American Sociological Association

Uneven Development and Shifting Socioecological Rifts: Some Unintended Consequences of Dolphin Conservation in Cambodia

As sites of global environmental degradation continue to emerge and pose significant threats to life on the planet, the world’s natural resource managers persist in attempts to mitigate and reverse this degradation. However, these mitigation attempts often employ capitalist mechanisms as solutions to problems caused by capitalism. I used one-on-one in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation to examine the socioenvironmental changes associated with an Irrawaddy dolphin conservation project in Cambodia from the perspectives and experiences of the people most affected by the project. I argue that the inability of capitalist mechanisms to address the interconnectedness of “social” and “environmental” problems resulting from capitalism, in this case, appear to have served to exacerbate social inequality and to shift the project’s targeted ecological rift from the rivers to the forests. I also introduce the term “Whack-A-Mole” conservation to refer to this tendency of neoliberal conservation to simply shift socioecological rifts.


Sierra Deutsch