Posts by Collection



The Effect of Cuban Agroecology in Mitigating the Metabolic Rift: A Quantitative Approach to Latin American Food Production

Published in Global Environmental Change, 2020

Abstract The historical development of capitalism created what Karl Marx called a rift in the social metabolism with nature, whereby soil nutrients were systematically siphoned into cities where they were discarded as waste and thus did not return to the land. An alternative mode of food production known as agroecology was developed by different scientists and activists partly to transcend this contradiction. Drawing on data from the United Nations and the World Bank, this work analyzes whether agroecology has contributed to mitigate the metabolic rift in agriculture in Cuba, the country where this approach to food production, adopted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, is more widely developed. By means of a panel model, both an internal comparison through time within Cuba and a cross-national comparison of Cuba with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), were developed to determine whether the post-Soviet transition to agroecology in Cuba successfully decoupled industrial agricultural practices from productivity in comparison to other countries in LAC. Decoupling is understood as the removal of the positive correlation between fertilizer use and yield. Synthetic fertilizer use is utilized as an indicator of industrialized agriculture, and productivity of maize and beans as a proxy measure of soil improvement. The model shows a reversal of the fertilizer use and productivity positive correlation in Cuba, where crop productivity has increased while the use of inputs has diminished, which suggests that agroecology has indeed mitigated the metabolic rift produced by industrialized agriculture.

Recommended citation: Betancourt, Mauricio. 2020. "The Effect of Cuban Agroecology in Mitigating the Metabolic Rift: A Quantitative Approach to Latin American Food Production. " Global Environmental Change. 63:102075.

Chinese Contract Labor, the Corporeal Rift, and Ecological Imperialism in Peru’s Nineteenth-Century Guano Boom

Published in Journal of Peasant Studies, 2021

Abstract Building on the theory of ecological imperialism in the context of the Peruvian guano boom, this analysis explores the metabolic rift in the human relation to external nature and the corresponding corporeal rift in the destruction of human bodily existence. Guano capitalists robbed Peru of the manure deposited by seabirds, while British imperialism introduced a system of racialized expropriation (the ‘coolie trade’), referred to by Karl Marx as ‘worse than slavery.’ Previous failures to understand this historical tragedy were due to the legal forms adopted, which categorized as semi-free labor what was in fact the social murder of the workers.

Recommended citation: Loustaunau, Lola, Mauricio Betancourt, Brett Clark, and John Bellamy Foster. 2021. "Chinese Contract Labor, the Corporeal Rift, and Ecological Imperialism in Peru's Nineteenth-Century Guano Boom." Journal of Peasant Studies .


Improving soil quality: A time series comparison of agroecology and industrial agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean


This reserach makes a longitudinal, cross-national comparison of agricultural practices in Latin America and the Caribbean (1961-2015), examining the relationship between synthetic fertilizer use and yield, and finding that agroecology seems to have improved soil quality in Cuba, the country where this approach to food production is more widespread.

Radical Responses to the Environmental Crisis


Along with Prof. Victor Wallis and Prof. Fred Magdoff, I discuss how climate change has brought about a multi-pronged environmental crisis that is getting worse every day. We also talk about how we can transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and restore biodiversity, as well as what will it take for environmental movements to force changes in governmental and corporate policies.

Cuban Agroeoclogy and the Metabolic Rift: A Comparative Study of Agricultural Productivity in Latin America and the Caribbean (1961-2015)


I discuss how the yield of maize and beans has increased in Cuba after 1991, following the adoption of agroecology, despite utilizing less than 70% synthetic fertilizer, on average, than in the period 1961-1990. In addition, this has been achieved in the same agricultural area, all of which points to agroecology’s potential for soil restoration and the mitigation of the metabolic rift in agriculture.


Research and Pre-University Texts

High School Course, INHUMYC, 2015

Taught in 2015 and 2016, this course introduces students to five selected topics: academic writing, biological evolution, the origin and diversity of plants and animals, biochemistry and biotechnology, and conservation biology. You can find the syllabus of the class here (in Spanish).

History and Philosophy of Biology

Undergraduate Course, National Autonomous University of Mexico, School of Sciences, 2015

Taught in 2015 and 2016, this introductory course provides an overview of philosophy of science (Plato, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos), as well as of the history of biology, with an emphasis on evolutionary theory (Linnaeus, Buffon, Geoffroy, Cuvier, Lamarck, Lyell, Wallace, Darwin, Mendel, and the Modern Synthesis). Here is a syllabus of the class (in Spanish).

SOC 304: Community, Environment, and Society

Undergraduate Course, University of Oregon, Sociology, 2020

The aim of this course is to analyze the interrelation between communities, the environment, and society, with an emphasis on the ecological and socioeconomic crises in the Anthropocene. The central theme is how to create a just and sustainable society as well as how to develop a rational relationship with the rest of nature in today’s world. You can find the syllabus of the class here.