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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Extracting the Truth: How Coexisting with the Black Gold Reshapes Lives and Livelihoods in 21st Century Colombia

  • Author(s): Graham, Felicia Christine
  • Advisor(s): Pieterse, Jan N
  • et al.

There have been many pitfalls resultant from our current civilization’s dependence on oil and gas, though none has been more ignored than the impacts of hydrocarbon production on our fellow human beings. This thesis has three primary aims: (1) to make clear the theoretical frameworks that have led these human impacts to be ignored, including Resource Curse Theory, and to propose Political Ecology as a new framework for understanding the challenges that resource extraction levies on individuals and communities; (2) to detail, document, and highlight the widespread, complex, and generative impacts that resource extraction itself produces in order to begin seeking real solutions; and (3) to bring to the fore the struggles of the Colombian people in relation to hydrocarbon production and resource extraction. As shall be seen, Colombia is a unique though entirely ignored case study of rapidly expanding hydrocarbon production. While thought to be a ‘success’ in the eyes of many, this thesis shows the true nature of oil and gas production by focusing in on the deep structural changes that the southern community of Puerto Gaitan has endured since the arrival of Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales, and explaining how these deeper problems are reproduced in other extractive areas across Latin America and the world.

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