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Environmental Change and Capitalism: Profit and Exploitation of the Natural World in Colonial Context

Author(s): Marco Meniketti

Year: 2016

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The emergence of capitalism was a driving force in colonial Caribbean development.  The institutionalization of slavery, which sustained the economy was but one manifestation of the phenomenon. Environmental exploitation and degradation was another. The Caribbean is a patchwork of non-native plants, damaged ecosystems, transplanted cultures, syncretic identities, and subaltern economic systems, all of which are a legacy of policies that co-evolved with the emergence of mature capitalism as an integrated social system. While planters were broadly aware of environmental problems wrought by the plantation system, negligible effort was expended to introduce sustainable practices, which eventually undercut productivity just as global economic competition intensified. This lack of insight may be explained in the context of plantations as extractive industries, where environment, labor, and sustainability are sacrificed to the immediacy of profits. This paper offers a brief synthesis that explores environmental changes resulting from unfettered agro-industrialism, drawing on examples from several islands.


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Environmental Change and Capitalism: Profit and Exploitation of the Natural World in Colonial Context. Marco Meniketti. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434379)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

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PaperId(s): 545

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America