Date of Degree

6-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Sharon Zukin

Committee Members

Kenneth A. Gould

Gregory Smithsimon

Javier Auyero

María José Álvarez Rivadulla

Subject Categories

Human Ecology | Place and Environment | Rural Sociology | Sociology | Urban Studies and Planning

Keywords

Rural gentrification, Colombia, environment, inequality, class, urbanization

Abstract

For the past thirty years, the small rural town of La Calera in the outskirts of the Colombian capital of Bogotá has received an influx of upper-middle class residents that want to live “in nature.” These ex-urban newcomers arrived in the Andean highlands to live next to the long-time residents, who are descendants of peasants and mining workers that live “off nature.” The different visions of what nature or its uses should create a series of interactions among residents that will decide how will this area’s ecological resources be used in the face of further urban expansion.

Yet, contrary to the conflicts and inequities in other gentrification cases, including those of “green” gentrification, this dissertation shows how newcomers and longtimers in La Calera use environmental concerns to bridge social class rifts and push the state to provide water, public space, and decision-making power. Residents see abundant ecological resources like water and land around them, but they do not have access to aqueducts, green public space or power over planning decisions affecting the distribution of these resources. As a response, and to challenge the state more effectively, newcomers and longtimers create inter-class alliances through what I call third nature to both protect and keep using existing ecological goods. To do so, they intervene in the physical and political landscapes against a state that induces scarcity—selectively enforcing environmental policies to the detriment of Calerunos.

Residents engage with third nature to face the state in four scenarios. First, they negotiate how to use natural resources to sustain peasants’ livelihoods while at the same time maintaining “green” aesthetics and practices. Despite these potential disputes, newcomers and longtimers build community aqueducts to obtain water from the surrounding páramo ecosystems as the second site of interactions. Third, Calerunos shared a common goal of demanding power to enjoy the ecological and economic benefits of a new “eco-park” project that would mostly benefit visitors from elsewhere. Finally, residents actively critiqued the planning policies in participatory meetings about the incoming zoning plan in La Calera to halt further urban growth. Despite high class inequality, residents created alliances to protect ecological resources around them.

As cities all around the global South continue to grow, urban expansion posits a threat to the environment by transforming agricultural and protected areas into denser residential spaces. Moreover, as natural resources become scarcer in the face of climate change, inequality might further existing environmental privileges and vulnerabilities. By examining closely how Calerunos bridge class inequalities for environmental reasons, this case highlights processes that inform other gentrifying rural spaces around the world.

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