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Double exposure to capitalist expansion and climatic change: a study of vulnerability on the Ghanaian coastal commodity frontier

Callum Nolan, University of Reading, UK
Izabela Delabre, Birkbeck University of London, UK
Filippo Menga, University of Bergamo, Italy
Michael K. Goodman, University of Reading, UK


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Jason Moore’s theory of the commodity frontier serves as a useful framework for demonstrating the social-ecological upheaval that occurs in the “frontier” spaces to which capitalism must expand in search of uncommodified, cheap nature. Work to date however has failed to consider how the impacts of frontier expansion interact with climate change despite the two phenomena being closely linked in both causes and effects, and largely impacting most severely upon rural communities in the Global South. We seek to address this gap with a focus on the coastal commodity frontier: social-ecological systems within which marine and terrestrial frontier expansion can occur concurrently, while being impacted by climatic change. The research was conducted using an ethnographic, case-study approach, centred on an eight-month research visit to Aboadze, a small-scale marine fishing community in the Western Region of Ghana. This community is subject to terrestrial frontier expansion in the form of a thermal power station, marine frontier expansion in the form of industrial overfishing, and is also exposed to the impacts of climate change. We find, through a double exposure vulnerability framework, that frontier expansion and climatic change interact to exacerbate food, water, and livelihood insecurities in the case-study community, while simultaneously reducing the community’s capacity to adapt to its changing environment and perpetuating harmful global changes through feedback exposures. This research makes an important conceptual contribution by galvanizing a conversation between two thus far disparate fields and invites further research to provide more nuanced analyses of the intersectional vulnerabilities impacting coastal communities.

Key words

climate vulnerability; coastal commodity frontier; double exposure; small-scale marine fishing

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087