Globalization and the Connection of Remote Communities: Environmental Implications

The forces of globalization increasingly are penetrating the remote communities of the world and are likely to affect profoundly the local use of natural resources. Remote communities, those that lie at the periphery of existing global market, migration, and technology networks, are increasingly connecting to these networks through infrastructure projects such as roads, rail, ports, and communication technologies. Because remote communities often are found in close proximity to abundant and relatively intact natural resources, an understanding how the forces of globalization interact with tightly coupled human and natural systems in remote communities is central to achieving environmental sustainability. Causal pathways linking global connection to environmental effects are complex and often are mediated by myriad factors, including household economics; human, social, and physical capital assets of households and communities; local governance and knowledge; formal and informal institutions; culture; and gender dynamics. Previous studies have provided limited and often contradictory accounts of these pathways and effects due to their narrow scope, limited time frames, and research design. This interdisciplinary research project will address these concerns and provide answers to the overall question: What are the impacts on human and natural systems of the connection of remote communities to global networks of markets, migration, and technology? The projects objectives are to determine the effects of market, migration, and technology integration in remote communities on local agricultural, forest, and marine resources while identifying and accounting for possible mediating factors. The research sites are twelve small communities along the heretofore isolated Caribbean "Mosquito" Coast of Nicaragua. The communities vary in their degree of connectedness to urban centers and therefore to global networks via new infrastructure. The investigators will employ a variety of data collection strategie, including (1) household surveys; (2) key informant interviews with community leaders and local government officials; (3) assessments of agricultural, forestry, and marine ecosystems; (4) satellite imagery of land use change; and (5) market surveys for the agricultural, forestry, and marine sectors. Their analytical methods will include land-cover change analysis, empirical modeling and statistical analyses, and agent-based modeling. This study will test and extend theories of the influence of external forces of globalization on human and natural systems in remote communities. As the reach of these forces continues to extend, understanding their impact and developing strategies for mitigating their harmful effects is of the utmost environmental, economic, and social importance. Project results will help policy makers and leaders of understudied remote communities better anticipate and plan for changes coming from global connection, and they will help guide resource use and management. By incorporating the exogenous factors of markets, migration, and technology along with various household characteristics, the projects analytical approach for examining environmental impacts will provide a language for scholars from a wide range of disciplines to interact on a broad basis for collaboration on similar problems associated the impacts of globalization on remote communities. The project also will have educational impact by engaging students of all levels, at home and abroad, in the discussion and analysis of the projects research themes. This project is supported by the NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program.

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