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Research Paper | 12th September 2022

Destruction and the Complex Politics of Urgency: Responding to Contemporary Resource Extraction in the Shadow of COVID

Tony Bebbington
| Climate Change, Integral Ecology


Natural resource extraction always threatens destruction. This destruction may be material: of landscapes, of mountain tops, of water courses. It may be social: of livelihoods, of territorial self-governance, of behavioural norms, of civil and human rights. And it may be ontological: of spirits, of sacred forms, of worlds otherwise. While the fear of destruction elicits protest and resistance, expectations of development made possible by this destruction also elicit mobilizations in favour of resource extraction. While all development involves destruction, resource extraction is especially challenging because it makes so palpably clear the willingness of society to destroy life, nature, peoples, and worlds in the pursuit of “development” and the “modern.” This paper reflects on what constitutes an adequate response to these pressures to accelerate extractive forms of development in a context in which elites and other sectors of society accept destruction and the erosion of civil liberties as a necessary, sometimes desirable, part of development. Such circumstances give rise to many difficult questions: is it enough to wait for behavioural and policy change to emerge from new narratives promoted by documents such as Laudato Si’ or the campaigning of movements?; what is an adequate theological, philanthropic, and intellectual response to the processes of rapid destruction that are justified, sometimes with popular support, as necessary forms of development? Ultimately these are questions about solidarity and ecology.

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