Metabolic Profile of the Colombian Economy from 1970 to 2007


Address correspondence to:
Maria Cristina Vallejo
Programa de Economía
Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales—FLACSO
La Pradera E7-174 y Av. Diego de Almagro
Quito, Ecuador


This article characterizes the societal metabolism of the Colombian economy, identifying the main factors of natural resources use, overuse, or exhaustion. The environmental sustainability of a country depends to a large extent on the size of the economy compared to the available resource base. Material flow indicators provide an assessment of size or scale of economies. Direct material flow indicators are used to analyze the ecological dimension of economic activity in the period 1970–2007. Some resource extraction conflicts are briefly described in the light of material flow analysis. Foreign and domestic demand promotes increasing extraction and export of domestic natural resources. This is sometimes related to an irreversible deterioration of the local environment. The concept of “ecologically unequal exchange” with the rest of the world is analyzed in this context. Colombia has a large and growing negative physical trade balance, whereas per capita use of materials is still about half of the industrial countries’ average.