Enrique Leff

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Enrique Leff (born Mexico, 1946) is a Mexican economist, who defines himself today as an environmental sociologist and environmentalist. He has written 20 books and 150 articles on political ecology, environmental sociology, and environmental economics. He is regarded as one of the key environmental thinkers in Latin America.


After a degree in chemical engineering in 1968 Leff studied in France, graduating with a PhD in development economics from the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, in 1975.

Leff lectured at UNAM (Universidade Nacional Autônoma do México) full-time from 1973-1986 before also becoming coordinator of the Environmental Training Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (1986-2008) and coordinator of the Mexico City office of the Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Environment Programme (2007-2008).

In 2008 he returned full-time as professor of political ecology and environmental politics at UNAM. He is also senior researcher at the Institute of Social Research (Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales) at the same university.

Leff works in Spanish, Portuguese, English and French. In addition to academic work he is an accomplished opera, Lieder and bolero singer.[1] He has a Masters in Voice from the Manhattan School of Music (1983).[2]

Scholarly contributions[edit]

Leff works in the academic fields of epistemology, environmental economics, environmental sociology, political ecology, and environmental education.[3]

He is best known for arguing that environmental problems result from a crisis of Western civilization's ways of knowing, understanding and transforming the world (Eschenhagen 2012). This masks other legitimate ways of seeing and acting in the world, namely forms of 'eco-development'. His work is largely theoretical but his major books cite positive examples of the ethnobotanic practices of Prehispanic cultures in Latin America and in China, sustainable agricultural practices in tropical ecosystems, etc.[4] He argues capitalism is too fast and too dynamic for the natural world which supports it, and Marx and othe rmajor theorists overlooked the 'second contradiction of capitalism' - its destruction of nature.[5]


  • Mexican Academy of Sciences

Key publications[edit]

  • Leff E. 2012. Political Ecology - A Latin American Perspective. In UNESCO-EOLSS Joint Committee (eds.) Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Oxford: EOLSS Publishers.
  • Leff E. 2012. Latin American environmental thinking: a heritage of knowledge for sustainability. Environmental Ethics 34:4.
  • Leff E. 2009. Ecologia, Capital e Cultura: a Territorialização da Racionalidade Ambiental, Petrópolis, Brasil: Vozes Editora.
  • Leff E. 2006. Aventuras de la epistemología ambiental. De la articulación de las ciencias al diálogo de saberes. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
  • Leff E. 2004. Racionalidad ambiental. La apropiación social de la naturaleza. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
  • Leff E. (coord.) 2002. Ética, vida, sustentabilidad. Serie Pensamiento Ambiental Latinoamericano No. 5. México: PNUMA.
  • Leff, E. Escurra, E., Pisanty, I. and Romero Lankao, P. (Eds.) 2002. La transición hacia el desarrollo sustentable. Perspectivas de América Latina y el Caribe. México: SEMARNAT-INE-UAM-PNUMA (second edition).
  • Leff, E. & M. Bastida 2001. Comercio, medio ambiente y desarrollo sustentable: Perspectivas de América Latina y el Caribe. Mexico: UNEP/ETU.
  • Leff E. 2001. Epistemologia ambiental. São Paulo: Cortez Editora.
  • Leff, E. (ed.). 2001. Justicia ambiental: Construcción y defensa de los nuevos derechos ambientales culturales y colectivos en América Latina. Mexico: UNEP.
  • Leff, E. (ed.) 2000/2003. La complejidad ambiental. México: Siglo XXI.
  • Leff, E. 2000. The scientific-technological revolution, the forces of nature, and Marx’s theory of value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 11(4): 109-129.
  • Leff, E. 1999. On the social appropriation of nature. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 10(3): 89-104.
  • Leff, E. 1998. Murray Bookchin and the end of dialectical naturalism. Capitalism, nature, socialism 9(4):67-93.
  • Leff, E. 1998/2002. Saber ambiental. Racionalidad, sustentabilidad, complejidad, poder. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
  • Leff, E. 1995. Green production. Towards an environmental rationality. New York: Guilford Publications.
  • Leff, E. 1994. Ciencias sociales y formación ambiental. Barcelona: GEDISA.
  • Leff, E. 1994. Ecología y capital. Racionalidad ambiental, democracia participativa y desarrollo sustentable. Mexico: Siglo XXI.
  • Leff, E. 1993. Marxism and the environmental question: from critical theory of production to an environmental rationality for sustainable development. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4(1):44-66.
  • Leff, E. & J. Carabias (eds.) 1993. Cultura y Manejo Sustentable de los Recursos Naturales. 2 volumes. México: CIICH-UNAM/Miguel Ángel Porrúa.
  • Leff, E. 1990. Medio ambiente y desarrollo en México. Mexico: CIIH-UNAM/Miguel Ángel Porrúa.[6]. México: CIIH-UNAM/Miguel Ángel Porrúa.
  • Leff, E. 1986. Ecotechnological productivity: a conceptual basis for the integrated management of natural resources. Social science information 25(3): 681-702.
  • Leff, E. 1986. Ecología y Capital: Hacia una Perspectiva Ambiental del Desarrollo. México: UNAM.
  • Leff, E. (Ed.). 1986. Los problemas del conocimiento y la perspectiva ambiental del desarrollo. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
  • Leff, E. (Ed.). 1981. Biosociologia y Articulacion de las Ciencias. Mexico: UNAM.
  • Leff, E. (Ed.). 1980. Teoría del Valor. México: UNAM.