Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Susan M. Roberts


This dissertation investigates the human dimensions of environmental transformations spurred by international climate change mitigation agreements—such as the Kyoto Protocol—that encourage lowering greenhouse gas emissions with ‘green’ market strategies like biofuel and ecological services development projects. It is methodologically grounded in “collaborative activist geographical methods” and theoretically based at the nexus of development, political ecologies, neoliberalization of Nature, and geographies of hope literatures. It examines the contradictory and complex ways that state “climate change mitigation development” projects surround and infiltrate the Indigenous and Afro-ecuadorian ancestral territories of the canton of San Lorenzo (Esmeraldas Province), located in the “Northwest Pacific Fronter Territory-region of Ecuador”.

This research asks to what degree the Ecuadorian state’s support and investment in oil palm plantation expansion—designed to meet biofuel crop demands—in the coastal rainforest regions results in the rearrangement, and often times, devastation of Indigenous Awá and Chachi and Afro-ecuadorian communities’ natural and human geographies. It also inquires into the Ecuadorian government’s recently approved (October 2008) state level conservation incentives project called Socio-Bosque (Forest Partners) developed to do the following: protect the rainforests and its ecological services, alleviate poverty in rural areas, and position the country as an ‘environmental world leader’ for taking concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from avoided deforestation. Socio Bosque claims to be progressive and even revolutionary, but may enact new forms of exploitation and governance in Indigenous and Afro-ecuadorian territories that are specific to time and place, but are enduringly colonial.

Nevertheless, this research also highlights geographies of hope by demonstrating that, contrary to the surrounding sea of monoculture oil palm plantations and the CO2lonial air of contradictory laws in relation to biofuel and ecological services development, Awá, Chachi, and Afro-ecuadorian communities maintain sustainable practices and enhance agricultural diversity within their territories. Additionally, it emphasizes the emergent place-based social movements in relation to defense of their territories and identities; Indigenous and Afro-ecuadorian communities avoid conflict pressures by creating interethnic networks. By casting social nets between their territories, their communities stay connected and, together, defend their rights to territorial self-determination and “Living Well” and the rights of Nature.



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