Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Ecology and Human Rights in Gioconda Belli’s Waslala


  • Nancy Gates Madsen Luther College



Gioconda Belli, Human Rights, Ecocriticism


      Gioconda Belli’s futuristic novel Waslala reveals the many tensions that arise when one explores human rights within a context of planetary ecological crisis. While the novel criticizes human exploitation of natural resources and the resultant differential development and economic inequality, at the same time it affirms access to and control of resources as a fundamental human right. Using Steve Stern and Scott Straus’s framework of the “human rights paradox” and Jason Moore’s description of the “Capitalocene,” I argue that Waslala demonstrates two fundamental tensions between human rights and environmental issues. First, the novel shows how attention to the universal principles of global ecological balance may undermine the human rights of individuals constrained by geography or economic class. Second, it demonstrates how the human right to property is implicated in global ecological crisis. Although Waslala purports to privilege human rights over ecological concerns, at the same time it highlights the impossibility of separating the two, prompting a rethinking of the definition and practice of human rights within the context of global ecology.


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Author Biography

Nancy Gates Madsen, Luther College

Nancy Gates-Madsen is Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics at Luther College. Her book, Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina, won the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize from the Modern Language Association for outstanding publication in the field of Latin American or Spanish literatures and cultures. She is also the co-translator, with Kristin Dykstra, of Violet Island and Other Poems, an anthology of work by Reina María Rodríguez. Her current research explores the intersections of environmental issues and human rights in Latin American cultural production.