Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Remembering Gandhi

Today is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's one hundred and fortieth birth anniversary. Gandhi has much to say to us in the fight against global warming and climate change. His basic dictum that "the earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed" has become even more relevant today than it was in his time. His suggestion that self sufficient village republics should be the primary focus of human development, though difficult to actualise today, gives some pointers towards how agriculture at least should be organised. Mechanised and chemical agriculture has become a liability at present as described in detail in the earlier post yesterday and so an alternative has to be sought. This alternative involves a combination of forest, soil and moisture conservation work with bio-diverse organic agriculture. Such an alternative can succeed only if it is practised by small communities by pooling in their human and natural resources. A sustainable internal input agriculture on these lines is more energy efficient and also results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than modern external input agriculture. A schematic diagram of sustainable agriculture is shown in the figure below.

Research has shown that organic arable production is about 35% more energy efficient, and organic dairy production about 74% more efficient per unit of output than non-organic production. Organic farming, by definition, prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizer, using instead a limited amount per hectare of organic matter and knowledge of soil biology. Since the pH of the soil is not disrupted by organic farming techniques, the use of energy–intensive lime is also minimal or non-existent; again contributing to lower CH4 and CO2 emissions compared to modern external input farming techniques. The use of organic matter also increases carbon content in the soil, storing up to 75 kgs of carbon per hectare per year. Organic farming uses nitrogen-fixing plants as cover crops and during crop rotation, which help to fix nitrogen in the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. And finally, organic farming techniques maintain soil micro-organisms and so help in oxidizing atmospheric methane. The combined effect of all the different benefits of organic farming produces a Global Warming Potential of 36% that of modern external input farming.
Simultaneously this sustainable system being labour intensive and respectful of nature will take care of the problems of livelihood creation and conservation of natural resources and create an “economy of permanence” as outlined by the Gandhian environmental economist J. C. Kumarappa . This system respects both nature and the human being and prioritises leisurely decentralised communitarian living based on the collective local consumption and husbanding of renewable resources over the frenetic non-renewable resource guzzling pulls of globalised market led modern agriculture. Worldwide there is a burgeoning movement in ecological farming combined with local area watershed development that has come up as a reaction to the deleterious effects of modern agriculture. This movement is theoretically underpinned by the green ideology of development in harmony with nature and at its own leisurely pace. Many localised efforts have thrown up viable solutions to the intransigent problems created by unsustainable agricultural production. In the western Madhya Pradesh region too there have been successful localised experiments in this sphere for the development of sustainable dry-land agriculture backed up by local area watershed development involving the poor in project formulation and implementation by various NGOs like Samaj Pragati Sahayog, Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and Sampark and also government institutions like the Wheat Research Station of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Indore. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has initiated a small people's movement in this direction. There are also many efforts being made by individual farmers to tackle the problem of unsustainability of modern agriculture and they are making innovative switches to sustainability on their own. What is needed now is an overarching mass movement to give direction to research, action and advocacy for the establishment of an environmentally, economically and socially just system of agriculture in the region that will simultaneously address the problem of global warming. The schematic diagram of the activities of this movement and the expected outcome is given below.


Renegade Eye said...

I think to effect climate change, you need a democratically planned economy. I'm not sure Ghandi would go along.


Rahul Banerjee said...

The reality is that today we have a highly centralised economic system and that is why I entered the caveat that it would be hard to implement the decentralised village economy that Gandhi had in mind. However, even in a centralised economy functioning under a liberal democratic dispensation the problem of bad planning remains due to what is termed as information asymmetry. That is the lack of information about many things that are crucial for taking decisions. This information asymmetry can be at both ends. The state and central planning commissions may not have the accurate data and at the same time the villages may not have any inkling of what is being planned at the centre. Thus the challenge not only for climate change mitigation but also for sustainable development in general is to ensure proper planning based on correct information. At the moment the stress on industrial development based on heavy use of man made energy is proving to be the biggest obstacle to economic, social and environmental justice. Anarchism in general and Gandhism in the Indian context in particular has something to offer in this regard. Though like in the case of Marxism a great deal of new thinking and practice is necessary in the changed circumstances that prevail now