|Ecology and The Politics of Survival:Conflicts Over Natural Resources in India|
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The recent period in human history contrasts with all the earlier ones in its strikingly high rate of resource utilization. Ever expanding and intensifying industrial and agricultural production has generated increasing demands on the world's total stock and flow of resources. These demands are mostly generated from the industrially advanced countries of the North and the industrial enclaves in the underdeveloped countries of the South. Paradoxically, the increasing dependence of the industrialised societies on natural resources, through the rapid spread of energy and resource-intensive production technologies, has been accompanied by the spread of the myth that increased dependence on modern technologies implies a decreased dependence on nature and natural resources This myth is supported by the introduction of a long and indirect chain of resource utilisation which leaves invisible the real material resource demands of the industrial processes. Through this combination of resource intensity at the material level and resource indifference at the conceptual and political levels, conflicts over natural resources generated by the new pattern of resource utilisation are generally shrouded and overlooked. These conflicts become visible when resource and energy-intensive industrial technologies are challenged by communities whose survival depends on the conservation of resources threatened by destruction and overexploitation, or when the devastatingly destructive potential of some industrial technologies is demonstrated as in the Bhopal disaster.
For centuries, vital natural resources like land, water and forests had been controlled and used collectively by village communities thus ensuring a sustainable use of these renewable resources. The first radical change in resource control and the emergence of major conflicts over natural resources induced by non-local factors was associated with colonial domination of this part of the world. Colonial domination systematically transformed the common vital resources into commodities for generating profits and growth of revenues. The first industrial revolution was to a large extent supported by this transformation of commons into commodities which permitted European industries access to the resources of South Asia.
With the collapse of the international colonial structure and the establishment of sovereign countries in the region, this international conflict over natural resources was expected to be reduced and replaced by resource policies guided by comprehensive national interests. However, resource use policies continued along the colonial pattern and, in the recent past, a second drastic change in resource use has been initiated to meet the international requirements and the demands of the elites in the Third World, leading to yet another acute conflict among the diverse interests. The most seriously threatened interest, in this conflict, appears to be that of the politically weak and socially disorganised group whose resource requirements are minimal and whose survival is primarily dependent directly on the products of nature outside the market system. Recent changes in resource utilisation have almost wholly by-passed the survival needs of these groups. These changes are primarily guided by the requirements of the countries of the North and of the elites of the South.
This book analyses environmental conflicts in contemporary human society. In general it relates to societies all over the world, but in particular it addresses the most intense and emerging social contradictions in India related to conflicts over natural resources. Science and technology are central to these conflicts because while scientific knowledge has been used by contemporary societies to considerably enlarge man's access to natural resources, it has also allowed the utilisation natural resources at extremely high rates. The contemporary period is characterised by the emergence of ecology movements in all parts of the world which are attempting to redesign the pattern and extent of natural resource utilisation to ensure social equality and ecological sustainability. Ecology movements emerging from conflicts over natural resources and the people's right to survival are spreading in regions like the Indian subcontinent where most natural resources are already being utilised to fulfil the basic survival needs of a large majority of people. The introduction of resource and energy-intensive production technologies under such conditions leads to economic growth for a small minority while, at the same time, undermines the material basis for the survival of the large majority. In this way, ecology movements have questioned the validity of the dominant concepts and indicators of economic development. The ideology of economic development, which remained almost monolithic in the post World War II period, is thus faced with a major foundational challenge. In this chapter an attempt has been made to provide a systematic conceptual framework for analysing the processes and structures of modern economic development from an ecological -perspective. It attempts to analyse the relationship between economic development and conflicts over natural resources to trace the roots of ecological movements. Further, in the light of the ecological perspective, it examines the fundamental assumptions and categories of modern development economics that are used to determine the objectives of economic development as well as the criteria for the choice of technologies that are used to achieve these objectives.
Economic Development and Environmental Conflicts in India
A characteristic of indian civilization has been its sensitivity to natural ecosystems. vital renewable natural resources like vegetation, soil and water were managed and utilised according to well defined social norms that respected the known ecological processes. The indigenous modes of natural resources utilisation were sensitive to the limits to which these resources could be used It is said that the codes of visiting important pilgrim centres Badrinath in the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem, included a maximum stay of one night so that the temple area would not put excess pressure on the local natural resources base. In the precolonial indigenous economic processes, the levels of utilisation of natural resources were not significant enough to result in drastic environmental problems. There were useful social norms for environmentally safe resource utilisation and people protested against the destructive use of resources even by kings. A major change in the utilisation of natural resources of India was introduced by the British who linked the resources of this country with the direct and large nonlocal demands of Western Europe. Natural resource utilisation by the East India Company, and later by the colonial rulers, replaced the indigenous organizations for the utilisation of natural resources, like water, forest and minerals, that were mainly managed as commons.
With the establishment of British colonial rule in India, the ever increasing resource demands of-the industrial revolution in England were largely met from colonies like India. Forced cultivation of indigo in Bengal and Bihar, cultivation of cotton in Gujarat and the Deccan led to large-scale commitment of land for the supply of raw materials for the British textile industry, the flagbearer of the industrial revolution. Forests in the sensitive mountain ecosystems like the Western Ghats or the Himalayas were felled to build battleships, or to meet the requirements of the expanding railway network. Forests of the Bengal-Bihar-Orissa region were used for running wood fuel locomotives in the early stages of railway expansion. The latter stages of colonial resource utilisation and control included the monopolization. of water rights as in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan or the Damoda' Canal in Bengal. Colonial intervention in natural resource management in India led to conflicts over vital renewable natural resources like water or forests and induced new forms of poverty and deprivation. Changes in resource endowments and entitlements introduced by the British came into conflict with the local people's age old rights and practices related to natural resource utilisation As a result local responses were generated through which people tried to regain and retain control over local natural resources. The indigo Movement in Eastern India, the Deccan Movement for land rights or the forest movement in all forest areas of the country, the Western
Ghats, the Central Indian Hills or the Himalayas, were obvious expressions of protest generated by these newly created conflict's. Conflicts generated by the colonial modes of natural resource exploitation could not, however, grow with a local identity. With the progress of the anti-colonial people's movement at the national level, these local protests merged with the national struggle for independence. With the collapse of colonial rule internationally, and the emergence of sovereign independent countries in the Third World like India, resolution of these conflicts at the local level became a possibility. While political independence vested the control over natural resources with the Indian state, the colonial institutional framework for natural resource management did not change in essence. Where colonialism collapsed, the slogan of economic development stepped in. There was unfortunately no alternative institutional mechanism other than that of the classical model of development left by the British, with which the newly formed Indian state could respond to the accentuated aspirations of the Indian people for a better life. The same institutions and concepts, nurtured and developed by the colonial rulers were applied to objectives which were exactly opposite to those of the colonial period. Concepts and categories relating to economic development and natural resource utilisation that had emerged in the specific context of capitalist growth and industrialization in the centres of colonial power were raised to the level of universal assumptions and applicability. The processes which led to deprivation were now entrusted with the responsibility of basic needs satisfaction. No serious thought was given to the fact that the historical specificity of early industrial development in Western Europe necessitated the permanent occupation of the colonies and the undermining of the local 'natural economy'.' This inexorable logic of resource exploitation, exhaustion and alienation integral to the classical model of economic development based on resource intensive technologies led Gandhi to seek an alternate path of development for India when he wrote:
God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.
While Gandhi's critique was a forewarning against the problems likely to arise by following the classical path of resource-intensive development, at the time of India's independence, there was no clear and comprehensive work plan to realise the Gandhian dream of alternate development that would be resource prudent and would satisfy basic needs. The issues of resource constraints of economic development were, therefore, not highlighted at the theoretical level, partly due to the tremendous pressure of the enhanced developmental aspirations of a newly independent nation, and partly due to the lack of internalization of natural resource parameters within the framework of economics. As the scale of economic development activities escalated from one Five Year Plan to another, the disruption of ecological processes that maintain the productivity of the natural resource base started becoming increasingly apparent. The classical model of economic development in the case of the newly independent nations resulted in the growth of urban-industrial enclaves where commodity production was concentrated, as well as rapid exhaustion of the internal colonies whose resources supported the enhanced demands of these enclaves. In the absence of ecologically enlightened resource management methods, the pressure of poverty enhanced the pace of economic development activities in the hope of a quick improvement in the standard of living for all, as in the case of Western Europe. For example, commercial forestry earned more revenue by making increasing amount of timber and pulpwood available in the market but in the process reduced the multipurpose biomass productivity or damaged the hydrology of the forests. People dependent on non-timber biomass outputs of forests like leaves, twigs, fruits, nuts, medicines and oils were unable to sustain themselves, in the face of the commercial exploitation of forests. The changed hydrological character of the forests affected both the micro-climate and the stream flows, disturbing the hydrological stability and affecting agricultural production.
There are similar examples from all parts of the country, related to almost all massive developmental interventions in India's natural resource system. Ecological degradation and economic deprivation generated by the resource insensitivity and intensity of the classical model of development have resulted in environmental conflicts, an understanding of which is imperative for the reorientation of our current development priorities and concepts. It is becoming in creasingly clear that these classical concepts and priorities are being used as an alibi to direct 'development' at the national level, while the educated minority elite is the main beneficiary of these 'development' processes.
The ecology movements that have emerged as major social movements in many parts of India are making visible many invisible externalities and pressing for their internalisation in the economic evaluation of the elite-oriented development process. In the context of a limited resource base and unlimited development aspirations, ecology movements have initiated a new political struggle for safeguarding the interests and survival of the poor, the marginalised, including women, tribals and poor peasants.
Ecology Movements and Survival
The intensity and range of ecology movements in independent india have continuously widened as predatory exploitation of natural resources to feed the process of development has increased in extent and intensity. This process has been characterised by the massive expansion of energy and resource-intensive industrial activity and major development projects like large dams, forest exploitation, mining and energy-intensive agriculture. The resource demand of development has led to the narrowing of the natural resource base for the survival of the economically poor and powerless, either by direct transfer of resources away from basic needs or by destruction of the essential ecological process that ensure renewability of the life-supportirig natural resources.
In the light of this background, ecology movements emerged as the people's response to this new threat to their survival and as a demand for the ecological conservation of vital life-support systems. The most significant life-support systems in addition to clean air are the common property resources of water, forests and land on which the majority of the poor people of India depend for survival. It is the threat to these resources that has been the focus of ecology movements in the last few decades.
Among the various ecology movements in India, the Chipko movement (embrace the trees to oppose fellings) is the most well known. It began as a movement of the hill people in the state of Uttar Pradesh to save the forest resources from exploitation by contractors from outside.' It later evolved into an ecological movement that was aimed at the maintenance of the ecological stability of the major upland watersheds in India. Spontaneous people's response to save vital forest resources was seen in Jharkhand area in Bihar-Orissa border region as well as in Bastar area of Madbya Pradesh where there were attempts to convert the mixed natural forests into plantations of commercial tree species, to the complete detriment of the tribal people. In the southern part of India the Appiko movement, which was inspired by the success of the Chipko movement in the Himalayas, is actively involved in stopping illegal over-felling of forests and in replanting forest lands with multipurpose broad leaved tree species. In Himachal Pradesh the Chipko activists have intensified their opposition to the expansion of monoculture plantation of the commercial Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii). In the Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan there has been a massive programme of tree planting to give employment to those hands which were hitherto engaged in felling of trees.
The exploitation of mineral resources, in particular the opencast mining in the sensitive watersheds of the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and Central India have also resulted in a great deal of environmental damage. As a consequence, environmental movements have come up in these regions to oppose the reckless mining operations. Most successful among them is the movement against limestone quarrying in the Doon Valley. Here, volunteers of the Chipko movement have led thousands of villagers, in peaceful resistance, to oppose the reckless functioning of limestone quarries that is seen by the people as a direct threat to their economic and physical survival.'
While the Doon Valley instance has a long history of popular opposition to the quarrying of limestone and a Supreme Court order has restricted the area of quarrying to a minimum, examples of such success' of ecology movements are rare People's ecology movements against mineral exploitation in the neighbouring areas of Almora and Pithoragarh still seem to be ignored, probably due to the relative isolation of these interior areas. Beyond the Himalayas, the ecology movement in the Gandhamardan Hills in Orissa against the ecological havoc of bauxite mining has gained momentum and it draws inspiration from the Chipko movement.
The mining project of the Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) in the Gandhamardan Hills is being opposed by local youth organisations and tribal people whose survival is directly under threat. The peaceful demonstrators have claimed that the project could be only continued 'over our dead bodies. The situation is more or less the same in large parts of Orissa-Madhya Pradesh region where rich mineral and coal deposits are being opened up for exploitation and thousands of people in these interior areas are being pushed to deprivation and destitution. This is also true of the coal mining areas around the energy capital of the country in Singrauli. In these interior areas of Central India, movements against both mining and forestry are becoming increasingly volatile and people's resistance is growing.
Large river valley projects, which are coming up in India at a very rapid pace, is another group of development projects against which people have organised ecology movements. The large-scale submersion of forest and agricultural lands, a prerequisite for the large river valley projects, always takes a heavy toll of dense forests and the best food growing lands. These have usually been the material basis for the survival of a large number of people in India, specially tribal people. The Silent Valley project in Kerala was opposed by the ecology movement on the ground of its being a threat, not to the survival of the people directly, but to the gene pool of the Tropical Rainforests threatened by submersion. The ecological movement against the Tehri high dam in the UP Himalaya exposes the possible threat to people living both above and below the dam site through large-scale destabilization of land by seepage and strong seismic movements that could be induced by impoundment. The Tehri Dam Opposition Committee has appealed to the Supreme Court against the proposed dam by identifying it as a threat to the survival of all people living near the river Ganga up to West Bengal. Most notable among the people's movements against dams on the issue of direct threat to survival from submersion are Bedthi lcchampalli, Bhopalpatnam, Narmada Sagar, Koel-Karo, Bodhghat, etc. In the context of the already overutilised land resources, the proper rehabilitation on a land-to-land basis of millions of people displaced through the construction of dams seems impossible. The cash compensation given instead is inadequate in all respects for providing an alternate livelihood for the majority of the displaced. Destitution is thus the first and foremost precondition for initiating large dam projects
While the process of construction of dams itself invites opposition from ecology movements, the functioning of water projects dependent on the constructed dams results in further ecological disasters and movements. People's movements against widespread water-logging, salinisation and the resulting desertification in the command areas of many dams have been registered. Among them are instances of protests against the Tawa, Kosi, Gandak, Tungabhadra, Malaprabha, Ghatprabha projects and the canal irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana. While excess water led to ecological destruction in these cases, improper and unsustainable use of water in the arid and semi-arid regions generated ecology movements in a different way. The anti-drought and desertification movement is gaining momentum in the dry areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Orissa, etc. Ecological water use for survival is being advocated by water based movements like Pani Chetana, Pani Panchayat, and Mukti Sangharsh. Another major movement originating from the ecological destruction of resources by growth based development is spreading all along the 7,000 km long coastline of India. It is the movement of the small fishing communities against the ecological destruction caused by mechanised fishing whose instant profit motive is destroying the coastal ecology and its long-term biological productivity in a big way.
No amount of threat to survival in India from environmental hazards can be complete without a reference to the Bhopal tragedy on 2 December 1984, in which several thousand people died and several lakhs faced serious health hazards following the leakage of poisonous Methyl Iso Cyanate from a pesticide plant of Union Carbide (India) Limited. People's movements for clean air and water are growing in ail parts of the country just as ecologically irresponsible industrialization is moving deeper into the hinterland in search of new resources.
Development from the Viewpoint of the Dispossessed
Though these ecology movements relate to issues that are geographically localised, like forests or water pollution, their reverberations are national and even global in import. This macro micro dialectic is rooted in the cognitive gaps associated with development planning and this dichotomy has been analysed politically as the result of the existence of two Indias. Every development activity invariably has a need for natural resources. In the context of limited natural resources, either limited by nonrenewability or ecological limits to renewability, the resource needs of the two Indias are bound to compete with each other. In this unequal competition the survival of the less powerful but more populous micro-economy is directly threatened. This threat may be either due to resource transfer or to ecological factors leading to resource degradation. Yet the significance of ecology movements does not merely lie in the fact that they are voices of the dispossessed who are victims of the highly unequal sharing of the costs of the development process. The positive feature of these movements lies in the manner in which they make visible the hidden externalities of development based on a particular economic ideology and reveal its inherent injustice and non-sustainability. The recognition of these inadequacies and the imperatives arising from the right to survival creates another ground and another direction for development which ensures justice with sustainability, equity with ecological stability.
Ecology movements as a trend can no longer be viewed as merely specific and particular happenings. They are an expression of the universal socio-ecological impacts of a narrowly conceived development based only on short-term commercial criteria of exploitation. The impact of ecology movements cannot be assessed merely in terms of the impact of the particular development projects they originate from. The impact, in the final analysis, is on the very fundamental categories of politics, economics, science and technology which together have created the classical paradigm of development and resource use. The emerging irreversible threat to survival arising from the development process allows a reevaluation not only of some individual projects and programmes which have been shown to be ecologically destructive, but of the very conception and paradigm of development that generates such projects. These ecology movements reveal how the resource intensive demands of current development have ecological destruction and economic deprivation built into them. They also stress that the issue is not merely one of a trade-off of costs and benefits because the cost of destruction of the conditions of life and well-being is not only a matter of money, it is a matter of life itself. The most important and universal feature of ecology movements is that they are redefining the concepts of development and economic values, of technological efficiency, of scientific rationality-they are creating a new economics for a new civilisation.
The Economists' Slumber: Growth Against Survival
THE IDEOLOGY of the dominant pattern of development derives its driving force from a linear theory of progress, from a vision of historical evolution propounded in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Western Europe and universalised throughout the world especially in the post-war development decades. The linearity of history, presupposed in this theory of progress, created the ideology of development that equated development with economic growth, economic growth with expansion of the market economy, modernity with consumerism and non-market economies with backwardness. The diverse traditions of the world, with their distinctive technological, ecological, economic, political and cultural structures, were driven by this new ideology to converge into a homogeneous monolithic order modelled on the particular evolution of the west. The notion of development as an ideology was based on the universalisation of the western economic tradition and of equating development with economic growth alone and its unquestioned acceptance as progress.
The Rostownian model of the stages of economic growth is the clearest articulation of these assumptions. Rostow presents change as taking place in three stages. The first stage consists of traditional society: 'whose structure is developed within limited production functions, based on pre-Newtonian science and technology and on pre-Newtonian attitudes towards the physical world.... The central fact about the traditional society was that a ceiling existed on the level of attainable output per head The totality of development experiences, however, does not reflect this simple linearity and stage by stage evolution. The interrelationship between resources within the same ecosystem as well as interlinkages between economic activities, between segments of society makes the economic development process more complex and multidimensional. Viewing the world as an ecologically interrelated whole leads to a concept of development that puts a premium on maintaining the ecological balance and integrity while satisfying basic human needs. In this context, the 'backwardness' and 'low productivity' of non-western societies is based on the assumption of the ideology of classical development that recognises productivity only in the context of commodity production. The 'high productivity' of the latter similarly has been based on a narrow and specific interpretation of productivity. The resource intensity of modern production processes, geared towards profit maximization in the absence of the awareness of other forms of productivities, leads to ecological deterioration and loss of resource productivity, which remain hidden externalities in development economics. The internalization of such negative externalities over a large temporal and spatial horizon, in many instances, render the 'high productivity' processes extremely unproductive.
The second stage of Rostow, characteristic of the dual sector model, originates from a misleading representation of the material foundations of the visible and formal development process. In the context of a limited resource base, the resource demands of the development process are often satisfied by diverting resources away from survival needs and life-support functions. Modernisation and economic growth based on resource-intensive processes compete for the same resources and are also used for the satisfaction of basic survival needs, either directly, or through the destruction of ecological functions of these resources. The second stage is clearly not a temporary co-existence of two unrelated sectors, namely, the 'dynamic and progressive' modern and the 'stagnant and backward' traditional.
There is a distinct relationship between these two sectors in that the 'dynamism' of the modern is fuelled by a continuous and unequal resource flow from the traditional. The growth and productivity of the modern has to co-exist with the poverty and backwardness of the traditional. In the context of highly unequal sharing of the cost of economic growth, visible development accrues to the privileged while invisible underdevelopment accrues to the dispossessed. The Rostownian approach assumes that in the process of development 'the economy exploits hitherto unused resources,' which is true in the case of resource abundance. However, in the present context vital natural resources like forests, water and land are all scarce and have a number of competing requirements and demands on them. These could be associated with the maintenance of ecological processes of renewability of natural resources or of the life-support system of those externalized by the formal process of development. The diversion of resources otherwise needed for human survival or for safeguarding the ecological processes remain invisible. Thus, in the context of the conflicting demands on scarce resources, economic growth leads to economic polarization and not necessarily to universal prosperity. Since the introduction of new technologies often leads to diversion of resources needed for survival, we have called the resultant social and economic inequalities 'technological polarisation. The rapid growth of people's ecology movements is a symptom of this polarisation and a reminder that natural resources play a vital role in the survival of people. Their diversion or destruction through other uses, therefore, leads to impoverishment and an increasing threat to survival. Underdeveloped societies are not those that are yet to be affected by growth and development, as the dual sector model supposes. The real underdevelopment of the hinterland takes place simultaneously as an integral part of the whole process of contemporary growth and development in which gains accrue to one section of society or nation and the costs, economic or ecological, are borne by the rest. From within societies and nations enjoying the advantages of resource use, Rostow's take-off stage can be seen as a reality. When one views the process of development from the perspective of those who are underdeveloped as a result of its resource intensity, the 'take-off' often gets translated into 'roll-down' into underdevelopment or ecological disasters. Britain's 'take-off' at the end of the eighteenth century was made possible by the underdevelopment of its colonies in three continents. The destruction of the Indian textile industry and Indian agriculture, the slave trade from Africa and the genocide of the indigenous North American people were the preconditions for the economic growth of the centres of modern industry in Britain. The illusion of the contemporary take-off stage in countries like India and the vision of a flight to the twenty-first century are made possible through a similar process of the invisible destruction of the base for survival of millions of marginal people The opposition of ecology movements to resource destructive development and growth is rooted in the recognition that the creation of resources for growth is achieved through the destruction of resources for the survival of people. The Rostownian fiction of the take-off of a whole society with an improved quality of life for all its members ignores the economic polarisation and ecological destruction inherent in resource-intensive development. It appears real because under the historical conditions of colonialism or enclavised development, the invisible costs of growth are borne by the colonies or hinterlands. The geographical separation of the regions benefiting from and the regions losing in the process left the resource destruction of the colonies and hinterlands invisible and led to the superficial impression that economic growth takes place in an absolute sense. This impression was used to universalize the Rostownian model for all countries, all people and all historical periods and this became the ideology of development. The ideological universalisation and enclavisation of the process of growth and development is the reason for the simultaneous existence of underdevelopment alongside economic growth in newly independent countries like India, which accepted rapid and resource intensive industrialisation as the path towards development. Like the erstwhile colonies, interior and resource rich areas of the country, are bearing the costs of resource diversion and destruction to run the resource-intensive process of development. As a result, communities living in these interior regions and depending on the local resources are facing a serious threat to their survival.
The ecological relationship of the growth of affluence for a few regions and some people on the one hand, and the collapse of the resource base for survival of many on the other, clearly contradicts Rostow's notion of the third stage of take-off in which 'old blocks and resistances' are overcome and the prosperity of the enclave becomes pervasive throughout society. The impoverishment of the peripheries and the erosion of the resources and rights of marginal communities actually pay for the material basis of the prosperity of the enclaves. This prosperity can neither be reproduced for regions and peoples whose impoverishment and deprivation are rooted materially and ecologically in the same process of growth, nor can the enclavisation process be sustained. The new forms of poverty and dispossession create new 'blocks and resistances' to the diffusion of the development process, making enclave development and underdevelopment of the hinterland a permanent feature of development based on resource-intensive processes. Dichotomising tendencies and principles of exclusion seem to reflect the situation more realistically than the linear model of progress. The simplistic dichotomy between the modem and traditional sectors of the linear model is misleading because the traditional itself is transfommed and underdeveloped by the resource demands of the modern sector. This misleading dichotomy needs to be replaced by the more complex contradiction between sectors of society making conflicting and unequal demands on limited resources; between demands for profits and requirements of survival; between sustainable and non-sustainable patterns of resource use; and between the socially just and unjust use of natural resources. The reality of the ecological non-sustainability of the accepted development model and the threat to survival arising from it need to be internalised into a new framework for the understanding of economics and technology in a more realistic and less illusionary manner. Ecology movements are providing these insights for this new realism based on resource sensitivity and recognition of the people's right to survival.
While the above analysis emanates from the situation in the market economy-oriented countries of the Third World, the issues raised by it are universal in character. No doubt the anarchy of growth is most reckless in the market economy-oriented Third World countries but serious rethinking about the delicate relationship between economy and ecology is going on in both the advanced market economies and the socialist countries. As the entire world prepares to enter the third millennium humankind as a whole is feeling a special responsibility towards the global future. Human being is looking for a new philosophy to live in harmony with nature and ecology that is needed to give a new meaning and relevance to economics..
The Three Economies of Natural Resources
A new and holistic relationship between economics and ecology has to depend on a holistic understanding of the natural resource process and utilizations associated with human societies and the natural ecosystems. The dominant ideology of development. which guides development activities almost exclusively, has been classically concerned only with the use of natural resources for commodity production and capital accumulation. It ignores the resource processes that have been regenerating natural resources outside the realm of human existence. It also ignores the vast resource requirements of the large number of people whose needs are not being satisfied through the market mechanisms. The ignorance or neglect of these two vital economies of natural resources, the economy of natural processes and the survival economy, explains why ecological destruction and threat to human survival have remained hidden negative externalities of the development process. To make good for this shortcoming it is necessary to comprehend the place of natural resources in all the three economies.
Natural resources in the market economy
The incompetence of modern economics in dealing with natural resources in their ecological totality has been voiced by many. The most penetrating description, however, comes from Georgescu Roogen who wrote:
The no deposit no return analogy benefits the businessman's view of economic life. For, if one looks only at money, all one can see is that money just passes from one hand to another: except by regrettable accident it never gets out of the economic process. Perhaps the absence of any difficulty in securing raw materials by those countries where modern economics grew and flourished was yet another reason for economists to remain blind to this crucial economic factor. Not even the wars the same nations fought for the control of the world's natural resources awoke the economists from their slumberer
While trade and exchange of goods and services have always characterized human societies, the elevation of the market to the position of the highest organising principle of society led to the neglect of the other two vital economies in development thought. The hidden negative externalities of the development processes governed by the principles of the market have, thus, created new forms of poverty and underdevelopment. Various case studies described in this volume will substantiate such a claim. The major problem is that when exclusive attention is being given to monetary flows, requirements of natural resources not backed up by suitable purchasing power cannot be registered on the economic scene. As a result, specially in the context of Third World countries, the place of natural resources in the economy of natural resource production (or nature's economy) or in the survival economy of non-market consumption for the biological sustenance of the marginalised poor gets completely ignored. The political economy of ecology movements cannot be understood without a clear comprehension of the place of natural resources in the three distinct economies. Ecology movements are the first indicators of compatibility and conflict among the three competing demands on natural resources. In this way the articulation of these three economies provides the foundation of a framework for an ecologically sustainable and equitable process of economic development that ensures survival and does not threaten it. The benefits and costs associated with development projects thus need to be evaluated not only in terms of the framework of the market economy but also in terms of the other two economies associated with natural resources.
The economy of natural ecological processes
The terms ecology and economy are rooted in the same Greek word 'oikos' or household. Yet in the context of market-oriented development they have been rendered contradictory: 'Ecological destruction is an obvious cost for economic development'-a statement which is often repeated to ecology movements. Natural resources are produced and reproduced through a complex network of ecological processes. Production is an integral part of this economy of natural ecological processes but the concepts of production and productivity in the context of development economics have been exclusively identified with the industrial production system for the market economy. Organic productivity in forestry or agriculture has also been viewed narrowly through the production of marketable products of the total productive process. This has resulted in vast areas of resource productivity, like the production of humus by forests, or regeneration of water resources, natural evolution of genetic products, erosional production of soil fertility from parent rocks, remaining beyond the scope of economics. Many of these productive processes are dependent on a number of ecological processes. These processes are not known fully even within the natural science disciplines and economists have to make tremendous efforts to internalize them. Paradoxically, through the resource ignorant intervention of economic development at its present scale, the whole natural resource system of our planet is under threat of a serious loss of productivity in the economy of natural processes. At present ecology movements are the sole voice to stress the economic value of these natural processes. The market-oriented development process can destroy the economy of natural processes by over exploitation of resources or by the destruction of ecological processes that are not comprehended by economic development. And these impacts are not necessarily manifested within the period of the development projects. The positive contribution of economic growth from such development may prove totally inadequate to balance the invisible or delayed negative externalities stemming from damage to the economy of natural ecological processes. In the larger context, economic growth can thus, itself become the source of underdevelopment. The ecological destruction associated with uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources for commercial gains is a symptom of the conflict between the ways of generating material wealth in the economies of-market and the natural processes. In the words of Commoner: 'Human beings have broken out of the circle of life driven not by biological needs, but the social organisation which they have devised to 'conquer' nature: means of gaining wealth which conflict with those which govern nature."
The survival economy
Modern economics and the concept of development cover a miniscule portion in the history of economic production by human beings. The survival economy has given human societies the material basis of survival by deriving livelihoods directly from nature through self-provisioning mechanisms. In most Third World countries large numbers of people are deriving their sustenance in the survival economy in ways that remain invisible to market oriented development. Within the context of a limited resource base the destruction of the survival economy takes place through the diversion of natural resources from directly sustaining human existence to generating growth in the market economy. Sustenance and basic needs satisfaction is the organising principle for natural resource use in the survival economy whereas profits and capital accumulation are the organising principles for the exploitation of resources for the market. Human survival in India even today is largely dependent on the direct utilisation of common natural resources."
Ecology movements are voicing their opposition to the destruction of these vital commons so essential for human survival. Without clean water, fertile soils, and crop and plant genetic diversity economic development will become impossible. Sometimes by omission and sometimes by commission formal economic development activities have impaired the productivity of common natural resources which has enhanced the contradiction between the economy of natural processes and the survival economy.
The organising principles of economic development based on economic growth renders valueless all resources and resource processes that are not priced in the market and are not inputs to commodity production. This premise very often generates economic development programmes that divert or destroy the resource base for survival. While the diversion of resources, like diversion of land from multipurpose community forests to monoculture plantations of industrial tree species, or the destruction of common resources, or the diversion of water from staple food crops and drinking water needs to cash crops are frequently proposed as programmes for economic development in the context of the market economy, they create economic underdevelopment in the economies of nature and survival. Ecology movements are aimed at opposing these threats to survival from market based economic development. Thus in the Third World, ecology movements are not the luxury of the rich; they are a survival imperative for the majority of people whose survival is not taken care of by the market economy but is threatened by its expansion.
The political foundation of ecology movements lies in their capacity to enlarge the spatial, temporal and social bases for the evaluation of economic development projects-in their capacity to bring into the picture all the three economies described earlier. A new economics of development will emerge only when these three economies can be conceptualized within a single framework.
When economic development programmes are viewed from the perspective of all the three economies, a clearer view of the political economy of conflicts over natural resources is expected to emerge. In the dominant mode of economic development, perceived within the framework of the market economy, mediation of technology is assumed to lead to the control of larger and larger quantities of natural resources, thus turning scarcity into abundance and poverty into affluence: Technology, accordingly is viewed as the motive force for development and the vital instrument that guarantees freedom from dependence on nature ' The affluence of the industrialized west is assumed to be associated exclusively with this capacity of modern technology to generate wealth.
The concept of technology per se as a source of abundance and freedom from nature's ecological limits are based in part on the limitations of the market economy in understanding in a holistic manner, the same resources which it exploits. Only when development processes are viewed in the holistic perspective of all the three economies can the scarcities and underdevelopment associated with abundance and development be clearly seen. Most resource-intensive technologies operate in the enclaves with enormous amounts of various resources coming from diverse ecosystems which are normally far away. This long, indirect and spatially distributed process of resource transfer made possible by energy-intensive long distance transportation, leaves invisible the real material demands of the technological processes of development.
The spatial separation of resource exhaustion and the creation of products have also considerably shielded the inequality creating tendencies of modern technologies. Further, it is simply assumed that the benefits of economic development based on these modern technologies will automatically percolate to the poor and the needy and growth will ultimately take care of the problems of distributive justice. This would, of course, be the case, if growth and surplus were in a sense absolute and purchasing power existed in all socio-economic groups. None, however, is correct. Surplus is often generated at the cost of the ecological productivity of natural resources or at the cost of exhausting the capital of non-renewable resources. For the poor, the only impact of such economic activity often is the loss of their resource base for survival.
It is thus no accident that modern, efficient and 'productive' technologies 'creased within the context of growth in market economic terms are associated with heavy social and ecological costs. The resource and energy intensity of the production processes they give rise to demands ever increasing resource withdrawals from the natural ecosystems. These excessive withdrawals in the course of time disrupt essential ecological processes and result in the conversion of renewable resources into non-renewable ones. Over time, a forest provides inexhaustible supplies of water and biomass including wood, if its capital stock, diversity and hydrological stability are maintained and it. is harvested on a sustained yield basis. The heavy and uncontrolled market demand for industrial and commercial wood, however, requires continuous over-felling of trees which destroys the regenerative capacity of the forest ecosystems and over time converts these forests into non-renewable resources. Sometimes the damage to nature's intrinsic regenerative capacity is impaired not directly by over-exploitation of a particular resource but indirectly by damage caused to other natural resources related through ecological processes. Thus under tropical monsoon conditions, over-felling of trees in catchment areas of streams and rivers not only destroys forest resources, but also stable, renewable sources of water. Resource-intensive industries do not merely disrupt essential ecological processes by their excessive demands for raw materials; they also destroy and disrupt vital ecological processes by polluting essential resources like air and water. In the words of Rothman: 'the private economic rationality of the profit seeking business enterprise is a murderous providence because it cannot guarantee the optimum use of resources for society as a whole. It cannot avoid continually creating situations which cause the pollution of an environment
In the context of resource scarcity where most resources are already being utilised for the satisfaction of survival needs, further diversion of resources to new uses is likely to threaten survival and generate conflicts between the demands of economic growth and the requirements of survival. It, therefore, becomes essential to evaluate the role of new technologies in economic development on the basis of their resource demands and conflict with the demands of survival. The productivity of 8 technology in the perspective of human survival must distinguish outputs in terms of their potential for satisfaction of vital or non-vital needs, because on the continued satisfaction of vital needs depends human survival. As Georgescu-Roegen points out,
There can be no doubt about it. Any use of the natural resources for the satisfaction of non-vital needs means a smaller quantity of life in the future. If we understand well the problem, the best use of our iron resources is to produce plows or harrows as they are needed, not Rolls Royces, not even agricultural tractors.
In the context of the market economy, the indicators of technological efficiency and productivity are totally independent of the difference between the satisfaction of basic needs and luxury requirements. between resources extracted by ecologically sensitive or insensitive technologies or of the nature of the contribution of economic growth to diverse socio-economic categories. In the context of a highly non-uniform distribution of purchasing power and scanty knowledge of or respect for ecological processes, economic growth depends on production and consumption of nonvital products. The expansion of the formal sector of the economy for the production of non-vital goods often leads to further diversion of vital natural resources. For example, water-intensive production of flowers or fruits for the lucrative export market often results in water scarcity in low rainfall areas. In a world with a limited and shrinking resource base, and in the economic framework of a market economy, non-vital luxury needs are fulfilled at the cost of vital survival needs. The high powered pull of the purchasing capacity of the rich of the world can draw out necessary resources in spite of resource scarcity and resulting conflicts.
This complete lack of recognition of the resource needs of the survival economy nature's economy in the current paradigm of development economics shrouds the political issues arising from resource transfer and ecological destruction. For the economic sector based on 'efficient modern technologies', this provides an ideological weapon for increased control of the sponsors of economic development over the total natural resource endowments of the countries concerned.
The ideological and limited concept of 'productivity' of technologies has been universalised with the consequence that all other costs of the economic process become invisible. The invisible forces which contribute to the increased 'productivity' of a modern farmer or factory worker emanate from the increased consumption of non-renewable natural resources. Lovins has described this as the amount of 'slave' labour at present at work in the world. According to him, each person on earth, on an average, possesses the equivalent of about fifty slaves, each working forty hours a week. Man's annual global energy conversion from all sources (wood, fossil fuel, hydroelectric power, nuclear) at present is approximately 8 x 10 (12) watts. This is more than twenty times the energy content of the food necessary to feed the present world population at the FAO standard per capita requirement of 3,600 cals per day.
In terms of workforce, therefore, the population of the earth is not 4 billion but about 200 billion, the important point being that about 98 per cent of them do not eat conventional food. The inequalities in the distribution of this 'slave' labour between different countries is enormous, the average inhabitant of the USA, for example, having 250 times as many 'slaves' as the 'average Nigerian'. And this, substantially is the reason for the difference in efficiency between the American and Nigerian economies: it is not due to the differences in the average 'efficiency' of the people themselves. There seems no way of discovering the relative efficiencies of Americans and Nigerians: If Americans were short of 249 of every 250'slaves' they possess, who can say how 'efficient' they would prove themselves to be.
The increase in the levels of resource consumption is taken universally as an indicator of economic development. If the present level of resource consumption in the USA is accepted as the development objectives of India, the total resource demands of 'developed' India can be calculated by multiplying the current resource consumption by a factor of 250. Neither our forests nor our fields or rivers can sustain such a 'development'. When per capita resource consumption is considered, the Malthusian argument relating population with resource scarcity does not hold good. More significant than the population factor is the total resource factor. Thus, although many countries of the South have a much larger population than those of the North, the industrialized of the world consumes more grain than all the other three-quarters put together. This high consumption is due to the fact that intensive livestock production in industrialized countries accounts for 67 per cent of their total grain consumption. This Efficient' process of livestock management for the production of meat, as reported by Odium requires 10 calories of energy input to produce one calorie of food energy. The energy subsidy provided by the capital stock of the earth's non-renewable resources makes a resource inefficient process appear as efficient in the market economy. It is interesting to note that even in the West, nearly a century ago one calorie of food was produced by using a fraction of a calorie of energy input. The same is true in the economics of water resources use in modern agriculture. When the production of high yielding varieties of seeds is evaluated, not on productivity per unit land (tons/ha) but per unit volume of water input (tons/le lit), these miracle seeds of the Green Revolution are seen as two to three times less efficient in food production than, say, the millets. The results of evaluation of the technological efficiency of processes associated with economic development, when reexamined on a holistic basis and optimised against all resource inputs, would generally lead to the conclusion that: 'the much talked of efficiency of widely practiced high technology is not intrinsically true. They are, in fact, highly wasteful of materials and pollutive (that is, destructive to the productive potential of the environment)'.
New technologies in the market economy are innovated for profit maximization and not to encourage resource prudence per se. The extent of inefficiency in the utilisation of natural resources with production processes based on resource-intensive technologies, can be illustrated with the production of soda ash, an important industrial material. In the Solvay process for the production of soda ash. the two materials used are sodium chloride and limestone.
The entire limestone used in the process ends up as waste material, 25 per cent of the sodium chloride is lost as unreacted salt. From the balance 75-80 per cent, the acidic half is lost and only the basic half goes into the final product. Therefore only 40 per cent of the raw materials consumed are actually utilised. The waste products pollute land and water resources systems. The economy of the process is artificially made good by concessions in procuring limestone, salt and fuel and further concessions in respect of land, transport, etc. It is these subsidies for natural resources which make the counter-productive processes appear efficient.
Referring to the technology of production of frozen orange juice Schnaiberg made the following remarks:
What is true of the unobtrusive shift from fresh oranges to frozen orange juice is typical of most transitions from traditional to late industrial technologies. The majority of these become more energy intensive: the energy content of all the necessary production processes increases per unit produced.... The hall mark of modern technology is its typical labour saving quality-not its energy saving aspect."
Guided by a narrow and distorted concept of efficiency and supported by all types of subsidies, technological change in market economy-oriented development continues in the direction of resource intensity, labour displacement and ecological destruction. The long-term continuation of such processes will lead to the destruction of the resource base of the survival economy and to human labour being rendered dispensable in the production processes of the market economy. The partisan assumptions of modern economic development which cannot internalise the economy of natural processes and the survival economy are thus being raised to the level of universality. As a result, with the expansion of economic development in Third World countries, the resource-intensive and socially partial development is leading to social instability and conflicts. While ecology movements in the industrially advanced countries are directed against more recent threats to survival like pollution, ecology movements in Third World countries have a much longer history related to resource exhaustion and ecological degradation of natural ecosystems. It is in these countries that the holistic ecological criteria for technology choice is needed most urgently.
The process of transformation and utilisation of natural resources for the satisfaction of societal needs determines the economic organization of human societies. At various stages of development, the dominant patterns of utilisation of natural resources have been guided by the dominant pattern of scientific knowledge, and through the generation and use of technologies that actually bridge the gap between natural resources and human needs and requirements.
A special characteristic of human societies is that they can make deliberate choices between different ways of using resources and satisfying needs. The existence of plurality of alternatives in resource use for economic development creates the need for a selection criteria to make rational decisions about the use of natural resources and technological change. A dialectical relationship exists between the criteria of technology choice and the nature of science and technology developed in response to the criteria. Traditional societies as well as modern scientific-industrial societies have adopted different systems of science and technology which differ primarily in the criteria of choice or rationality that guides resource use patterns for human needs satisfaction. The characterization of certain societies as primitive and unscientific is, thus, sociologically and epistemologically unfounded. The fact that values and rationality criteria of one form of social organization generate a particular type of science and technology matched to a particular criteria of scientificity does not imply that other social organisations lack a scientific basis for their economic activities.
A schematic representation of technological paths as bridges between natural resources and human needs is presented in Figure I. I. If sustainable utilisation is the objective that guides the criteria of choice for a development strategy, a resource prudent technological path (T.) is rationally chosen. If maximization of the growth of man-made processes and increasing the productivity of labour is the objective, then a more resource-intensive path (T2) which is the integration of a large number of smaller technologies (t1) and in which increased resource and energy inputs allows the increase in labour productivity, is rationally chosen. In this process a large amount of secondary resources (R2-R6) are additionally required.
Traditional societies in all their diversity have, in general, shared a common set of characteristics. They have used natural resources prudently to satisfy minimum needs sustainably over centuries. Such resource use was based on
Traditional world views and practices deterred over-exploitation of natural resources at all levels. As they were based on ecological perceptions of nature and guided by restraints in resource use, they used technologies which prevented ecological disruption. Modernisation of traditional societies in its present form has, by and large, been taken as synonymous with the substitution of indigenous science and technology systems by the modern western system. In this manner the resource-intensive western pattern of resource use is thrust on non-western societies through modernisation.
Modern western scientific knowledge, however, differs from indigenous knowledge systems in three important ways:
These characteristics of modern western science and technology systems breaks the chain, beginning with natural resources and ending in the satisfaction of human needs and demands, into small fragments of individually identifiable economic activities. This provides justification for the resource intensity of the dominant paradigm of economic development and technological change, and thus leads to ecological instabilities. Ecological crises are thus inevitable products of economic activities which are propelled towards longer and more complex and resource-intensive technological chains (T2) for the satisfaction of older needs (N.). Only individual segments(l) of the whole technological chain are examined from the narrow criteria of labour productivity. The situation is best exemplified in the case of food production. While indigenous and traditional food production practices used about half a calorie of energy to produce 1 calorie of food, the present mechanised and chemical farming techniques use 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. These characteristics of contemporary scientific industrial development are the primary causes for the contemporary ecological crises. The combination of eco!ogically disruptive scientific and technological modes, and the absence of rationality criteria for evaluating scientific and technological systems in terms of resource use efficiency, has created conditions where society is increasingly propelled towards ecological instability and has no rational and organised response to arrest and curtail these destructive tendencies.
Ecology and the Politics of Knowledge
The paradigm of modern science has evolved in the last few centuries in an environment where all economic activities were aimed at maximising the productivity of man-made processes in individual sectors of the economy (Figure 1.2). This led to the development of modern technologies with highly negative externalities which remained invisible within the conceptual framework of modern science and economics. This shortcoming emanates from three basic fallacies of modern scientific knowledge:
Development planning based on these false identifications tends to create severe ecological problems because of its inability to recognise ecosystem linkages and the ecological processes operative in the natural world. The ecological relationships between the sectors of natural resources contribute to essential ecological processes which are frequently found to be vital for human survival. Thus, the stability of ecological processes is not merely a matter of aesthetics. An incomplete understanding of the material and economic values of ecological processes leads to the destruction of the material conditions for economic development and eventually survival
Since the availability of essential and vital resources for survival is dependent on the maintenance of essential ecological processes, economic activities which generate sectoral growth in the shortterm by destroying the essential ecological processes cannot lead to development in the long run. On the contrary, by decreasing the productivity and availability of vital resources, they initiate the process of underdevelopment.
When the natural world is viewed ecologically as a system of interrelated resources which maintain the material basis for human sustenance, economic values can no longer be perceived merely as exchange values in the market. Economic values in the ecological perspective are not always equivalent to their exchange value in the market, evaluated without any significance to their use value.
As a corollary, natural resources can have economic utility that cannot be quantified through the exchange value in the market. Such economic utility includes the maintenance of essential ecological processes that support human survival and, thus, all economic activities. The economic utilisation of resources through extraction may, under certain conditions, undermine and destroy vital ecological processes leading to heavy but hidden diseconomies. The nature of these diseconomies can be understood only through the understanding of ecological processes operating in nature.
The economics of sustenance and basic needs satisfaction is, therefore, linked with ecological perceptions of nature. The economics of sectoral growth on the other hand is related to reductionist science and resource wasteful technologies which are productive in the narrow context of sectoral and labour inputs, but may be counter-productive in the context of the overall economic base of natural resources.
The case studies in the following chapters are only representative of thousands of such cases seen everywhere. They reveal a certain pattern of contemporary economic development which can be identified thus:
As a result of this limitation of contemporary economics, economic development has, consequently, been taken to be synonymous with growth. The higher the rate of sectoral growth, the higher is the index of economic development. Possible ecological destruction caused by the resource intensity of sectoral growth that is guided purely by non-ecological economic considerations, has never been introduced in the processes of planning for economic development. The benefit-cost analysis of development projects has thus externalized those ecological changes and is incomplete in three important ways:
The utilisation and management of natural resources in India has so far been guided by the narrow and sectoral concept of productivity and restricted benefit-cost analysis. This narrow concept of productivity and benefit-cost analysis has blocked the conceptualization of the criteria of rationality of technology choice which maximizes needs satisfaction while minimising resource use, thus maximising systems productivity. For example, the clear felling of natural forests in the catchments of rivers, and planting of industrial species of trees has been justified on the grounds of increasing productivity of forests. This concept of productivity is, however, only related to productivity of industrial timber, while forests produce other forms of biomass, like fodder and green mulch, or maintain productivity of soil and water resources. The direct impact of the clear felling of catchment forests on agricultural production through its destructive impact on soil and destabilisation of the hydrological balance is not taken into account in the calculations of the benefits and costs associated with forests. Regular floods and droughts, which are the consequences of irrational land and water management, are branded as natural disasters for which the whole nation pays heavily. Consequently, the poor and marginal groups which depend on agriculture for their livelihood face increasing impoverishment and poverty. This thrusting of negative externalities on the poor and marginal groups directly leads to the polarisation of society into two groups. One group gains from the process of narrow sectoral growth, while the poor and marginalised majority suffer because of the ecological destruction of natural resources on which they depend for survival.
The dialectical contradiction between the role of natural resources in production processes to generate growth and profits and their role in natural processes to generate stability is made visible by movements based on the politics of ecology. These movements reveal that the perception, knowledge and value of natural resources vary for different interest groups in society. The politics of ecology is thus intimately linked with the politics of knowledge. For subsistence farmers and forest dwellers a forest has the basic economic function of soil and water conservation, energy and food supplies, etc. For industries the same forest has only the function of being a mine of raw materials. These conflicting uses of natural resources, based on their diverse functions, are dialectically related to conflicting perceptions and knowledge about natural resources. The knowledge of forestry developed by forest dwelling communities therefore evolves in response to the economic functions valued by them. In contrast, the knowledge of forestry developed by forest bureaucracies, which respond largely to industrial requirements, will be predominantly guided by the economic value of maximising raw material production. The way nature is perceived is therefore related to the pattern of utilisation of resources. Modern scientific disciplines which provide the currently dominant perspectives of nature have generally been viewed es 'objective', 'neutral' and 'universally valid'. These disciplines are, however, particular responses to particular economic interests. This economic determination influences the content and structure of knowledge about natural resources which, in turn, reinforces particular forms of resource utilisation The economic and political values of resource use are thus built into the structure of natural science knowledge.
Partisan science versus public interest science
When the dominant resource use is guided by vested interests or special interest objectives, it generates a partisan science which tends to be reductionist in character. Two central assumptions underlie this reductionist perception of nature: (a) natural resources are isolated and non-interacting collections of individual resources, and (b) natural resources acquire economic value only when commercially exploited.
This approach to nature is reductionist on two counts. First, it reduces nature to its constituent parts, and takes no cognizance of the relationships between the parts, and the structure and functions of the whole system. Second, it reduces economic value to a man-made construct-something which is the product of technology and capital inputs for the market. Nature's work and the work of women or marginal communities which depend on nature s productivity is thus ignored and destroyed.
Partisan science tends to be epistemologically reductionist because maximisation of special, vested interest objectives focuses on single resource functions. Partisan science must be narrowly conceived-it is inherent in its logic to perceive nature in a way that maximises the special interest objective and to be blind to ecological and environmental costs that this perception entails.
Environment movements that emerge as a protest against the violation of public interest through special interest groups must therefore not merely indicate the social and environmental consequences of narrow profit maximisation. A deep and sustained resolution of such conflicts in favour of the larger public interest must be based on the emergence of a different approach to nature in the creation of a public interest science. The characteristics of this public interest science are such that it must be ecological which means: (a) it must be based on the recognition of relationships and interdependence among the various material components of nature; (b) it must be able to see and assess nature's work and assign a value to it; and (c) relatedly, it must be able to locate how nature's processes support survival, not merely profitability.
Ecology provides an epistemological framework within which alternatives to reductionist science and technology are not merely possible, but preferable too, because reductionism fails to provide faithful accounts of nature. This cognitive failure of reductionist sciences stems from the incapability of reductionism to take into account properties that emerge from relationships in nature. In this sense, the ecological foundations of an alternative science and technology differ from philosophies based on epistemological relativism. While epistemological relativism also includes the possibility of alternatives, it denies the existence of materialistic criteria of the rational choice of alternatives. This is the limitation of the Kuhnian model, as well as other models arguing for plurality from a purely sociological or physiological perspective, not from materialist foundations. The ecological foundations for an alternative science and technology provide a materialist epistemology for evaluating the rationality of knowledge claims on the basis of their materialist adequacy in guiding action in the real and complex world. The rejection of the reductionist interpretation of materialism need not amount to an adoption of a materially vacuous philosophical position. The ecological perspective provides such a materialist alternative to reductionism. The distinction between reductionist materialism and ecology is the difference between mechanical materialism and dialectical materialism repeatedly articulated by Marx. Engels's analysis of this distinction in his critique of Duhring reads exactly like a contemporary ecological critique of reductionist science.
The analysis of nature into its constituent parts were the funda mental conditions for the gigantic strides made in our knowledge of nature during the last four hundred years. But this method of investigation has also left us a legacy of the habit of observing natural objects and natural processes in their isolation, detached from the vast interconnection of things, and therefore not in their motion, but in their repose, not as essentially changing, but as fixed constants, not in their life but in their death, in contemplating their existence it forgets their coming into being and passing away, in looking at them at rest it leaves their motion out of account because it cannot see the wood for the trees. Dialectics grasps things and their concatenation, their motion, their coming into being and passing out of existence.
In a world where relationships are an actuality, the denial of such relationships and the multidimensional properties they give rise to, has created a reductionist world view and knowledge system which is inadequate in functioning in the real world. The materialist criteria provided by ecology allow for the perception of such a failure of knowledge systems through the ecological instabilities induced by them. Reductionist knowledge leads to unreliable claims about natural systems and processes on the basis of the ecological criteria of.materialist adequacy. The cognitive failure of reductionism is due to the fact that reductionist science has created ecological instabilities which in turn threaten survival. In a materialist epistemology, systems of knowledge are simultaneously systems of action. Reductionist science leads to the human transformation of nature which is successful in creating artefacts and generating exchange value, but which fails to maintain the essential life-support systems on which human survival depends. Reductionism is not an epistemological accident. It is a particular response to an economic need of a particular form of economic organization. The reductionist world view, the industrial revolution and capitalist organisation are the philosophical, technological and economic components of the same process. Economic growth, the achievement of this economic organisation, is materially based on externalizing the real costs of production, and on commercialising hitherto common resources to provide inputs to the production process. This entails a large withdrawal of industrial resources from the ecosystem in accordance with the demands of the market, not in accordance with the renewal capacity of resources or the needs of the people. Since it is the individual resource which generates exchange value through extraction, scientific knowledge of natural resources which is created as a response to this economic system must necessarily be reductionist. Properties of resources which stabilise ecological processes but are commercially valueless because they cannot be exchanged in the market place are ignored, and eventually destroyed. Profits and commercial exploitation shape the context in which properties of the natural systems will be perceived and known.
Scientific knowledge is not universal, objective and neutral as it is posited to be. It is always a particular response to a particular interest. When the interest is the commercial utilisation of resources for maximising exchange value, the type of knowledge system that is created is reductionist. Internalisation of profits and externalisation of costs is a normal consequence when nature is treated as if its individual components are isolated and unrelated, and the only components with economic value are those that can be transformed into commodities. The basic terms, concepts and definitions have built into them the economic values of the interest to which the knowledge is a response. In contrast, when the interest is sustainable livelihood of the people and the satisfaction of basic needs, ecological knowledge is the response.
Ecology as a public interest science is central to a just resolution of environmental conflicts in the contemporary setting because it is science and not politics that is used as the explicit justification and legitimisation of destruction, in the name of progress. 'Science' is used as a final arbiter in all resource conflicts. The term 'scientific' is viewed as synonymous to public interest. However, since dominant science is partisan, decisions based on it will serve the special interest groups. Public interest science is a tool which makes explicit the political nature of partisan science and makes it a factor located within environmental conflicts, not a source of independent and neutral judgements about conflicts. Public interest science, however, does not merely have a critical role in the politics of knowledge and politics of the environment. It also has a constructive role in generating new paradigms of science and development based on ecological principles which ensure sustainability and justice.
Probably the exemplar of public interest science is Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) which exposed the destruction caused by the use of poisons in pest control and laid the foundation for alternative non-chemical means of control. It was public interest science
Introduction because in substance it was ecological, and in form it was different from the work of entomologists which while being critical of pesticides had remained confined to debates among entomologists and had failed to inform public debate and public policy. Silent Spring as public interest science, as a technical critique of dominant partisan science supporting pesticides, helped the growth of the environment movement since the sixties. It strengthened the movement because while exposing the cognitive weakness of partisan entomology it gave congnitive strength to ecological pest control and to the right of the individual citizen not to be poisoned by another person's pesticides. Knowledge is power, and environment movements need the cognitive power derived from public interest science. The Narmada groups have shown how this power can be used to control powerful agencies like the World Bank. Doctors in the voluntary sector working in Bhopal have shown the power of public interest science in the rehabilitation and relief provided to the victims of the gas tragedy.
Ecological Audit: Towards Ecological Criteria for Technology Assessment
The resource-intensive nature of new technologies and the lack of recognition of the renewability of natural resources are, thus, at the root of the contemporary ecological crises. Ecological development as opposed to short-term economic growth, has to be based on a technological choice for the most productive means of sustainable resource utilisation This process of technological choice through the assessment of the material costs and benefits of an economic activity constitutes an ecological audit.
It differs from the conventional benefit-cost analysis in two ways. First, it evaluates benefits and costs in material terms and not in narrow financial terms based on market factors. Second, since the ecosystems perspective recognises that resources may play multifunctional roles and can have conflicting utilities. an ecological audit also takes into account which social groups and sectors will gain and which will lose materially as a result of a particular utilisation of a resource. An ecological audit also differs fundamentally from environmental impact assessments carried out in a reductionist paradigm, which does take the environment into account but merely as a bundle of fragmented and unrelated resources, as a set and not a system of resources. Such a fragmentary approach to the environment fails to assign economic values to essential ecological processes which arise from resource linkages and which it is incapable of perceiving. This fragmentary view has led to the impression of conservation being anti development and ecology being a luxury. Piecemeal environmental solutions provided by such a fragmentary approach are incapable of offering a lasting solution to the problems of natural resource utilisation and ecological crisis. Ecological audit is, therefore, the only scientifically adequate and socially just basis for the planning and assessment of the total environmental impact of a particular economic activity.
The information for an ecological audit is provided by the ecological sciences (Figure 1.3). Contrary to the common misunderstanding that ecological concern is opposed to scientific and technological advancement, an ecological audit challenges sciences and these challenges are far greater than the ones presented by modern strategies of economic development. The economic objectives of ecological development being:
The scientific and technological challenges posed by ecological development may be classified as follows:
These objectives pose problems to science which are more diverse and complex in nature than those posed by sectoral growth. The methodology of scientific and technical research for ecological development accordingly, will have to be geared to this diversity and variation. At one level it will mean interdisciplinary knowledge generation without any loss in the level of sophistication and systematisation. At another level it will imply learning from the wisdom of the people who are closest to nature and who are custodians of our ecological heritage-farmers, the traditional fisherfolk, tribal people, etc.-and decanting it as public interest science, which, together with an expert knowledge of the discipline will form the knowledge base for ecological development and utilisation of natural resources as shown in Figure 1.3.
Ecological sciences are providing a new paradigm in which the criteria of scientificity of modern science will not be strictly applicable due to its fragmented nature. Technologies will have to be evaluated in the background of not only one part of the chain of process from natural resources to the final product, but the entire technological chain. At the same time, appropriateness of technologies may not necessarily and blindly be associated with the lack of systematization that is normally associated with modern western science.
People's involvement in the evolution of ecological sciences is imperative on two counts. First, the marginalised majority have a right to determine their path of development. Second, it is the marginalised communities who retain ecological perceptions of nature at a time when the more privileged groups have lost them. Forestry science needed women of Garhwal and tribal people to remind it that catchment forests were not mines of timber but a source of water. Scientists, technologists and decision-makers need to develop a new respect for these other sciences and scientists. In the recognition of their insights, visions and day to day experiences lies the only hope for the growth of alternate ecological sciences and hence, the survival of people.
As the cases in the following chapters show, ecological perceptions of nature have been presented from outside the reductionist partisan expertise. They have emerged from the ecological perspective of the people whose survival depends on those ecological functions of natural resources which reductionist and vested interests have ignored. The evolution of ecological knowledge in general, will depend on people's actions and movements because reductionist expertise is epistemologically and politically constrained from evolving into a non-reductionist framework. According to Feyeraband, this dynamics of the evolution of knowledge from an expert dominated to a people dominated process is the only route to a free society:
In a free society intellectuals are just one tradition. They have no special right and their views are of no special interest (except, of course, to themselves). Problems are solved not by specialists (though their advice will not be disregarded) but by the people concerned, in accordance with the ideas they value and by the procedures they regard as most appropriate... This is how the efforts of special groups combining flexibility and respect for all traditions will gradually erode the narrow and self-servicing rationalism of those who are now using tax money to destroy the traditions of the tax payers, to ruin their minds, rape their environment and quite generally turn living human beings into well trained slaves of their own barren vision of life
The evolution of public interest-oriented ecological knowledge is, however, likely to be opposed by the reductionist partisan expertise because this 'threatens their role in society just as the enlightenment once threatened the existence of priests and theologians'.
The evolution of the ecological, sustainable and equitable utilisation of natural resources in an alternative development strategy will also, quite obviously, be opposed by the vested interests who benefit from the existing reductionist, unsustainable and inequitable utilisation pattern.
This process has already been initiated in countries like India. At one level, people's attempts at redefining development through sustainability and justice are resisted by the introduction of a false dichotomy between 'development' and 'ecology', which conceals the real dichotomy between ecological development and unsustainable economic growth. At another level, the resistance is a consequence of the rejection of peoples perception of ecological destruction as 'unscientific', 'unproved' and 'unverified'. These attempts of experts and vested interests will work against human knowledge and public interest science, and fin turn against the possibilities of human survival.
The growing conflict between the profitability imperative and the survival imperative will lead to the emergence of a politics of knowledge. It is in this sense that ecology as the foundation of an alternative public interest science and technology converges with ecology as a foundation for the politics of survival of the people.
Alternative science and technology are not utopian dreams to be kept frozen for some post-revolutionary era. As public interest science, they are emerging here and now, as an essential part of the struggle for life through the politics of ecology.