of the means that allow noncapitalist exploitation of natural resources, such as artisanal fisheries, subsistence farming, and the use of commons. We show how all these processes are constitutive of environmental injustice and environmental racism. These may contribute to the organization of the resistance and struggle of the affected populations, namely indigenous peoples and traditional communities.


The contemporary production, distribution, and consumption of food is today interconnected at the global level in the form of a global food chain, constituted by the relations between all the producers, distributors, and consumers of food in the World. A chain where the international trade law constitutes a conditioning element, which through the legal adoption of neoliberal ideals facilitates the strengthening of the agribusiness sector.

The present article aims to assess the environmental impact of the global food chain and engaging in the discussion of the adoption of more sustainable methodologies in the agriculture sector. By mobilizing the experience of participation in Civil Society Network for Food and Nutrition Security in the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (REDSAN-CCPL), we will critically expose the causal link of the activities of transnational corporations of the agribusiness sector with its environmental and public health impacts, particularly with cases in Global South countries (countries of the Community of Countries of Portuguese Language, CCPL).

At the end, and, following closely the current discussion at the United Nations level for the creation of a Declaration of the Rights of Peasants, and the creation, in 2017, of a legal regime for family farming under the CCPL, we will present a defense for the legal recognition of family farming at the international level, as a legal and political strategy to preclude the negative environmental impacts of the agribusiness sector.

Cover of Environmental Impacts of Transnational Corporations in the Global South
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Research in Political Economy
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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