Archive for the category “Development”

Shashank Kela: Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Shashank Kela

The past few months have been exceptional, in one respect at least, for the Indian press: a serious structural problem has actually been given the attention it deserves. The Economic Times continues to play a prominent part in discussing air pollution in Delhi – there is no other city in the world where it is so bad. Nor is this all: including Delhi, India now boasts thirteen out of twenty cities with the worst air. More recently, the uproar over supposedly high levels of lead in a brand of junk food led to a (very) few articles on groundwater contamination: after all, the reason why lead and other poisons get into food is because they are present in the soil in which crops grow. Another piece, in the Guardian this time, speculated that the recent Sahelian heat wave in the Deccan might be a symptom of climate change (an “extreme” climate event of the kind likely to become all too common).[1]

These stories are only a tiny fraction of those that could be reported, for we are already in the throes of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Large swathes of our agricultural soils are contaminated or saline. Pesticide residues and heavy metals form part of our food. The air of our major cities is unfit to breathe. Freshwater availability is declining; most rivers, especially in the south, do not flow at all, or only seasonally, since their runoff is impounded in dams and used for irrigation (with very high rates of seepage and evaporation loss). Groundwater tables are falling as a consequence of over extraction and the disappearance of vegetative cover enabling percolation. The pattern of weather is being reset with gaps and lags – the available evidence indicates that the onset of the monsoon is changing and precipitation becoming more uneven. Our offshore seas are denuded of marine life thanks to trawler fishing at ever greater distances. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking with obvious long-term consequences for the hydrology of river systems dependent upon snow-melt. Sudden, destructive floods, exacerbated by embankments and dams, the building over of river valleys and floodplains, have become a regular occurrence. Read more…

Shankar Sharma: Letter to concerned ministers on fossil fuel subsidies

To

Sri. Piyush Goyal
Union Minister for Coal, Power and Renewable Energy
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Copy with complements:
Sri. Prakash Javadekar
Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Sri. Arun Jaitely
Union Minister for Finance
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Sri Naredra Modi
Prime Minister
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Dated 22nd  May, 2015

Dear Sri. Goyal,

Greetings from Mysore, Karnataka.

This has reference to the large number of coal power projects being planned, along with the large number of coal mines being auctioned in the country.

Whereas the civil society organizations in the country have been expressing their serious concerns on social and environmental impacts of relying on coal power, even the economic issues of coal power has come to the fore in recent years.  A hugely authoritative report by IMF few days ago has focused on the unbelievably large subsidies being provided to fossil fuel companies. It says that the fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year. A related article in The Guardian of UK is as in the link below. Read more…

Sustainable Development: Stories from those making it possible

A publication by FLEDGE, Chennai

From the Preface:
While a large amount of time and energy is spent on deciding the future of sustainability using the Rio+20 outcome document ‘The Future We Want’, limited space is available for local communities to tell their stories on how simple, on-the-ground initiatives are being pursued enabling them to secure their livelihoods. In the absence of our ability to listen to the experiences from the ground, informed policy making and setting the agendas related to SDGs would be weakened.

In the process of looking out for the case studies and experiences on how community based interventions could provide long-term solutions for sustainable development, we came across a number of inspirational stories that range from simple interventions to secure income for local people though value-addition to biodiversity to house-hold actions to secure food and nutrition.

In this publication, we have made an attempt to collate the experiences of a range of communities in using biological resources as basis for securing livelihoods and moving towards the path of local level development, supported by a number of spirited Non-Governmental Organizations in India. One important undercurrent to the compilation is that for development to happen one need to innovate but innovate according to the needs of the local people. Read more…

Why Greenpeace is first on the chopping block

Sajai Jose

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As Greenpeace India struggles to stay afloat, the real reason why the government wants to shut down the global environmental NGO hasn’t got much attention: Coal, the single biggest source of primary energy in India, is at the heart of the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious plans to ramp up industrial production in the country.

A total of 1,199 new coal-based thermal power plants with a total installed capacity of more than 1.4 million MW proposed worldwide, the lion’s share—455 plants—are in India, according to data from the World Resources Institute. Read more…

Breakthrough Institute: An Ecomodernist Manifesto

The Breakthrough Institute


From the Introduction:
To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands. Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene.

A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world. In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.

These two ideals can no longer be reconciled. Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being. Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts.

These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Togetherthey allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty. Although we have to date written separately, our views are increasingly discussed as a whole. We call ourselves ecopragmatists and ecomodernists. We offer this statement to affirm and to clarify our views and to describe our vision for putting humankind’s extraordinary powers in the service of creating a good Anthropocene.

View/download An Ecomodernist Manifesto
Read Kurt Cobbs stinging critique An Ecomodernist Manifesto: Truth and confusion in the same breath which questions some of the fundamental assumptions behind the manifesto.

Sustainable Lifestyles: Pathways and Choices for India and Germany

Harry Lehmann, Sudhir Chella Rajan
Co-authors: Sneha Annavarapu, Claudia Kabel, Christian Löwe, Astrid Matthey
(Indo-German Expert Group on Green and Inclusive Economy)

policy paper
Green Economy has been recognized by the Rio+20 Summit as “one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development”. It is emphasized that Green Economy should “contribute to eradicating poverty as well as sustained economic growth, enhancing social inclusion, improving human welfare and creating opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems”.

Such a transition towards a green and inclusive economy requires major efforts both on a national and international level, and cooperation and exchange of experiences is key to support the process. India and Germany are major players in this transition. Against this backdrop, an interdisciplinary working group of renowned experts from leading research institutions and political think tanks in India and Germany has been set up in November 2013 to enhance
collaborative learning, contribute to informed decision making in both countries and feed into the international debate on a Green and Inclusive Economy.

Five key topics are:
• Frameworks and challenges for a green and inclusive transformation
• Natural resources and decoupling growth from resource consumption
• Sustainable lifestyles
• Green and inclusive cities
• Transformation of the private sector

This policy paper was elaborated based on discussions in the context of the 3rd expert
group meeting on 12–14 November 2014 in Berlin.
The group is supported by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation,
Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and facilitated by the GIZ Environmental Policy
Programme in Berlin and the Indo-German Environment Partnership in Delhi.

Visit the website of the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability
Download the paper: Sustainable Lifestyles: Pathways and Choices for India and Germany

LibCom series on Capitalist agriculture

Part 4 Capitalist agriculture: class formation and the metabolic rift

Libcom.org

Capitalist agriculture: class formation and the metabolic rift

In this fourth installment on our series on food and climate, we look at the dynamics of capitalist agriculture in terms of production, class formation, and the ‘metabolic rift’ in the nitrogen cycle.

Part 1 (Climate, class, and the Neolithic revolution) looked at the first emergence of agriculture at the end of the last ice age. Part 2 (Class struggles, climate change, and the origins of modern agriculture) looked at the early modern emergence of specifically capitalist agriculture though enclosures and colonialism in the Little Ice Age. Part 3 (The political economy of hunger) analysed the political economy of hunger.

Read part 4: Capitalist agriculture: class formation and the metabolic rift

Challenging Thomas Piketty: Growth is not the answer to inequality

 Tim Jackson, The Guardian, UK

Those like me who fear that the continued pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet might be neither possible nor desirable face a different kind of challenge, brought home to us by Thomas Piketty’s 700 page tome Capital in the 21st Century. The astonishing popularity of the “rock-star economist” is itself a resounding testament to our concern for inequality.

But his painstaking analysis reveals an uncomfortable story. Piketty places the responsibility for rising inequality firmly and squarely on declining growth rates. Like Benjamin Friedman in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, he implies that only growth can bring civility, in part because an expanding economy allows for a degree of ‘catching up’ by the poorest in society, without much sacrifice or compromise by the rich.

For those of us less than convinced by the mantra of growth at all costs, the idea that only growth can save us from disastrous inequality poses some pretty serious challenges to our endeavour. Serious enough, that two of us – my Canadian colleague professor Peter Victor and I – decided to spend a bit more time analysing Piketty’s arguments.

What we found was fascinating. Piketty’s hypothesis only holds when the growth rate, savings rate and return on capital remain unchanged over long periods of time. When they move about, as they usually do, the economy is always chasing equilibrium but never quite arrives. In some circumstances, Piketty is absolutely right: declining growth can lead to rising inequality. In others, the exact reverse can happen: de-growth can in fact be compatible with greater equality.

This was definitely good news of a kind. Even more striking were the circumstances that made the difference. It turns out that if we are serious about reducing inequality, we must pay attention to the quality – as well as the quantity – of work in our economy. The endless mining of working life in pursuit of productivity gains for the owners of capital is not just detrimental to prosperity, it is inimicable to social justice.

If the debate about inequality is really back on the political agenda, it seems important that we approach it sensibly, without resorting to comforting half-truths. It remains to be seen how that will play out in a political debate mired in trivialities. Read the original article

Read Tim Jacksons paper: Does slow growth increase inequality?
Read another article by Tim Jackson: The dilemma of growth: prosperity v economic expansion

Growth and Inequality in a Carbon-Constrained World

Incrementum ad Absurdum:
Growth and Inequality in a Carbon-Constrained World

David Woodward

The paper seeks to assess the timeframe for eradication of poverty, defined by poverty lines of $1.25 and $5 per person per day at 2005 purchasing power parity, if pre-crisis (1993-2008) patterns of income growth were maintained indefinitely, taking account of the differential performance of China. On the basis of optimistic assumptions, and implicitly assuming an indefinite continuation of potentially important pro-poor shifts in development policies during the baseline period, it finds that eradication will take at least 100 years at $1.25-a-day, and 200 years at $5-a-day. While this could in principle be brought forward by accelerating global growth, global carbon constraints raise serious doubts about the viability of this course, particularly as global GDP would need to exceed $100,000 per capita at $1.25-a-day, and $1m per capita at $5-a-day. The clear implication is that poverty eradication, even at $1.25-a-day, and especially at a poverty line which better reflects the satisfaction of basic needs, can be reconciled with global carbon constraints only by a major increase in the share of the poorest in global economic growth, far beyond what can realistically be achieved by existing instruments of development policy – that is, by effective measures to reduce global inequality.

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News update

Madhya Pradesh to get world’s largest solar power plant
Times of India
Next year on Independence Day, India will have the worlds largest 750MW solar power plant in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh, which will pip Americas much-vaunted 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar project in California, commissioned four days ago. The state government is setting up the plant in a joint venture with Solar Energy Corporation of India.

As coal auctions begin in Delhi, a splendid forest in Chhattisgarh awaits slow death
Raksha Kumar, Scroll.in
Hasdeo Arand, is spread over 1,200 square kilometres in north Chhattisgarh. It is one of India’s last remaining biodiversity rich forests with an unbroken canopy that acts as an important wildlife corridor. Ignoring its own categorisation, however, the UPA government gave clearances to three coal mines in Hasdeo Arand. The BJP government has put one of those blocks for auction in the first phase itself.

World’s public health leaders call for an end to coal
Noharm-asia.org
At the close of their international conference in Kolkata, as part of a broad “Call to Action for Public Health,” the world’s public health associations advocated “a rapid phase-out of coal” to limit further global warming and prevent illnesses and deaths associated with air pollution. The Call to Action points to the “contribution of fossil fuels and coal in particular to climate change as well as to detrimental impacts on the health and well being of local communities.”

The contested story of India’s green shoots (Review of Jairam Rameshs book)
Siddharth Singh, Livemint
Jairam Ramesh was one of independent India’s most successful heads of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). Activists loved him (they still do) while those worried about economic growth considered him a Luddite. This member of the Manmohan Singh government has now penned his record of the 25 months when he was at the helm of the MoEF. Green Signals: Ecology, Growth, and Democracy in India (Oxford University Press) is the story of a contemporary conflict.

Climate change hampering world food production, say scientists
Yahoo News
The acceleration in climate change and its impact on agricultural production means that profound societal changes will be needed in coming decades to feed the worlds growing population, researchers at an annual science conference said. According to scientists, food production will have to be doubled over the next 35 years to feed a global population of nine billion people in 2050, compared with seven billion today.

Climate researcher says CIA fears hostile nations are manipulating the worlds weather
The Daily Mail, UK
CIA chiefs fear hostile nations are trying to manipulate the world’s weather. Professor Alan Robock, a climate researcher from Rutgers University in New Jersey, has told of mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding. CIA is believed to have helped fund a major report into geoengineering.

Imagining the Future History of Climate Change
New York Times
Naomi Oreskes is a historian of science at Harvard, but she is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future, written with Erik M. Conway, takes the point of view of a historian in 2393 explaining how “the Great Collapse of 2093” occurred. The 104-page book was listed last week as the No. 1 environmental best-seller on Amazon.

Trees as repositories of climate history 
Startribune.com
Most of us know that a tree’s age can be determined by counting its rings. But three scientists at the University of Minnesota say that’s just the beginning. Those rings also bear witness to floods, drought and other milestones, making it possible to track climate, weather and natural disaster trends spanning centuries.

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