Abstract for: Did Globalization Hurt the Miskito People? Using a Quantitative Model to Test a Qualitative Theory from Political Ecology

This paper examines how a system dynamics model can be used to represent and test qualitative theories from geography and anthropology studies. I use geographer Bernard Nietschmannís (1979) foundational political ecology analysis of the indigenous Miskito people and their relationship with globalization as a case study. Nietschmann describes a variety of positive feedback loops that result from the over-hunting of green sea turtles due to increased global demand. Resultantly, the Miskito people faced increased emigration, prices, and a decreased ability to fulfill their basic needs. Nietschmann presents a convincing but qualitative story which might be strengthened through the quantification that comes from model analysis and testing. A system dynamics model was implemented using the logic presented in Nietschmannís paper. The results of the model suggest that Nietschmannís model is internally consistent, and coherent even in the context of data gathered from the modern study of sea turtle population dynamics. The model shows that the Miskito could sustainably export a maximum of 3,500 turtles a year. This study suggests that the field of geography may benefit from the use of systems approaches in modeling and evaluating descriptive findings.