Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
111RA: Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics - Part A
Wednesday, 24/Apr/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Nicholas Magliocca
Session Chair: Elizabeth Tellman
Location: MB-120
Main Building, room 120, first floor, west wing, 80 (+14) seats
Session Topics:
What are the visions for the planetary land system?

Session Abstract

The importance of clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics is becoming more widely recognized. Yet, causally linking these activities and their associated capital flows to land system state and transformation remain difficult, and challenges attempts to conceptualize, detect, and study clandestine and illicit economies as land system components comparable to legal economic activities. This research presentation session will delve into how clandestine and illicit transactions – i.e., economic/capital exchanges involving land that are intentionally hidden or non-public because they break formal laws – influence land system dynamics. From off-shore banking (revealed in the Panama Papers) to the international drug trade, large flows of clandestine financial capital around the world move through and embed in social and ecological domains of land systems. Clandestine capital may precipitate land-use transitions between forests and cattle ranches or mining operations, or from agriculture to urban uses. As agents possessing capital engage in political or economic rent-seeking and pursue private property arrangements, the new land markets and transactions that emerge may disrupt collective land tenure or governance structures. Of particular concern are the consequences to ecosystems and people further marginalized through these transactions that may either buttress or thwart sustainable development in the short and long term. While illegal logging and land grabbing have been prominent issues on the Land System Science agenda, more attention is needed to understand these and other types of clandestine activity on agricultural frontiers, in conflict and paramilitary zones, drug production and transit sites, and in informal urban settlements. This session will seek submissions that explore 1) how clandestine and illicit economies support or threaten land systems (OSM Theme 1), and/or 2) how Land System Science (LSS) perspectives and approaches can be used to gain insights into how clandestine and illicit economies operate (OSM Theme 3).

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Full talk
ID: 845 / 111RA: 1
111R Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics
Keywords: illicit supply networks, illicit economy, deforestation, drug policy reform, transaction costs

NarcoLogic: Modeling cocaine traffickers and counterdrug interdiction forces as a complex adaptive system

Nicholas Magliocca1, Kendra McSweeney2, Steven Sesnie3, Elizabeth Tellman4, Jennifer Devine5, Erik Nielsen6, Zoe Pearson7, David Wrathall8, Anayansi Dávila9

1Department of Geography, University of Alabama, United States of America; 2Department of Geography, Ohio State University, United States of America; 3US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Biological Sciences, United States of America; 4School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, United States of America; 5Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, United States of America; 6School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, United States of America; 7Department of Geography, University of Wyoming, United States of America; 8Department of Geography, Oregon State University, United States; 9Anonymous

Counterdrug interdiction efforts designed to seize or disrupt cocaine shipments between South American source zones and U.S. markets remain a core U.S. ‘supply side’ drug policy and national security strategy. However, despite a long history of U.S.-led interdiction efforts in the Western Hemisphere, cocaine movements to the U.S. through Central America, or ‘narco-trafficking’, continue to rise. Here we developed a spatially explicit agent-based model (ABM), called NarcoLogic, of narco-trafficker operational decision-making in response to interdiction forces to investigate the root causes of interdiction ineffectiveness across space and time. The central premise tested was that the spatial proliferation and robustness of narco-trafficking is not a consequence of ineffective interdiction, but rather a part and natural consequence of interdiction itself. Model development relied on multiple theoretical perspectives, empirical studies, media reports, and the authors’ own years’ of research in the region. Parameterization and validation used the best available, authoritative data source for illicit cocaine flows. Despite inherently biased, unreliable, and/or incomplete data of a clandestine phenomenon, the model compellingly reproduced the ‘cat-and-mouse’ dynamic between narco-traffickers and interdiction forces others have qualitatively described. The model produced qualitatively accurate and quantitatively realistic spatial and temporal patterns of cocaine trafficking in response to interdiction events. Consistent with a 'socializing the pixel' approach, the finds from NarcoLogic will be paired with others from our research group in an effort to causally link specific areas of deforestation to narco-trafficking activity. The NarcoLogic model offers a much-needed, evidence-based tool for the robust assessment of different drug policy scenarios, and their likely impact on trafficker behavior and the many collateral damages associated with the militarized war on drugs.

Full talk
ID: 720 / 111RA: 2
111R Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics
Keywords: illicit economies, clandestine transactions, deforestation, Central American, narcotrafficking

Illicit-clandestine land transactions - linking pattern to process in Narcodeforestation

Elizabeth Tellman1, Nicholas Magliocca2, Steven Sesnie3, Kendra McSweeney4, Erik Nielsen5, Jennifer Devine6, David Wrathall7, B.L. Turner II1, Peter Verburg8

1Arizona State University, United States of America; 2University of Alabama, United States of America; 3US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Biological Sciences, United States of America; 4Ohio State University, United States of America; 5Northern Arizona University, United States of America; 6Texas State University, United States of America; 7Oregon State University, United States of America; 8VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Anthropogenic land use has irrevocably transformed the natural systems on which humankind relies. Understanding where, why, and how social and economic processes drive globally important land-use changes, from deforestation to urbanization, has advanced substantially. Illicit and clandestine activities are poorly understood, however, despite the recognition of their significant role in land change. We provide a conceptual framework elucidating how illicit transactions operate in land change, and a roadmap to leverage improved data and methodological innovation using “pixelizing the social” and “socializing the pixel” approaches to address this knowledge gap synergistically. Here I present an example of pixelizing social data- spatializing media content analysis, digitizing government records regarding environmental crimes, and systematizing spatio-temporal ethnographic knowledge to create a narco-activity index used in regressions. These narco-trafficking proxy variables were included in fixed effects panel econometric models. Results indicate cocaine trafficking significantly influences forest loss as much or more than conventional drivers of deforestation in Guatemala and Honduras. The outcome of this model informs "socializing" approaches such as Agent Based Models, which can test hypotheses regarding the mechanism generating the land use pattern that pixelizing approaches cannot accomplish.

Full talk
ID: 341 / 111RA: 3
111R Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics
Keywords: Illegality, gold mining, land-use change, malaria, Ghana, political ecology

From “handshakes” to Plasmodium falciparum: the relationships between illegal gold mining, landscape change and malaria in Ghana

Heidi Hausermann

Colorado State University, United States of America

During the 2008 global financial crisis, gold-backed reserves became a ‘safe haven’ for capital investment, causing gold prices to hit historic highs. Across the globe, mining activities proliferated as gold prices climbed. In Ghana, small-scale mining is a right reserved for citizens. Yet, most recent mining operations are foreign-controlled and left unremediated, breaking various environmental, land tenure, mineral and other regulations. Landscape transformation from mining, moreover, portends profound implications for rural ecologies and people. Combining geospatial, ethnographic and quantitative methodological approaches with long-term international collaboration, this paper examines: 1) the shifting performances and practices of state actors who weave together legal and extra-legal domains to facilitate extraction; 2) resulting land-use changes along Ghana’s Offin River; and 3) local health and livelihood implications. I argue mining’s socio-ecological outcomes—from food insecurity and water-logged pits to anxiety and mercury contamination—combine to increase local malaria incidence. These changes interact with existing socio-structural conditions (e.g. poverty, gendered livelihood patterns) and Plasmodium falciparum’s biological capacities to render women and children most vulnerable to malaria. This work contributes to scholarly debates in several ways. Detailing co-productions between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ domains in mining complicates understandings of the state and its role in foreign land grabbing, breaking down the ontological binaries — rational/irrational, official/unofficial — used to uphold an image of state legitimacy and cohesion. This research also troubles assumptions about malaria in global health scholarship. Rainfall patterns, mosquito net use, acquired immunity, etc. are not the only factors influencing malaria transmission and prevalence along the Offin River. Particular bodies are made vulnerable to malaria, and ill-health more generally, through complicated nature-society interactions, including state actors’ illicit practices.

Flash talk
ID: 331 / 111RA: 4
111R Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics
Keywords: financial flows as relating to natural resources; legal, illegal or illicit?

Illicit financial Flows as related to natural resources: Concepts and Definitions / or: Illicit financial flows as related to natural resources: legal or illegal?

Musselli Irene, Bürgi Bonanomi Elisabeth

Centre for Development and Environment, Switzerland

Countries have committed to ‘significantly’ reduce ‘illicit financial flows’ (IFFs) by 2030 (SDG target 16.4), also as relating to natural resources. Yet, there is still no agreement on the conceptual and definitional issues surrounding the notion of IFFs. The contours of the definition are still fuzzy, and its inherent coherence is under question. In a ‘narrow’ sense, IFFs refer to the cross-border movement of money that is “earned, transferred or used” in contravention to existing laws (World Bank 2016, 1). This definition focuses on financial flows across the border associated with illegal activity. In the public narrative, it conflates IFFs with criminal activity. This narrow definition already encompasses several different types of transfers, including those connected with corruption, tax evasion, smuggling and trafficking in goods and people, or the financing of organized crime. The ‘broad’, or ‘normative’ definition of IFFs stretches the concept further, by including transactions which are deemed to be unethical, even if they are not technically illegal (High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa 2015, Independent Expert on the effects of debt 2016, UNCTAD 2014). For example, many countries do not have transfer pricing laws, which results in abusive transfer pricing not being technical unlawful under their domestic legal framework (Chowla and Falcao 2016). Domestic law may not be violated; yet, the transaction would still be normatively unacceptable, hence ‘illicit’, under a broad, normative definition of IFFs.

Full talk
ID: 581 / 111RA: 5
111R Clandestine and illicit economies as drivers of land system dynamics
Keywords: Artisanal refining, oil theft, illegal bunkering, livelihood, Niger Delta

Impact of illicit oil activities on coastal land use system: A case of Bille Creeks, Niger Delta

Olanrewaju Lawal1, Nenibarini Zabbey2,3, Kabari Sam3

1Department of Geography & Environmental Management, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Port Harcourt; 2Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Port Harcourt; 3Environment and Conservation Unit, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Port Harcourt

Oil theft and illicit makeshift artisanal refining activities contribute to degrading the coastal landscape of the Niger Delta region, Nigeria. Spills from pipeline hot tapping, loading, refining activities and waste stream discharges of oil theft and illegal artisanal refining reinforce conventional operational spills in the Niger Delta, making it one of the most oil impacted regions globally. The region’s complex web of the fourth largest expanse of mangrove in the world is incidentally the hotspot of oil theft and illegal artisanal refining. Bille community and adjoining creeks are a major hub of oil ‘bunkering’ and artisanal oil refining activities. Thus, a better understanding of the impact of the activities on coastal landscape is imperative for enhanced sustainable natural resources management in the region. This study used remote sensing (RS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) to highlight temporal changes in landcover of Bille. Landsat Imageries from 1986 to 2016 were analysed and classified into major land cover types. The study area covers an estimated 211km2, 13% of which was modified by human activities (e.g. farm, built-up) as at 1986. By 2016, more than a third of the area has been degraded by oil-theft and ancillary human activities. The built-up or farmland area decreased from 27% of the total landmass in 1986 to less than 5% in 2016. Dense mangrove coverage declined by about 60%, while sparse mangrove cover increased by about 20%. The dramatic change points majorly to composite impact of prevailing illicit artisanal refining activities and industrial operational spills, as well as unregulated mangrove exploitation (e.g. cutting wood for fuel). The implications of these change are manifested in the land systems as: reduced farming space; reduced viability of coastal ecosystem services, shrinking habitat area, and degraded mangroves, increased poverty and delimited local livelihoods. We discussed the significance of poorly regulated natural resources exploitation on sustainable development in regions directly dependent on natural resource mining for livelihood and make exemplar recommendations for global mitigation.

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