All over the globe, initiatives to mitigate climate change, including projects to promote a ‘green’ energy transition and the drastic increase of the protected area network, are accelerating. This process can be described as a rapid expansion of the ‘green extractivist’ frontier. This includes the arrival of large-scale wind, solar, and tidal energy collection, ecotourism, and agricultural or hydrological dam projects. These projects lead to new enclosures and forms of displacement and dispossession. This also includes the onset of new mining projects justified in the name of low-carbon infrastructures or green militarization (e.g., to produce equipment used for enforcing conservation), often focusing on the extraction of cobalt, iron ore, lithium, zinc, silver, and rare earth minerals.
What are the violent impacts of these new frontiers?
As is the case with frontier dynamics more generally, the ensuing socio-ecological disruptions and political-economic transformations both shape and are shaped by dynamics of conflict and violence. First, competition for access to and control over ‘low carbon’ resources can feed into geopolitical tensions, with reverberations far beyond areas of resource extraction. Second, many low-carbon energy or conservation projects are located on disputed or Indigenous lands, where the presence of both green and conventional extractivist projects is endorsed and enforced by national and regional governments. Opposition to government-supported national or transnational projects frequently leads to different intensities of social contestation and violence by state and non-state actors. Third, ‘green extractivist’ projects may be rolled out in areas that are already immersed in armed conflict, thereby intensifying, and transforming ongoing violence.