Resource extraction and infrastructure threaten forest cover and community rights

Anthony Bebbington, Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Laura Sauls, John Rogan

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Mineral and hydrocarbon extraction and infrastructure are increasingly significant drivers of forest loss, greenhouse gas emissions,
and threats to the rights of forest communities in forested areas of
Amazonia, Indonesia, and Mesoamerica. Projected investments in
these sectors suggest that future threats to forests and rights are
substantial, particularly because resource extraction and infrastructure reinforce each other and enable population movements and
agricultural expansion further into the forest. In each region, governments have made framework policy commitments to national and
cross-border infrastructure integration, increased energy production,
and growth strategies based on further exploitation of natural
resources. This reflects political settlements among national elites
that endorse resource extraction as a pathway toward development.
Regulations that protect forests, indigenous and rural peoples’ lands,
and conservation areas are being rolled back or are under threat.
Small-scale gold mining has intensified in specific locations and also
has become a driver of deforestation and degradation. Forest dwellers’ perceptions of insecurity have increased, as have documented
homicides of environmental activists. To explain the relationships
among extraction, infrastructure, and forests, this paper combines a
geospatial analysis of forest loss overlapped with areas of potential
resource extraction, interviews with key informants, and feedback
from stakeholder workshops. The increasing significance of resource
extraction and associated infrastructure as drivers of forest loss and
rights violations merits greater attention in the empirical analyses and
conceptual frameworks of Sustainability Science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13164-13173
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number52
Early online date3 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2018


  • Climate
  • Deforestation
  • Extractive industry
  • Infrastructure
  • Rights

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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