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Bond, Patrick (2014) Theory and Practice in Contesting Extractive-Oriented Infrastructure in South Africa. presented to the 4th IESE International Conference, State, Natural Resources and Conflict: Actors and Dynamics : 1-23.

A long period of capitalist crisis has amplified uneven and combined development in most aspects of political economy and political ecology in most parts of the world, with a resulting increase in the eco-social metabolism of profit-seeking firms and their state supporters. This is especially with the revival of extraction-oriented corporations, especially fossil fuel firms, which remain the world’s most profitable. What opportunities arise for as multi-faceted a critique of ‘extractivism’ as the conditions demand? With ongoing paralysis of United Nations climate negotiators, to illustrate, the most critical question for several decades to come is whether citizen activism can forestall further fossil fuel combustion. In many settings, the extractive industries are critical targets of climate activists, e.g. where divestment of stocks is one strategy, or refusing access to land for mining is another.

Invoking climate justice principles requires investigating the broader socio-ecological and economic costs and benefits of capital accumulation associated with fossil fuel use, through forceful questioning both by immediate victims and by all those concerned about GreenHouse Gas emissions. Their solidarity with each other is vital to nurture and to that end, the most powerful anti-corporate tactic developed so far, indeed beginning in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle, appears to be financial sanctions. The argumentation for invoking sanctions against the fossil fuel industry (and its enablers such as international shipping) is by itself insufficient.

Also required is a solid activist tradition. There are, in 2014, two inter-related cases in which South African environmental justice activists have critiqued multi-billion dollar investments and thus collided with the state, with two vast parastatal corporations and with their international financiers. Whether these collisions move beyond conflicting visions, and actually halt the fossil-intensive projects, is a matter that can only be worked out both through argumentation – e.g. in the pages below – and through gaining the solidarity required to halt the financing of climate change.

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