CLEARING (THE FOREST) II

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March 3, 2020 - 9:47pm

Critical Commentary

According to Jorge, who I interviewed in his cambuche [army tent] in mid-2016, FARC-EP presence in the territory halted the deforestation of La Serranía de la Macarena, a biodiversity hub within the Tinigua National Park. Jorge was the guerrilla chief delegate in Santa Helena, the second site of the Pilot Project of Humanitarian Demining. A remote village, Santa Helena borders La Macarena mountain range. This region had a long history of overexploitation and an increasingly broad agricultural frontier and was known as the geographic bastion of the eastern bloc of the FARC-EP. Imposing strictly environmental regulations through a local Manual de Convivencia [Community Handbook], the rebel group only allowed the felling of certain timber trees and regulated its use by prohibiting external commercialization. Landmines were central to these deterrent efforts. As he explained it, landmines did not need to be actually there to prevent “uncontrolled” practices (e.g., deforestation and colonization); the suspicion of their presence was sufficient to keep people out.

However, less than two years after the signing of the peace agreement, and only a couple of hundred kilometers from Santa Helena, the deforestation of the Tinigua National Park has exponentially increased. According to Amazon Forest Watch, the organization that provided the images I use in this artifact, more than 7,000 hectares have been deforested between February and April 2018. According to these same sources, the recently cleared lands are used for the expansion of the agricultural frontier, illicit crops, illegal mining, and infrastructural development. In what media have called ‘the peace paradox,’ “nature presents itself as the primary victim. FARC’s demobilization and the growing although complicated demining work in the region, together with the lack of political and military power of the state, have made these forests, formerly protected by war, more susceptible to overexploitation and other forms of violent occupations. 

Yet, “nature” was and continued to be affected by ongoing material legacies of war, such as landmines. The latter recognition is part of recent legal and social justice frameworks that articulate that the seventy-year armed conflict has afflicted not only human communities but also territories, animals, forests, crops, and rivers. Although the “nature” invoked in these time frames of war and peace is different—the former refers to peasant ecologies, while the latter assumes the absence of them, emphasizing biodiversity and unique ecosystems—, I do believe that these images and narratives of victimhood suggest the pharmacological character of peace. And, perversely, of war. They are both poison and cure.

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Diana Pardo, "CLEARING (THE FOREST) II", contributed by Diana Pardo Pedraza, Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 4 March 2020, accessed 18 January 2022.