Treadmills of Production and Destruction in the Anthropocene

Coca Production and Gold Mining in Colombia and Peru

  • Chad L. Smith Department of Sociology Texas State University
  • Gregory Hooks Department of Sociology McMaster University
  • Michael Lengefeld Department of Sociology and Anthropology Goucher College
Keywords: anthropocene, Treadmill of Production, Treadmill of Destruction, coca production, gold mining


Human activities in Latin American countries have resulted in past and ongoing deforestation located in the Amazon and the Andes.  Demonstrative of this new Anthropocene Epoch, the illegal production of cocaine stands as a major driver of these environmental outcomes in these countries; however, in recent years the extraction of illegal gold has yielded larger export values than that of cocaine.  The consequences of these practices have far-reaching environmental, economic, and social consequences.  Using a critical realist perspective, we investigate and analyze how, when, and under what conditions the treadmills of production and destruction are absent, present, and thriving in Colombia and Peru.  The implications of these relationships are grave as both the Amazon and the Andes are undergoing extensive transformations – damage that represents the Anthropocene Epoch in which human activities are driving ecological systems toward “tipping points”.  We find that the two treadmills operate differently within each country and that treadmills are not ubiquitous but are, instead, contingent.  We underscore the fact that when present, both types of treadmills have the ability to engage in social and environmental destructions, sometimes violently so.


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How to Cite
Smith, C. L., Hooks, G., & Lengefeld, M. (2020). Treadmills of Production and Destruction in the Anthropocene: Coca Production and Gold Mining in Colombia and Peru. Journal of World-Systems Research, 26(2), 231-262.
Special Issue: World-Systems Analysis in the Anthropocene