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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Give Me REDD!

The most popular modus operandi for mitigating climate change at the moment seems to be Cap and Trade - put a legally binding cap on the carbon equivalent emissions that a country will be allowed so as to ensure that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere globally is less than 350 parts per million and allow countries and corporations to trade carbon credits which are equivalent to one tonne of Carbon released into the environment. There are many problems with this arrangement primarily centred around the cap limit to be decided for each country because that will limit energy use and so development and growth and also involve huge investments in research and development of cleaner energy technologies. There is a clear developed and developing country divide here as the latter are saying that the former should bear the costs of having historically pushed up the concentration of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with less efficient technologies in the past. There are also concerns about the transparent working of the Carbon trading markets which even in their incipient forms have been exposed to speculative scamming of the kind that brought down the financial markets in the recent past.
Thus, there is another school of thought that questions the energy intensive path of development that the world is following at the moment. Energy and transport constitute the main contributors of green house gases and most of this is due to the way in which the world economy is organised - raw materials available in one place are transported to another place to be processed and then the finished products are again transported to another place to be sold. A lot of energy is thus wasted in transport. The production itself is done with more energy using machines because the price of energy does not include the cost of the pollution it is causing. Since such production and distribution is necessarily of a centralised nature it leads to huge disparities in the distribution of the wealth created leading to social and political strife and more wasteful expenditures on military hardware and wars. Consequently the argument is made that first an audit should be conducted to see which is the best way to organise production from the point of view of least use of energy, least creation of disparities in assets and income and so least possibilities for conflict while making a decent standard of living possible for all people on earth.
This of course is a very difficult matter as it will involve a radical change in the way business is being done today. In the interim, since some kind of a cap and trade mechanism is what is going to emerge from United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, it is best to explore the possibilities that this offers for putting a communitarian foot into the developmental door. One such opportunity is the United Nations Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries known popularly by the acronym REDD. This envisages transfer of funds to developing countries for reducing deforestation and also in reforesting of already degraded forest lands. Since mostly indigenous people reside in forest areas around the world this then turns the focus on them. Consequently if the funds being transferred to developing countries were to be given directly to these communities then they would benefit greatly by being rewarded justly for their conservation efforts. At the moment however, no such arrangement exists and it is mostly the government agencies or private corporations in the developing countries that are appropriating the funds transferred under REDD.
For instance the men and women of many of the villages of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath have been protecting their forests for over two decades now with exemplary regeneration of forest, soil and water resources as shown in the picture below.

However,apart from the benefits of such conservation that they have gained directly there has not been any reward given to them for the service they have rendered to humanity by sequestering carbon. This is where REDD can be utilised in a big way. There are already laws in place that give the small tribal village community in India control over their natural resources. Thus if a big enough effort is made by tribal communities in this direction then the funds transferred under REDD can be easily be given to these communities for furthering the goal of natural resource conservation and climate change mitigation in the interim till a more just and environmentally sustainable global development system is put in place.

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