Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Tad Mutersbaugh


Forest carbon projects seek to alleviate rural poverty and mitigate global climate change by facilitating the flow of capital from actors looking to offset CO2 emissions to land managers willing to engage in offset-oriented reforestation, afforestation, and forest preservation activities. In Mexico, forest carbon schemes have been pursued within the country’s national Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program, and through REDD+ pilot projects and separate voluntary initiatives. In this dissertation, I explore one voluntary project, Scolel’ Te, which is managed by the non-governmental organization (NGO), AMBIO. Focusing on the case of Scolel’ Te, I show how forest carbon projects undermine social relations in ways that weaken participating communities and threaten project success. First, I examine how carbon forestry market integration undermines social relations by pushing risk on participant labor and encouraging the establishment of disenfranchising labor arrangements. Second, I analyze how farmer participation in Scolel’ Te undermines social relations within broader community settings. Such effects, I argue, are only visible when analyzing the social ramifications of carbon forestry within the context of intra-community social relations. Finally, drawing on labor studies, I critically re- assess the role of participatory methods in carbon forestry, suggesting that they undermine the social relations of production between farmers and project managers, thereby threatening project success. This analysis demonstrates how shifting market dynamics, historical factors, and labor processes converge in the context of carbon forestry, and underscores the implications of such work for participating farmers and carbon forestry more broadly.