The Cocoyoc Declaration
A Proclamation of Sustainable Development
• The Cocoyoc Declaration was drafted by Barbara Ward on October 23,
• It attempted to synthesize the theories of environmental sustainability
and economic development.
• The Declaration took place during Founex II, a conference aiming to
synthesize the United Nations’ approach to development and
• The foundation of modern Western environmentalism emerged in the
study of European forestry and botany.
• Men such as Carl von Linne and John Ray studied the activity of the
natural environment seeking to understand the complexities of
• American environmentalism was a progression of this scientific trend
however a split between conservationist and preservationist
environmentalism became more prominent.
• Wealthy forester Gifford Pinchot is credited as the American exponent of
conservationism, he argued that forests and ecosystems must be
managed by government policy in order to produce sustained yields
which would renew in the long term.
• This presents a synthesis of American market economics and
environmental conservationism. The precursor of sustainable
Colonization and Resource Extraction
• The era of colonization altered the face of the global ecosystem, the
Southern hemisphere became the breadbasket of the North.
• Colonial powers such as Spain, Britain, Holland and France extracted raw
materials from Africa, Asia and Latin America beginning in the 16th
• European colonialists subjugated the inhabitants of these regions through
the imposition of imperial power.
• Europeans migrated to these new regions developing settler communities
and devised resource extraction economies across the globe.
• The untouched mineral and agricultural wealth of the Southern
hemisphere was funneled into the hands of European monarchs
consolidating the dominance of Western civilization.
• The unregulated extraction of resources laid waste to the sustainability of
ecosystems in the Southern hemisphere.
• In order to combat this, the management of exotic ecologies was
conducted in order to preserve the resources which the Crown sought to
• Various imperial expeditions led to the destruction and pillaging of diverse
• South Africa began to be colonized by Britain in 1652, this brought the
unregulated clearing of forests and massacre of wildlife until
environmental legislation was introduced in the 19th
• The British empire adopted conservation strategies for its colonies
through legislation such as the Indian Forest Act of 1865 which extracted
sustainable yields as to limit the depletion of renewable resources.
The Development of
• Following the era of colonialism former colonies gained their
independence and empires dissolved.
• By the early 20th
Century most of the globe was made up of an array of
• The post-colonial world was marked by a large economic divide across
Northern and Southern lines.
• Europe and the settler nations of the United States, Canada, Australia and
New Zealand developed self sustaining internal markets which led to
industrialization and an improvement of living standards.
• In contrast, the underdeveloped regions of the world were marked by
single export economies dependant on trade with the developed world.
• The development of the West was inverse to the underdevelopment of
the third world.
• The Western model of development
occurred as a result of industrialization and
organizational modes of mass production.
• The United States became the largest
economy and most powerful state
• Industrialization brought about a mass
increase in living standards across the
developed regions of the globe.
• The consumption and production for goods
increased throughout the 19th
• The overconsumption of goods began to
take a negative toll on the environment.
• By the 1960s, environmentalism became a point of popular focus among
the developed world.
• The harmful effects of industrialization had left a plethora of harmful
repercussions on ecosystems.
• Carbon emissions from automobiles and coal energy plants led to bouts of
acid rain in major metropolitan centers.
• DDT and an assortment of other pesticides began to seep into rivers and
lakes harming wildlife all over the globe.
• Likewise Thomas Malthus theories of population growth and resource
depletion became an overriding concern as populations began a dramatic
intensification in Asia.
• Human population and resource capacity was elaborated upon during the
Stockholm Conference of 1972.
• Delegates from over 100 countries shared their thoughts on concerns
over the rise in population and the earth’s maximum sustainable yield.
• While Western countries shared a common goal during the conference,
delegates from underdeveloped states challenged the conference
• States within the underdeveloped world were struggling to further
industrialization and follow the Western model of economic
• These regions argued that they did not have the economic capacity to
manage conservation efforts and control their population growth rates.
• Starvation, conflict and disease weakened their political and societal
Discrepancies of Development and Conservation
• The Western model of environmentalism was based upon life in a
• It ignored the enormous differences which separated the Northern and
Southern hemispheres of the globe.
American Home Indian Home
The Antecedents of the Cocoyoc
• The Stockholm Conference blindly espoused environmental
reforms and was derided by the underdeveloped world.
• Barbara Ward, a British economist specializing in third world
development studies espoused these contradictory forces in
‘Only One Earth’ published in 1972.
• The economist sympathized with the complicated trap of
poverty facing underdeveloped states as population growth
soared ahead of efforts to industrialize leading to mass
unemployment and greater poverty.
• Likewise Ward argued that underdeveloped countries were
bound by the obligations of the international economy as
they depended upon trade for the continual subsistence of
their growing populations.
• Founex II was held in Cocoyoc, Mexico as a means to discuss the relationship
between the environment and development.
• Attendees included the chairman of the UN Committee for Development Planning
Gamani Correa and under-secretary general of the UN, Maurice Strong.
• During the conference the delegates and UN members attempted to reconcile the
grievances between first world environmentalists and post-colonial leaders as to
synthesize a viable path to sustainable development.
• The Cocoyoc Declaration espoused an appeal towards co-operation and
• It argued that most of the world had yet to escape from the legacy of
colonialism as three quarters of the world’s income are in the hands of
25% of its population.
• The Declaration derided the emergence of dual societies in which feudal
poverty coexists amid elite luxury due to repressive political regimes
continuing the colonial model.
• The notion of development was thus problematic, industrialization and
economic growth did little to alleviate the problems of
• Free market economics only exacerbated the division between rich and
poor in post colonial societies.
Demands of Cocoyoc
• A reorientation of development theory was necessary, it was essential to
alter the paradigm of having to “catch up” to the West.
• Development is related to basic human necessities;:sustenance,
education, health and opportunity.
• A structural reformation of societal relations was necessary to ensure the
long term development of the post colonial world.
• In order to develop, these societies were bound to preserve their
ecosystems and form sustainable modes of growth by ensuring the long
term viability of their environments.
• The Declaration called for reformations in economics, education, and the
United Nations itself so as to synthesize the narratives of sustainability
and global development.
• While the idealized notions of the Cocoyoc Declaration promised a
positive future it achieved few practical results.
• Many underdeveloped countries attempted to review or create
environmental policies in the 1970s however they found little success.
• Many of these countries lacked the expertise and capital to fund these
projects, likewise they were not seen favourably by international
• Kenya devised 14 separate pieces of environmental legislation regarding
natural resources from 1979-1983 however they were very rarely applied.
• Likewise India proposed an array of environmental protection laws and
faced the tragic methyl-isocyanate gas leak in a Union Carbide pesticide
plant in 1984.
• The leak led to the death of roughly 2,500 people and spoke the the
inefficacy of the country’s environmental regulations.
Diverse Forms of Development
• The Cocoyoc Declaration was
not successful in changing the
systemic problems of
• However, it was successful in
challenging the overriding
notion of a singular
• The United Nations recognized
publically that this was not
Edited, written by Phil Klippenstein-Jimenez
Music composed and performed by Phil Klippenstein-Jimenez