Linking urban and rural by tracking corporate actors across space and time

Authors: Benjamin Goldstein*, University of Michigan, Joshua Newell*, University of Michigan
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment
Keywords: NGOs; corporate actors; teleconnections
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Congressional B, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As cities continue to accumulate wealth and people, they become nodes of concentrated consumption of materials and energy. These resources are sourced from mines, forests, farms, oil fields and other extractive sites that are decidedly ‘rural.’ In our globalized world, the production networks that link urban consumers to rural primary producers now stretch across the planet. Consequently, urbanites remain largely oblivious in terms of how their lifestyles rely on and impact non-urban people and places. Planetary urbanization, urban land teleconnections, and telecoupling are conceptual frameworks to make visible and understand urban-rural linkages. But they lack the analytical machinery to undertake empirical analyses of how and where urban and rural processes are entangled. This paper introduces “TRAcking Corporate Actors across Space and Time” (TRACAST), a method thank links corporate actors together, by locating production-consumption nodes in specific geographic locations, and by pinpointing environmental and socioeconomic hotspots. To identify these linkages, key nodes, and hotspots, TRACAST combines in-situ (e.g. interviews, surveys, fieldwork) and ex-situ (e.g. document analysis, mining of trade data) approaches. We illustrate the method by teleconnecting natural rubber from Sri Lanka to prominent US retailers, including Walmart, Target, JCPenney and Bed, Bath and Beyond via US mattress wholesaler Wolf Corporation. Although marketed under ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural’ monikers, some of this rubber is produced by Lalan Eco Latex, a company known to clear rainforests in the Weliya Forest of Sri Lanka

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