An Analysis of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project in Context of Settler Colonialism
Howard, Faith Elizabeth
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This thesis analyzes the Suruí Forest Carbon Project in the context of settler colonialism. By exploring the three core principles of settler colonialism as outlined by settler colonial scholar Patrick Wolfe: access to land, elimination of the native, and the understanding that settler colonialism is a structure and not an event, I will demonstrate how each one of the three principles helped contribute to creating the context within which the Suruí Forest Carbon Project was situated. By taking this approach, I will be able to demonstrate the limits and possibilities of the project for the Suruí indigenous peoples. This analysis will allow me to present the challenges and contradictions associated with implementing REDD+ carbon credit projects in settler states such as Brazil and how, due to settler colonialism's structural limitations, these types of projects could be a possibility of providing some agency for indigenous peoples trying to find ways to assert their autonomy. The Suruí Forest Carbon Project was the first and still one of the only examples of an indigenous-led carbon emissions reduction project operating through the sale of carbon credits. During the first five years the project was operational, it drastically helped reduce deforestation levels within the Suruí's territory, leading many to deem the project a success. However, in 2015 and 2016, following the discovery of gold and diamonds on the Suruí's territory, the project's sight was eventually overrun by garimpeiros (small-scale gold miners), and in 2018 the project was suspended, leading some to consider it a failure. Therefore, I will present some of the challenges that arise when neoliberal conservation efforts, such as carbon credit projects, struggle to address factors outside their initial control, in this case, settler colonialism. Also, by analyzing the different components going into the project's creation, implementation, and suspension, I will present how carbon credit projects working directly with indigenous peoples can successfully halt deforestation for limited periods. But how settler colonialism makes these groups of people and their land vulnerable, which can help contribute to projects being undermined. Through my analysis, I will help demonstrate some factors that impact these types of projects' longevity and some things that would need to be implemented in the future to succeed in the long term.
General Audience Abstract
This thesis analyzes the Suruí Forest Carbon Project in the context of settler colonialism. My understanding of settler colonialism comes from settler colonial scholar Patrick Wolfe who believes that this specific type of colonialism has three core principles that help distinguish it from other colonial types and explain why anti-indigenous logics can continue. The three principles are access to land, the elimination of the native, and the understanding that settler colonialism is a structure and not an event. These three principles will serve as the core framework for my analysis. The Suruí Forest Carbon Project was the world's first indigenous-led carbon emissions reduction project operated by the indigenous peoples selling REDD+ carbon credits to buyers in order to achieve finances. The project occurred on the Suruí people's territory within the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land, comprising a 250,000-ha site in the Amazon's "arc of deforestation" bordering the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso. The project was implemented on June 9, 2009, and in 2012 received its validation to sell carbon credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Between 2009 and 2014, the project drastically helped limit the deforestation occurring within the project's site, causing many to deem it a success. However, trouble began in 2015 and 2016 following the discovery of gold and diamonds on the Suruí's territory. Shortly after this discovery, the territory began to be infiltrated by garimpeiros (small-scale gold miners), which led to increased levels of deforestation on the project's site. In 2018, the project could no longer meet the standards it needed to maintain to sell the credits and was suspended indefinitely. Therefore, based on my understanding of settler colonialism's three core principles, I will analyze the limits and possibilities of the project for the Suruí indigenous peoples to present how all three principles played a hand in creating the conditions within which the Suruí Forest Carbon Project was situated and how that impacted the indigenous peoples involved in the project ability to have agency over their forests.
- Masters Theses