Extractivism and Post-extractivism in Sustainable Development

In recent days the Autonomous University of Chiriquí served as host of the 5th Environmental Conversation “Panama on the Road to Sustainable Development” under the theme: Extractivism and Post-extractivism in Sustainable Development, organized by the City of Knowledge Foundation, the Panama Canal Authority and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Conversation was formally inaugurated by the Rector of the Autonomous University of Chiriquí, Dr. Héctor Requena Núñez, who stated that the activity was part of the social responsibility of higher education that aims to strengthen the environmental debate.

Sandy Mosquera, representing the City of Knowledge Foundation, said that this and other conversations are part of the vision of the City of Knowledge, as an international platform of knowledge, regarding emerging issues in order to develop synergies with national and international entities, in pursuit of sustainable development.

The first panelist was Dr. Guillermo Castro, Academic Director of the City of Knowledge Foundation, who referred to the concept of extractivism as those activities that remove large volumes of natural resources for export with little or no processing, such as minerals, hydrocarbons and fertilizers. He further stressed that the global environmental crisis can be explained by the existence of an organized economy for the endless accumulation of profits. Dr. Castro emphasized our responsibility to discuss sustainable growth in harmony with the resources we have.

The second panelist was Dr. Emilio Messina, of the Panama Canal Authority, who noted that knowledge is built through dialogue. He warned that sustainability is a vision of balance, since we live on a finite planet and therefore can’t have a sustainable Panama Canal if we don’t have a sustainable country. In order to leverage the competitive advantages of the Canal he formulated a vision that includes nature, natural resources and labor. Dr. Messina noted that the hydrological system of the Panama Canal Watershed is based on an extractive sustainable activity.

The third and last of the panelists was Engineer Federico Selles, professor of the School of Natural Resources at the Autonomous University of Chiriquí, who focused his speech on the exploitation of mangroves from the point of view of extractivism. He mentioned that there are 5 species of mangroves in our country that have been reported, which have important ecological functions such as: tsunami control, sediment trapping, desalinate water, a source of biomass and serve as protection against storms. Mr. Selles stated that development strategies should be set based on an extractivism that meets conservation standards and then establish a post-extractivism that enhances alternatives which include social and political actors willing to confront the predator extractivism and make way for a smart extractivism.

The culmination of the panelist’s participation gave way to a period of oral and written questions from the audience. After that the moderator, Dr. Roger Sánchez, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities of the Autonomous University of Chiriquí, presented the conclusions of the Conversation.

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