Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South

Table of contents :
Cover
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Preface
Introduction
PART l
1 The Environmentalism of the Poor
The Origins of Conflict
Claiming the Commons in Karnataka
A Vocabulary of Protest
Two Kinds of Environmentalism
2 From Political Economy to Political Ecology
Introduction
Marxism and Environmentalism
Distribution, the Discount Rate and Incommensurability
Ecological Distribution Conflicts
International Externalities
3 Poverty and the Environment: a Critique of the Conventional Wisdom
Introduction
Sustainability and Carrying Capacity
Is Poverty a Cause of Environmental Degradation?
Ecology and 'Adjustment' Programmes
Protective Expenditure and Income Levels: Leipert's Law
Ecology and Positional Goods
The Social Ecology of the Poor
Conclusion
4 Towards a Cross-Cultural Environmental Ethic
American Debates on Environmental Ethics
Environmental Philosophies of History
Environmental Philosophies in Two Cultures
Social Ecology or Ecological Socialism?
5 Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: a Third World Critique
Introduction
The Tenets of Deep Ecology
Towards a Critique
A Homily
Postscript: Deep Ecology Revisited
6 The Merchandising of Biodiversity
Introduction
Genetic Erosion
Peasant Struggles to Control Seeds
Agricultural Biodiversity as 'Cultivated Natural Capital'?
'Farmers' Rights'
The INBio-Merck Deal
The Defence of Agroecology Outside the Market
NAFTA: Petroleum and Maize
7 The Failure of Ecological Planning in Barcelona
Introduction
A City for Cars
The Conurbation
The Llobregat Delta
The Ecology of the City
The Paradoxes of 'Modernism'
Corbuserian Monstrosities
PART 2
8 Mahatma Gandhi and the Environmental Movement
Gandhi's Environmental Ethic
Gandhi and Nehru
The Heritage of Gandhi
9 In Memory of Georgescu-Roegen
A Brief Personal Encounter
Ecological Economics and its Precursors
Freedom of Migration
Economic Growth
Externalities and the Discount Rate
Agrarian Economics
Promethean Technologies
10 The Forgotten American Environmentalist
The Influence of Patrick Geddes
Mumford on Modern Technology
The Nineteenth-Century Heroes
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Citation preview

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALEM: ESSAYS NORTH AND SOUTH

RAMACHANDRA GUHA AND J . MARTINEZ-ALIER

E A N I H H publishing for a sustainable future

London • New York

First published in the UK by Earthscan in 1997 Reprinted 2000, 2006 Copyright © Ramachandra Guha and Juan Martinez-Alier, 1997 All rights reserved ISBN-10: 1-85383-329-0 ISBN-13: 978-1-85383-329-8 Typesetting and page design by Carl Inwood Studios Cover design by Andrew Corbett For a full list of publications, please contact Earthscan 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Earthscan 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Earthscan is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

IN MEMORY OF PAUL KURIAN AND E . P. THOMPSON

This page intentionally left blank

CONTENTS Preface Introduction

vii xi

PARTl 1 The Environmentalismof the Poor The Origins of Conflict Claiming the Commonsin Karnataka A Vocabularyof Protest Two Kinds of Environmentalism 2

3

4

5

From Political Economyto Political Ecology Introduction Marxism and Environmentalism Distribution, the DiscountRate and Incommensurability EcologicalDistribution Conflicts InternationalExternalities Povertyand the Environment:a Critique of the ConventionalWisdom Introduction Sustainabilityand Carrying Capacity Is Povertya Causeof EnvironmentalDegradation? Ecology and'Adjustment'Programmes ProtectiveExpenditureand Income Levels: Leipert's Law Ecology and PositionalGoods The Social Ecology of the Poor Conclusion Towardsa Cross-CulturalEnvironmentalEthic AmericanDebateson EnvironmentalEthics EnvironmentalPhilosophiesof History EnvironmentalPhilosophiesin Two Cultures Social Ecology or EcologicalSocialism? Radical American Environmentalismand Wilderness Preservation:a Third World Critique Introduction The Tenetsof Deep Ecology Towardsa Critique A Homily Postscript:Deep Ecology Revisited

3 3

6 11

16 22 22

23 27 31 36 46 46 47 59 65

68 69 72 75 77 77 79 85

90 92 92

93 94

101 102

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

6 The Merchandisingof Biodiversity Introduction GeneticErosion PeasantStrugglesto Control Seeds Agricultural Biodiversity as 'Cultivated Natural Capital'? 'Farmers'Rights' The INBio-Merck Deal The Defenceof AgroecologyOutsidethe Market NAFTA: Petroleumand Maize

7 The Failure of Ecological Planningin Barcelona Introduction A City for Cars The Conurbation The LlobregatDelta The Ecology of the City The Paradoxesof 'Modernism' CorbuserianMonstrosities

109 109 111 113 115 117 119 120 124 128 128 130 132 136 138 141 146

PART 2

8 MahatmaGandhi and the EnvironmentalMovement Gandhi'sEnvironmentalEthic Gandhiand Nehru The Heritageof Gandhi

9 In Memory of Georgescu-Roegen A Brief PersonalEncounter EcologicalEconomicsand its Precursors Freedomof Migration EconomicGrowth Externalitiesand the DiscountRate Agrarian Economics PrometheanTechnologies

10 The ForgottenAmerican Environmentalist

153 155 161 166 169 169 171 174 175 176 177 182

The Influence of Patrick Geddes Mumford on Modern Technology The Nineteenth-CenturyHeroes Conclusion

185 186 192 196 199

Notes Index

203 225

vi

PREFACE

Although the essaysit containswerewritten in the last few years,this book draws upon interests and activities that go back almost two decades. Varieties of Environmentalismelaboratesin detail ideas first tentatively put forward in Martinez-Alier's history of ecological economics,publishedin 1987, and in Guha'shistory of the Chipko movement,publishedtwo years later. Those books each ended by noting the differences between environmentalismin First and Third World contexts.That contrastbecame one focus of our subsequentresearch,the resultsof which are presented here.* Over the years we have discussedvarietiesof environmentalismwith many colleagues, among them Bina Agarwal, Tariq Banuri, Frank Beckenbach,Mike Bell, Peter Brimblecombe, Bill Burch, Fred Buttel, Madhav Gadgil, Enrique Leff, JamesO'Connor, Martin O'Connor, Paul Richards,Joel Seton, LoriAnn Thrupp, Victor Toledo, StefanoVareseand Donald Worster. Thesecolleagueshave pursuedfor a long time - 20 years in some cases- lines of researchparallel to our own. The notion of an 'environmentalismof the poor' developedin this book will not be a novelty to them. An especial word of thanks is owed to the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), whose Joint Committee on Latin American Studies conveneda seriesof meetingson the environmentalismof the poor. Several of the ideas put forward here were first discussedat those meetingsin Oxford, New York and New Delhi. At the SSRC, Enrique Mayer and Lawrence Whitehead, both members of the Joint Committee, and Eric Hershberg,ProgrammeOfficer, gave strongsupportto our work. The authorsof this book met in August1988,whenMartinez-Alier came to India at the invitation of Paul Kurian, an economistand social activist then with the Institute for Cultural Researchand Action in Bangalore.Paul Kurian, who died tragically in 1993, not yet 40, had a wide range of intellectual and political interests. A student of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University in its halcyon years (the early 1970s), he later worked with a pioneering trade union, the ChattisgarhMines Shramik Samiti; wrote scholarly essayson Solidarity in Poland; and lived for a time in Sandinista-ruledNicaragua. He then developed a keen interest in ecological economics,and was at work on a doctoratein the field at the * Chapters1,4,5,8and 10 have beenauthoredby RG; chapters2,3,6,7and 9 are by JMA.

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

time of his death. We dedicatethis book to India's Paul Kurian and to England'sEdward PalmerThompson,anotherfriend who is no longerwith us. E. P. Thompson is, of course,one of the most influential historiansof our time, but it is not so well known that he had an abiding interestin the environment.Signsof this interest appear,indirectly, in his biography of that great early 'redgreen' thinker, William Morris, and in his involvement in the peace movement.It was also expressedmore directly in personalconversation and in some of his later writings; as for instance his book Customs in Common (1991), which refers to 18th century peasant protesters as 'prematureGreens', and to John Clare as one who 'may be described, without hindsight,as a poet of ecologicalprotest'.Two yearslater, in what was very likely the last review he wrote, of a book on Indian environmental history, Thompsonwonderedwhy 'so much ecologicalwriting shouldbe so deeply depressing'.He noted that 'despiteall exploitation and abuse,that vast areaof fissuredland, from the Himalaya to the tip of the peninsula,is so rich still in so many resourcesand speciesthat one wondersif one might be permitteda glimmer of utopianencouragement.' Full of optimism until the end, and with not just the Indian sub-continentin mind, he asked, 'Might the downwarddrift not yet be turned around?' In rememberingPaul Kurian and E. P. Thompsonwe invoke not so much personalfriendships as a wider socialist tradition of thought and hope,a tradition that needsto be renewedand revitalisedfor the future. In 1991,shortly after the collapseof the SovietUnion, a group of distinguished Marxist scholarspublished,under the auspicesof a distinguishedMarxist press,a volume of essayswith the gloomy title After the Fall. The authorsof the presentbook, however, felt no senseof failure at the happeningsin easternEurope;on the contrary,we felt a senseof relief, at being able to go back, in a spirit of fraternity and open-ness,to alternativetraditionsof leftwing thoughtcrushedby some70 yearsof Marxist and (especially)Leninist arrogance.Before Bolshevismbecamethe Big Brother on the Left, traditions of anarchism,syndicalism,and peasantpopulism - to name only threeexisted on more or less equal terms with it. An ecological politics for the next centurymust,we believe,build on the insightsof these'other'varieties of socialism in their pristine 19th century forms and as they have been elaboratedby an array of 20th century thinkers, some of whom are duly honouredin thesepages. This book is in the first instance a work of comparative history, an account and analysis, over time and across societies,of the varieties of environmentalismthat we understand to be characteristic of the modern world. But we must also own up to another and not always hidden agenda: the bringing into dialogue of socialism and environmentalism, two radical traditions that have tended

viii

PREFACE

to talk pastrather than talk to eachother. RamachandraGuha and Juan Martinez-Alier Bangaloreand Barcelona November1996

ix

This page intentionally left blank

INTRODUCTION

In the winter of 1925-6, the English writer Aldous Huxley embarkedwith his wife on a six month tour of Asia, his first sojourn outside Europe. Landing in Bombay,they cut a wide swathethroughthe sub-continent:the northern Himalaya, the Rajasthan desert, the towns of Benares and Lucknow in the Indo-GangeticPlain and the colonial city of Calcutta.From India the couple proceededto Burma, then on to Malaya, Java and the Philippines.Leavingthe tropics behindthem,the Huxleys spenta few days in Japanbefore returninghome in June1926. Like other English writers of his generation,Huxley went abroadonly to write about it. He publisheda diary of his Indian travels, Jesting Pilate, that enragedhis hosts for its negative portrayal of Indian music, Indian architectureand Indian religion. The book arousedintensefeelings at the time, not least for its dismissal of the Taj Mahal ('Marble', Huxley said, 'concealsa multitude of sins'). But Jesting Pilate was not the only literary work that resultedfrom his travels. Huxley also wrote an essaywith the intriguing title 'Wordsworth in the Tropics', an essaythat attractedlittle attentionwhen it was published,and appearsto be wholly forgotten now.! But so far as we can tell, it was the first published contribution to the comparativestudyof environmentalism,which is why we resurrectit here. 'Wordsworthin the Tropics'exhibitsthe easyconfidenceof onewho has just enlargedhis own range of experience.Huxley deems it a pity that Wordsworth himself 'never travelled beyond the boundariesof Europe'. For a 'voyagethroughthe tropics would havecuredhim of his too easyand comfortablepantheism.A few monthsin the jungle would have convinced him that the diversity and utter strangeness of natureare at leastas real and significant as its intellectually discoveredunity. The 'Wordsworthianwho exportshis pantheisticworship of Nature to the tropics', claims Huxley, 'is liable to havehis religious convictionssomewhatrudely disturbed.' In Huxley's view, the appreciation and love of nature could only flourish in benign temperateecologies:it could scarcelybe exportedto the dark, forbidding and (to Europeans,at any rate) dangeroustropics. The worship of Nature came easily, almost naturally, to those who lived 'beneatha temperatesky and in the age of Henry Ford'. But this adoration was possible only 'in a country where Nature has been nearly or quite enslavedto man'. For 'Nature,under a vertical sun, and nourishedby the equatorialrains, is not at all like the chaste,mild deity who presidesover

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

the... prettiness,the cosy sublimitiesof the Lake District'. It 'is easyto love a feeble and already conqueredenemy', remarks Huxley, but 'an enemy with whom one is still at war, an unconquered,unconquerable,ceaselessly active enemy- no; one doesnot, one should not, love him'. For despiteits beauty, the tropical forest was terrifying and sinister, its 'vast massesof swarmingvegetationalien to the humanspirit and hostile to if.2 Two years after Huxley's essay appeared, another British intellectual-aristocratoffered a somewhatdifferent interpretationof why, and how, the love of Naturecameto be a cultural force in the modernWest. This was the CambridgescholarG. M. Trevelyan,whosecontributionto the environmentaldebate3 is as little rememberedtoday as is 'Wordsworthin the Tropics'. By training a social historian, Trevelyan located the wellsprings of Nature-love not in a distinctive and benign ecology but within secular changesin economicand sociallife. What is for the writer an incidentaland throwawaycomment('the age of Henry Ford') becomesfor the scholarthe central explanatoryvariable. The 'love of nature in its most natural and unadulteratedform', notes Trevelyan, 'has grown pari passu with the Industrial Revolution. James Watt and George Stephenson were contemporariesof Rousseauand Wordsworth, and the two movements havegoneon sideby side ever since,eachprogressingwith equalrapidity'. One movementfurthered the appreciationand understandingof natural beauty; the other movement intensified the rate at which Nature was destroyed. As Trevelyan perceptively remarks: 'No doubt it is partly becausethe destructionis so rapid that the appreciationis so loud'. This sense of nostalgia was heightened by the conditions of city life, the conditionnow of the vastmajority of English people.Their separationfrom the natural world, enforcedby urban living, fostereda yearning to return periodically and for short spurtsto Nature - 'and for that reason,if for no other,the real countrymustbe preservedin sufficient quantityto satisfythe soul'sthirst of the town dweller'. Illustrative herewas the changein English perceptionsof the Alps and the Scottish Highlands; once regardedas hostile they were, by the time Trevelyan wrote, the epitome of what was wild and, therefore,beautiful. This changein attitude towards mountainscenery,observesthe historian, 'is almost identical in time and progresswith the march of the industrial revolution, and has, I think, a certain causal connectionwith it'. In his explanation,the Modern aesthetic taste for mountain form, is connected with a moral and intellectual change, that differentiates modern civilized man from civilized man in all previous ages. I think that he now feels the desire and need for the wildness and greatness of untamed, aboriginal nature, which his predecessors did not feel. One

xii

INTRODUCTION

causeof this changeis the victory that civilized man has now attainedover nature through science,machinery and organization,a victory so complete that he is denaturalizingthe lowland landscape.He is therefore constrainedto seek nature in her still unconqueredcitadels,the mountains:

Huxley and Trevelyan were both spokesmenfor the progressive and privileged intelligentsia of England.At this time, natureappreciationwas restrictedby andlarge to writers and professionalsof the upperclasses,and was not the massphenomenonit subsequentlybecame.With hindsight,the historian'sinterpretationseemsto haveworn betterthan the novelist's.The diversity and 'utter strangeness' of naturein the tropics, which Huxley felt would put off Western nature lovers, is indeed what is increasingly attractingthem to it. Westernman, having denaturalisedhis lowlands and his mountains,can find aboriginal nature only in the rainforests of the Amazonor of Borneo,with their astonishingdiversity of animal,insectand plant life, all of which seemnow so appealingto him. Savingthe rainforest, those 'vast massesof swarmingvegetation',is, with the possibleexception only of savingthe whale, the greatenvironmentalcauseof our times. Even if most nature lovers come no closer to the rainforest than watching a television programmeset there, the readinesswith which they part with cashto saveit testifiesto a spirit of kinship with - not, as Huxley supposed, hostility to - the tropical forest. In contrast,Trevelyan anticipates,in severalcrucial respects,the core argumentsof historiansof modern environmentalism.From the 1960s,as the movementfor environmentalprotection acquired deep roots in one industrialised country after another, a series of writers offered interpretationswhich, albeit unknowingly, took as their point of departure the Trevelyanthesisthat rapid industrialisationand urbanizationlead both to a separationfrom nature and to a greater and self-consciousmove to protectand identify with it. In 1963, the year after RachelCarsonpublished her landmark book, Silent Spring, one historian commented upon the 'paradoxicalability' of the Americanpeople'to devastatethe naturalworld and at the sametime to mourn its passing.'s This has been, in fact, an ability widely shared across the North. ConsiderSweden,a wealthy industrial nation of some 8.5 million people, 600,000of whom have country cottagesand even more own leisure boats. In their working life these people are caught up in 'the landscapeof industrial production', ruled by 'rationality, calculation, profit and effectiveness',escaping only on holidays and weekends to 'another landscape of recreation, contemplation, and romance'. Two Swedish anthropologistspresent- should one say (re)present?- in their formal languagethe conclusionsthat the Cambridgehistorian arrived at half a centuryearlier. 'It is the alienationfrom the naturalworld', they write, 'that

xiii

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

is a prerequisitefor the new sentimentalattachmentto it. Naturemust first becomeexotic in order to becomenatural.'6 The Trevelyanthesismight also be viewed as a precursorof the theory of 'post-materialism'which, by the late 1970s,was to acquire hegemonic status in the literature on the environmental movement. The political scientist Ronald Inglehart, who coined the term, argued that rapid economicgrowth since World War 11 had, through the creation of a mass consumersociety,led to the satisfactionof materialneedsand expectations for the vast majority of the population.7 Opinion polls now showed an increasingdesirefor 'post-materialist'pursuits,such as the enjoymentof a beautiful and clean environment. The growing popular interestin nature was not so much a rejection of the modernworld as a properfulfilment of it. As a British journalist crisply put it, 'when everyone turns environmental, prosperity has truly arrived. Greennessis the ultimate luxury of the consumersociety'.B The theory of post-materialism,or Trevelyanupdated,providesa clear and in many respectspersuasiveexplanation for the developmentand popularity of the environmentalmovementin the North. What resonance doesit haveoutside?Although Inglehartand Trevelyanwereboth silent on this question,it appearsthat the postmaterialistframework doesnot allow for the expressionof environmentalconcernin the less developedworld. For example, the influential Anglo-American journal World Development invites paperswhich study 'the implicationsfor the developmentefforts of the Third World of Western concernsfor the environment',meaning, of course,that the Third World itself has none." Likewise, in February1986 a left-wing columnist wrote in the New Statesman that ecology movements 'are or seemluxuries affordableonly in societieswhich have a high degree of control over the natural environment;equally, they are only necessaryin those societies'.'DLater the same year, an editorial in the New York Times deplored the hostility to technology displayed by the sentimentalcult of nature among some American environmentalists,cautioning against its export overseas.'To African villagers or Asian peasants',it remarked, 'nature is not a friend but a hostile force to be propitiated. Salvation [for them] lies not in organic gardening but in fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides,indeedthe very stuff producedat [the Union Carbideplant in] Bhopal', the accident in which had given renewed strength to the opponentsof moderntechnology." The implication is that the poor are not greeneither becausethey lack awareness(with no taste for environmentalamenities when faced with more immediatenecessities),or becausethey havenot enoughmoney(yet) to invest in the environment,or both reasonstogether.One also notices a beguiling linearity in these formulations. Indeed, some commentators argue that on the environmentalas much as the economicfront, the more

xiv

INTRODUCTION

developedcountry shows the less developedone the image of its future. 'The Third World', claims the ExecutiveDirector of the Sierra Club, 'looks uponhavinga systemof nationalparksandprotectedareasas an indication of the country's level of development'.12 The expression of environmentalismherebecomesa mark of acceptanceinto the club of rich nations,a sheddingof the embarrassingeuphemism'less developed'for a label ('developed')which can be worn with honour. When, in the early 1990s, a wave of environmental protests rocked South Korea, Western commentatorsviewed this as the 'inevitable' consequenceof growing affluence,the sign that Korea was now 'waking up to the environment'.13 Wisdom may be deemedconventionalwhen it unitesideologuesof the left and right, scholars as well as journalists. The views quoted above, excerptedfrom the British and Americanpress,find strongconfirmationin more academicappraisalsof the origins of environmentalconcern.Writing with the magisterialair that seemsto come naturally to economists,Lester Thurow claims that 'If you look at the countries that are interestedin environmentalism,or at the individuals who support environmentalism within eachcountry, one is struckby the extentto which environmentalism is an interestof the upper middle class. Poor countries and poor individuals simplyaren't interested'.14EvenEric Hobsbawm,that mostlearnedof modern historians,himself a pioneerin the study of social protest,suggestsin his recenthistory of the 20th centurythat It is no accident that the main support for ecological policies comes from the rich countries and from the comfortable rich and middle classes (except for businessmen who hope to make money by polluting activity). The poor, multiplying and under-employed, wanted more 'development', not less."

EXAMPLES OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICT

Project Tiger The Chenchusare a communityof huntersand gatherersliving in the hills and forests of the Krishna basin in the southernIndian state of Andhra Pradesh.In the early decadesof this century their forests were taken over by the state(the princely stateof Hyderabad);the new rulers of the forest, the Nizam'sForestDepartment,sharply restrictedChenchuaccessto fruit, food and game.l6 More recently, parts of the Chenchuhabitat have been constitutedas a tiger reserveunder Project Tiger, India's most ambitious conservation programme. This has meant more restriction on the movementof Chenchusand on their accessto forest produce.The problem,

xv

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

as the Chenchusseeit, is that 'they have to pay for the protectionof tigers while no one paysfor the conservationof their communities'.As one tribal told a visitor from the statecapital, 'If you love tigers so much, why don't you shift all of them to Hyderabadand declarethat city a tiger reserve?'17

The Siberian Programme Several thousand miles to the north, on the Siberian coast, a joint Russian-Americanprogrammewas lauched three years ago to save the endangeredSiberiantiger, a specieseven more vulnerable,at an estimated 200 to 250 animals,than its Indian cousin,which numbersin excessof 2000. Ecologists from around the world now descendupon a region suddenly madeaccessibleafter decadesof isolation, much 'to the bemusementof the 5,000 locals who believe their own suffering is more importantthan that of the tiger'. The project is underthreatfrom local huntersand fisherfolk who wonderwhy no onemakesa fuss abouttheir predicament.For the condition of the Russian economy is appalling, and there are few sources of employmentor income- one of which is the poachingof the said tiger. This can yield upwardsof U.5. $5,000 in tiger skin and bones(usedin Chinese medicine).18

The GalapagosIslands Theseislands off the coastof Ecuadorhave a unique place in the natural history of the globe becauseof CharlesDarwin and the giant tortoiseshe studiedthere. The conservationprogrammeson the islands are funded in large part by an internationalfoundation,namedafter Darwin. As much as 97percentof the Galapagosarchipelagoenjoysthe statusof a nationalpark. There is too a Charles Darwin ResearchStation, manned by Northern scientists.A 'corps of dedicatedconservationistsis fighting for the longterm preservationof the islands', but they face increasinghostility from local residents.Fisherfolk are bitter about the ban on catchinglobstersand on sharkfishing: moreover,the meatof the protectedtortoise forms part of the islanders'diet. In October 1993 the fishermenburnt in processionan effigy of a leader of the Darwin Foundation; the following April some islandersorganiseda raid on a colony of tortoises,killing 31 of them and leaving anotherseriouslyinjured. The scientistsat the Darwin station first wantedto fly out a veterinarianfrom the University of Florida to treat the injured animal, but then decidedto fly it to the United States'apparently becausethey fearedthat Galapagosresidentswould rise up in angerif the tortoisewere treatedat a local clinic built for humans'.Fifteen monthslater the conflict had shifted to anotherprotectedspecies.On January1995, a group of pepineros(sea-cucumber fishermen)marchedon and seizedcontrol

xvi

INTRODUCTION

both of the Darwin researchstationand the headquartersof the Galapagos National Park in PuertoAyora, on the island of SantaCruz. Masked and armedwith clubs and machettes,the pepineros demandedthat the ban on fishing sea-cucumbers, imposedin December1994,be lifted forthwith.19 Thesethreecasesare widely separatedin space,yet a commonthreadruns through them. They seem to collectively exemplify the post-materialist thesis that the countriesof the South (amongwhom Russia must now be reckoned)are too poor, too narrow-minded,or too relentlesslyfocusedon the short-termto be Green.Sometimes,indeed,this interpretationtakeson the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy,so that it is advancednot only by Northernsociologistsor ecologistsbut by peoplein the South.'It's beautiful to speak of ecology when you have your pockets full of bills', remarks Alberto Granja, a native of the Galapagos,'but what's it worth when you O are dying of hungerP The converseof this thesis, that the South is 'too poor to be Green',is the belief that programmesof environmentalprotectionin the Third World are nothingbut a form of conservationimperialism,a Northernconspiracy to keep the Third World forever underdeveloped.This argument was eloquentlyput forward by the Indian PrimeMinister, at the United Nations Conferenceon the Human Environment,held in Stockholmin June 1972. Mrs Gandhi appearslater to have gone back on this position, but it is still widely held by Third World intellectualsand by somepoliticians too. The Indian cartoonist and columnist Abu Abraham has talked of an 'internationalvestedinterestin blocking the progressof the poorernations, especially if they want to develop their own resources and become economicallyindependent'.And so he deeply suspects'advice that comes from foreign sources.I mistrust the Gandhismand the environmentalism that is often impartedto us from London, Bonn or Washington'.21 This distrust has been expressed rather more forcefully and influentially by the MalaysianPrime Minister, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad. Some years ago, a British schoolboywrote to Dr Mahathir conveying his anguishat the destructionof the rainforestin that country. 'I am ten years old', wrote Darrell Abercrombie,and When I am older I hope to study animals in the tropical rain forests. But if you let the lumber companies carry on there will not be any left. And millions of animals will die. Do you think that it is right just so one rich man gets another million pounds or more. I think it is disgraceful.

And this, in part, is Dr Mahathir'sreply: I hope you will tell the adults who made use of you to learn all the facts. They

xvii

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

should not be too arrogantand think they know how bestto run a country.They should expel all the people living in the British countrysideand allow secondary forests to grow and fill these new forests with wolves and bearsetc. so you can study them before studyingtropical animals.22

Here we find an uncannycongruencebetweenthe Chenchuof the Andhra forest and the MalaysianHead of State. 'Take your tigers to the city', says one, speakingfor his tribe. 'Grow back your forests and bring back the animals you have destroyed',says the other, speakingfor his nation. We can'tafford to be green,say both. Or do they?

OTHER EXAMPLES OF CONFLICT

Introduction of EucalyptusTrees Throughoutthe world, forestry departmentshave accordedthe eucalyptus tree 'most favoured species' status. It grows quickly, has a variety of economicusesas fuel and pulpwood, and requireslittle or no supervision as it is not browsedby goatsor cows. In consequence it has spreadfar and wide outsideits native habitat, becomingunquestionablythe best-known Australianexport,but not the best-loved.Take the tree'sintroductionto the Pakhamdistrict of Thailand,which is closeto the borderwith Kampuchea. In its pursuit of an export-oriented development strategy, the Thai governmenthasencouragedthe productionof wood chips and paperpulp. Quite often, existing deciduous forests are cleared to make way for monoculturesof the Australiantree. In the forestsof Pakhamtheseschemes havethreatenedpeasantswho settledtheseareastowardsthe endof the last century. When the Thai Royal Forestry Departmentgave a contract to a private companyto plant eucalyptustrees,it was immediatelyopposedby the villagers,who said their rice did not grow well nearthis water-guzzling and soil-depletingtree. Led by a Buddhist monk, Phra Prajak Khuttajitto, peasantsprotestedby burning a eucalyptusnurseryin 1988,an act repeated the following year. But theirs was a programmeof destruction and of renewal, for they also collaborated with the monk in a replanting programmeusing local species.23

The Ogoni People In November1995,nine yearsafter insisting that ecologicalconcernwas an exclusivelyNorthernphenomenon,the New York Timeswas forced to front-

xviii

INTRODUCTION

pagethe activities of an African environmentalist.The circumstanceswere tragic, for the man in question,Ken Saro-Wiwa,had just beenexecutedby the military rulers of his country, Nigeria. Saro-Wiwa, a playwright of international renown, had been mobilising his Ogoni people against the destructionof their homelandby oil drilling. The Ogoni live in the delta of the Niger river, wherethe Anglo-DutchcompanyRoyal Shell operatesdeep and vastly profitable oil wells. Starting operationsin 1958,Shell had taken out an estimated900 million barrelsof crudefrom the region. The Nigerian Federal Governmentalso benefited handsomelyfrom these operations, earning revenuesin excessof US$15 billion. As only 1. 5 percentof this money was ploughedback into the oil-bearing areas,the Ogoni remained without jobs, schoolsor hospitals.Thirty-five yearsof drilling had instead led to deathand devastation- 'a blighted countryside,an atmospherefull of ... carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon; a land in which wildlife is unknown; a land of polluted streamsand creeks,a land which is, in every senseof the term, an ecological disaster'. It fell to Saro-Wiwa and his associatesto organisethe Movementfor the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). MOSOP's efforts culminated in a mass meeting on 4 January 1993, when an estimated300,000 men and women marchedin solidarity and protest,holding twigs, their chosenenvironmentalsymbol. Saro-Wiwa then underwentprolongedperiodsof incarcerationbefore being judicially murdered on never-provencharges of abetting the killing of four progovernmentOgoni chiefs.24

The Dutch Environment Aldous Huxley notwithstanding,there have by now been thousandsof Europeantravellersin searchof unspoiledtropical foreststo explore,praise and protect. In a notable and possibly unique reversal of this traffic, the Dutch Alliance for SustainableDevelopmentinvited, in late 1991, four Southernscholarsto write a report on the Dutch environment.A Brazilian anthropologist, an Indian sociologist, a Tanzanian agronomist and an Indonesian activist, two men, two women, spent six weeks in the Netherlands,travelling the country and talking to a cross-sectionof its citizensand public officials. Their investigationsculminatedin a critical but not always cold look at how the Dutch were managingtheir environment. In their'addiction to affluence'- as exemplified in an overrelianceon the motor car, dependenceon the lands and resourcesof other countries,and the high levels of pollution this consumptionengendered- the Dutch were seento be a microcosmof the North as a whole. Posingthe sharpquestion, 'Can Dutch society put limits to itself', the four critics thought the developedpolitical culture offered possibilitiesof self-correction- but only if political action was accompaniedby technical change, individual

xix

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

restraint,and a wider resolveto sharetheir wealthwith the less-advantaged societiesof the South.25 If our previous illustrations 'proved' that environmentalismwas of no concern to the poor, this second set of three cases seems to show the opposite,to wit, the existenceof a clearly articulatedenvironmentalismin the countries of the South. There are, of course, many varieties of environmentalism,and it is one of the objects of this book to show, with referenceto different individuals, communitiesand nations,which variety attracts and which repels. One might broadly say (while reserving the refinementsand qualifications for later chapters)that poor countriesand poor individuals are not interestedin the mereprotectionof wild speciesor natural habitats, but do respond to environmental destruction which directly affects their way of life and prospectsfor survival. For as the Pakhammonk PhraPrajakKhuttajitto points out, 'eventhe Buddhaand his disciples knew the importance of the harmony and interdependence betweenman and nature'.This activist monk saw the eucalyptusproject as symptomatic of a wider process of development in Thailand, one insensitiveto local needsand the environment.The ForestryDepartment, he remarks,is but a 'tool' of outsideprofiteers- it has 'let the forest become destroyedbecauseit was intendedas a reservefor the use of capitalists'. Prajak thus calls 'for a decentralisationof power structures,local and more equitable resource management,and the use of sustainable cultural practicesleading towardsa new self-reliance'.26 Likewise, while Europeansupportersof Ken Saro-Wiwa, such as the British novelist William Boyd, saw his predicamentin termsof the violation of human rights by a brutal and authoritarianregime, the Ogoni leader himself understoodhis struggle to be as much environmentalas it was political. The underlying philosophyof MOSOP, he wrote, is 'ERECTISM, an acronym for Ethnic Autonomy, Resourceand EnvironmentalControl'. Like the Buddhistmonk, Saro-Wiwathe playwright outlined an alternative to the dominantdevelopmentpath which has, as its building blocks, selfreliance,decentralisation,social justice and hence,environmentalintegrity. Finally, the authors of A Vision from the South offer a global perspective consistentwith theselocal ones.By urging the peopleof the North to 'deconsumerise',to 'cut down on their life-style of overproduction and overconsumption',they show how 'sustainability will only come with equity amongnationsand a shift in the West'scherishedassumptionsabout nature, scienceand other peoples'cultural ways'.27 Following these four Southerners,one might respond to the question posed by the editors of World Developmentby asking, in turn: 'What are the implications for the dedevelopment effort of the West of Third World concerns for the environment'?

xx

INTRODUCTION

CONCLUSION This book offers to the conventionalwisdom of Northernsocial sciencean alternative and sometimes oppositional framework for more fully understandingboth the 'full-stomach' environmentalismof the North as well as the 'empty-belly' environmentalismof the South. Varieties of Environmentalism deals, for the most part, with the perceptions and valuationsof nature among subordinatedsocial groups, such as peasants and fisherfolk. The environmentalismsof the poor, we argue, originate in social conflicts over accessto and control over natural resources:conflicts between peasantsand industry over forest produce, for example, or betweenrural and urban populationsover water and energy.Many social conflicts often have an ecological content, with the poor trying to retain undertheir control the naturalresourcesthreatenedby statetakeoveror by the advanceof the generalisedmarket system. This ecological content is then made visible by writers and intellectuals associatedwith such movements.We explore, in different societiesand historical periods, the origins, articulationsand ideologiesof conflicts over nature.In interpreting social conflict against a backdrop of physical deterioration and natural resource crises, we depart from the prevailing tendency to view environmentalismin largely mental terms as a questionof valuesaffirmed or denied,'post-materialist'or 'anti-materialist'.2R The main focus of this book is on environmentalconflicts in SouthAsia and Latin America. We introduce historical and comparativeperspectives into the study of environmentalism,including gender issues, and also analysethe internationalecologicalconflicts that have sharpenedsince the EarthSummitof June1992. Essayson the 'ecologyof affluence',which draw on our researchin Europeand the United States,are includedas well. Thus we place in context some peculiarly North American types of environmentalism,as for instancethe cult of the wilderness,but we also note and comment on the recent upsurge of a quite different type of environmentalismin the United States, the 'Environmental Justice' movement. The book begins with a case study of environmentalconflict in the Indian stateof Karnataka.Chapter2, moving upwardsfrom the local to the national and the global, presentsa framework for understandingwhat we call 'ecologicaldistribution conflicts'. It presentsa detailedclassificationof the varietiesof environmentalismin the modernworld, outlining a research agendatowardsthe fulfilment of which this book takesbut a few, tentative steps.Anticipating the economist'sobjection- 'It may work in practice,but does it work in theory?' - Chapter 3 then takes apart the argument (advancedmostinfluentially in the BrundtlandReportof 1987) that poverty

xxi

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

is a prime causeof environmentaldegradation.We thus establish,in theory as well as in practice,that to be poor is very often a very good reasonto be green. From these 'materialist' analyses we move in Chapter 4, to a comparative study of environmentalideas, understoodgenerically and with referenceto India and the United States.We next turn to North-South conflicts, potential and actual, with a polemic against 'deep ecology' followed by a study of the competing claims over biodiversity of indigenous and peasantcommunities, multinationals, and nation-states. Finally, Chapter7 studiesecological ideas in an urban context (a context neglectedby environmentalistsand by environmentalhistorians);thus Part I, which beganwith an essayof one author'shomestate,endswith a study of the other'shomecity. In Part 11 we rehabilitate three forgotten (or at any rate insufficiently honoured), exemplars whose thought has a surprisingly contemporary ring. To the All-American holy trinity of John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson we offer three other names for inclusion in the environmentalist's pantheon: the Indian spiritualist and politician MahatmaGandhi; the (emigre) RomanianeconomistNicholas GeorgescuRoegen; and the American polymath Lewis Mumford. Our choices are dictatednot so muchby a policy of geographicalcorrectnessas by our own familiarity with thesethinkers, and by our utter conviction that their ideas provide both a deeperunderstandingand a plausibleway out of the global environmentalcrisis. Varieties of Environmentalism rangesover a number of disciplines and regions.One of us is an economistand anthropologistof Latin America and Europe; the other a sociologist and historian of South Asia and North America. Only Africa, of the major continentsof the world, is not covered here. The essaysmove geographicallyfrom Karnatakain southernIndia to the Pacific Rim (mainly California, Ecuador and Peru), via Europe, with visits to the GermanGreensand the Olympic city of Barcelona.Historically, these essayslook back sometimesover 100 years, to the exploitation of guanoin Peru,or the establishmentof huge,state-managed programmesof forest management in British India. Sometimesthey look backevenfurther, to the demographiccollapse in the Americas after 1492. But most of the essaysare contemporary,reachingout to the ongoing struggleagainstthe Narmadadam in central India and the court casebrought by someof the indigenouspeopleof EcuadoragainstTexacoin New York. Diversein their location and in their illustrative examples,theseessays none the lesshave,we believe,a strong thematicunity. They are united by a sharedanalytical aproach,deriving from ecologicalhistory and political economy, and consolidated by several years of close interaction and collaboration. They are united, too, by a shared researchstrategy: the combination of archival and field materials, the focus on conflict, the

xxii

INTRODUCTION

exploration of the ideologies that underpin or justify environmental movementsof the poor and of the rich. Above all, they are united by the urge to see each case comparatively,to set the North by, and sometimes against,the South. We are interested,certainly, in what neo-Wordsworths might say or do in the Tropics, but also in what old Gandhiansmight say and do in the TemperateZone.

xxiii

This page intentionally left blank

PART ONE

This page intentionally left blank

Chapter 1 The Environmentalism of the Poorl The environmentalistsin any area seemedvery easyto identify. They were, quite simply, members of the local aristocracy... The environmental vision is an aristocraticone... It can only be sustainedby peoplewho have never had to worry about security. (US journalistWilliam Tucker, 1977) The first lessonis that the main sourceof environmentaldestructionin the world is the demand for natural resourcesgeneratedby the consumptionof the rich (whether they are rich nations or rich individuals and groups within nations)... The second lesson is that it is the poor who are affected the most by environmentaldestruction. (Indian journalistAnil Agarwal, 1986)

THE ORIGINS OF CONFLICT When India played SouthAfrica in a cricket internationalin Calcutta,the great Indian cricketer, Sunil Gavaskar,was asked by a fellow television commentatorto predict the likely winner. 'I tried to look into my crystal ball,', answeredGavaskar'but it is cloudedup by the Calcuttasmog.' He might well haveadded:'To clear it I then dippedmy crystal ballin the river Hooghly [which flows alongsidethe city's cricket stadium],but it cameup evendirtier thanbefore.' The quality of air and water in Calcuttais representativeof conditions in all Indian cities; small wonder that foreign visitors comeequippedwith masksandbottlesof Perrier.Lessvisible to the tourist, and to urbanIndians themselves, is the continuing environmental degradation in the countryside.Over 100 million hectares,or one-thirdof India'sland area,has beenclassedas unproductivewasteland.Much of this was onceforest and land ground; the rest, farmland destroyedby erosionand salinisation.The uncontrolledexploitationof groundwaterhasled to an alarmingdrop in the

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

water table, in some areasby more than five metres. There is an acute shortageof safe water for drinking and domestic use. As the ecologist JayantaBandyopadhyayhas remarked,water rather than oil will be the liquid whoseavailability (or lack of it) will havea determininginfluenceon India's economicfuture.2 The bare physical facts of the deteriorationof India's environmentare 3 by now well established. But moreseriousstill areits humanconsequences, the chronic shortagesof natural resourcesin the daily life of most Indians. Peasantwomen have to trudge further and further for fuelwood for their hearth. Their menfolk, meanwhile,are digging deeeperand deeperfor a trickle of water to irrigate their fields. Forms of livelihood crucially dependenton the bountyof nature,suchas fishing, sheep-rearingor basketweaving,are being abandonedall over India. Thosewho oncesubsistedon theseoccupationsare joining the band of 'ecologicalrefugees',flocking to the cities in searchof employment.The urban populationitself complains of shortagesof water,power,constructionmaterialand (for industrialunits) of raw material. Such shortagesflow directly from the abuse of the environment in contemporaryIndia, the too rapid exhaustionof the resourcebasewithout a thought to its replenishment.Shortageslead, in turn, to sharp conflicts betweencompetinggroupsof resourceusers.Theseconflicts often pit poor against poor, as when neighbouringvillages fight over a single patch of forest and its produce, or when slum dwellers come to blows over the trickle of water that reachesthem, one hour each day from a solitary municipal tap. Occasionallythey pit rich againstrich, as when the wealthy farmers ofthe adjoining statesof Karnatakaand Tamil Nadu quarrel over the water of the river Kaveri. However, the most dramatic environmental conflicts set rich againstpoor. This, for instance,is the casewith the Sardar Sarovardam on the Narmadariver in central India. The benefitsfrom this projectwill flow primarily to alreadypamperedandprosperousareasof the stateof Gujarat,while the costswill be disproportionatelyborneby poorer peasantsand tribal communitiesin the upstreamstatesof MadhyaPradesh and Maharashtra.Theselatter groups,who are to be displacedby the dam, are being organisedby the NarmadaBachaoAndolan (Save the Narmada Movement), which is indisputably the most significant environmental initiative in India today. The 'Indian environmentalmovement'is an umbrella term that covers a multitude of these local conflicts, initiatives and struggles. The movement'sorigins canbe datedto the Chipko movement,which startedin the GarhwalHimalayain April 1973. Between1973 and 1980, over a dozen instanceswere recordedwhere,throughan innovativetechniqueof protest, illiterate peasants- men, women and children - threatenedto hug forest treesrather than allow them to be logged for export. Notably, the peasants

4

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

were not interestedin saving the treesper se, but in using their producefor agricultural and household requirements.In later years, however, the movementturned its attention to broaderecologicalconcerns,such as the collective protection and managementof forests, and the diffusion of renewableenergytechnologies.. The Chipko movementwas the forerunner of and in some casesthe direct inspiration for a series of popular movements in defence of community rights to naturalresources.Sometimesthesestrugglesrevolved around forests; in other instances,around the control and use of pasture, and mineral or fish resources.Most of these conflicts have pitted rich againstpoor: logging companiesagainsthill villagers,dambuildersagainst forest tribal communities,multinational corporationsdeploying trawlers againsttraditional fisherfolk in small boats.Here one party (e.g. loggersor trawlers) seeksto step up the pace of resourceexploitation to service an expandingcommercial-industrialeconomy,a processwhich often involves the partial or total dispossessionof those communities who earlier had control over the resourcein question,and whoseown patternsof utilisation were (and are) less destructiveof the environment. More often than not, the agents of resource-intensificationare given preferential treatmentby the state, through the grant of generouslong leasesover mineral or fish stocks, for example, or the provision of raw material at an enormously subsidised price. With the injustice so compounded,local communitiesat the receiving end of this processhave no recourse except direct action, resisting both the state and outside exploiters through a variety of protest techniques.These strugglesmight perhapsbe seenas the manifestationof a new kind of classconflict. Where 'traditional' class conflicts were fought in the cultivated field or in the factory, thesenew strugglesare wagedover gifts of naturesuch as forests and water, gifts that are covetedby all but increasinglymonopolisedby a few. There is, then, an unmistakablematerial context to the upsurge of environmentalconflict in India; the shortagesof, threatsto and struggles over natural resources.No one could even suggest,with regard to India, what two distinguishedscholarsclaimed some years ago with regard to American environmentalism,namelythat it had exaggeratedor imagined s All the risk posed by ecological degradation. the same, the environmentalismof the poor is neitheruniversalnor pre-given- thereare many parts of India (and the South more generally)where the destruction of the environment has generated little or no popular response. To understandwhere, how and in what manner environmental conflict articulates itself requires the kind of location-specific work, boundedin time and space,that social scientistshave thus far reservedfor studiesof worker and peasantstruggles.

5

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

This chapterfocuseson an environmentalconflict that was played out between1984 and 1991 in the southernIndian state of Karnataka. This conflict is perhapsnot as well known outside India as the Chipko or Narmadamovements.But its unfolding powerfully illustrates the same, countrywideprocessesof resourcedeprivationand local resistance.

CLAIMING THE COMMONS IN KARNATAKA On 14 November 1984, the government of Karnataka entered into an agreementwith Harihar Polyfibres, a rayon-producingunit located in the north of the state; the companyforms part of the great Indian industrial conglomerateownedby the Birla family. By this agreementa new company was formed, called the KarnatakaPulpwoodsLimited (KPL), in which the governmenthad a holding of 51 per cent and Harihar Polyfibresheld 49 per cent. KPL was chargedwith growing eucalyptusand other fast-growing speciesof treesfor the useby Harihar Polyfibres.For this purpose,the state had identified 30,000hectaresof commonland, spreadover four districts in the northernpart of Karnataka.This land wasnominally ownedby the state (following precedentsset under British colonial rule, when the state had arbitrarily assertedits rights of ownershipover non-cultivatedland all over India), but the grass,treesand shrubsstandingon it were extensivelyused in surroundingvillages for fuel, fodder and other materials.6 The land wasgrantedby the stateto KPL on a long leaseof 40 years,and for a ridiculously low annualrent of one rupeeper acre. As much as 87. 5 per cent of the producewas to go directly to Harihar Polyfibres;the private sectorcompanyalso had the option of buying the remaining12.5 per cent. All in all, this was an extraordinarily advantageousarrangementfor the Birla-owned firm. The governmentof Karnatakawas evenwilling to stand guaranteefor the loans that were to finance KPL's operations:loans to be obtainedfrom severalnationalisedbanks,one of which was, ironically, the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development. For yearsbefore the formation of KPL the wood-basedindustry, faced with chronic shortagesof raw material, had been clamouring for captive plantations. Forests were being depleted all over India; in fact, this deforestationhad itself beencausedprimarily by over-exploitationof trees to meetindustrialdemand.Although the statehad grantedthemhandsome subsidiesin the provision of timber from governmentforests,paper,rayon and plywood companieswere keen to acquire firmer control over their sourcesof supply. Indian law prohibited large-scaleownershipof land by private companies:in the circumstances,joint-sectorcompanies(Le., units jointly owned by the stateand private capital) provided the most feasible

6

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

option. Indeed,no soonerhad KPL beenformed then industrialistsin other parts of India beganpressingstategovernmentsto start similar units with their participationand for their benefit. But, of course,paperand rayon factorieswere not alonein complaining aboutshortagesof woody biomass.A decadeearlier,the Chipko movement had highlighted the difficulties faced by villagers in gaining accessto the produceof the forests. In the wake of Chipko had arisen a wide-ranging debateon forest policy, with scholarsand activists arguing that stateforest policieshad consistentlydiscriminatedagainstthe rights of peasants,tribals and pastoralists,while unduly favouring the urban-industrialsector.7 There was little questionthat, as a result of thesepolicies, shortagesof fuel and fodder hadbecomepervasivethroughoutrural India. In Karnataka itself, one study estimatedthat while the annualdemandfor fuelwood in the statewas 12. 4 million tonnes(mt), the annualproductionwas 10. 4 mt -a shortfall of 16 per cent. In the caseof fodder, the correspondingfigures were 35. 7 and 23 mt, respectively-a deficit of as much as 33 per cent.S The fodder crisis in turn illustrated the crucial importanceof species choice in programmes of reforestation. From the early 1960s, the government'sForest Department had enthusiastically promoted the plantationof eucalyptuson state-ownedland. In many partsof India, rich, diverse natural forests were felled to make way for single-species plantations of this tree of Australian origin. As in the Thai district of Pakham(discussedin the Introduction), this choicewas clearly dictatedby industry, for eucalyptusis a quick growing speciessought after by both paperand rayon mills. But it is totally unsuitableas fodder - indeed,one reasoneucalyptuswas plantedby the ForestDepartmentwas that it is not browsedby cattle and goats,thus making regenerationthat much easierto achieve.Environmentalistsdeploredthis preferencefor eucalyptus,which was known to havenegativeeffects on soil fertility, water retentionand on biological diversity generally. Eucalyptuswas, moreover, a 'plant which socially speakinghas all the characteristicsof a weed', in that it benefited industry at the expenseof the rural poor, themselveshard hit by biomass shortages.Thesecritics advocatedthe plantationand protectioninsteadof multi-purpose, indigenous tree species more suited for meeting village requirementsof fuel, fodder, fruit and fibre. 9 In the context of this wider, all-India debate, the formation of KPL seemeda clearly partisanmove in favour of industry, as the lands it took over constituteda vital, and often irreplaceable,sourceof biomassfor small peasants,herdsmenand wood-working artisans. Within months of its establishment,the new companybecamethe object of severecriticism. In December1984, the state'spre-eminentwriter and man of letters,Dr Kota Shivram Karanth, wrote an essay in the most popular Kannada daily, calling on the people of Karnataka to totally oppose 'this friendship

7

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

betweenBirlas and the governmentand the resultingjoint-sectorcompany'. The opposition to KPL grew after 15 July 1986, the date on which the stateactuallytransferredthe first instalmentof land (3,590hectares)to KPL. Even as the companywas preparingthe ground for planting eucalyptus, petitionsandrepresentations were flying thick and fast betweenthe villages of north Karnataka(where the land was located) and the state capital of Bangalore, 250 miles to the south. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Ramkrishna Hegde, was deluged with letters from individuals and organisationsprotesting against the formation of KPL; one letter, given wide prominence,was signedby a former Chief Minister, a former Chief Justice and a former Minister, respectively.Meanwhile, protest meetings were organisedat severalvillages in the region. The matterwas also raised in the statelegislature.lO In the forefront of the movementagainstKPL was the SamajParivartan Samudaya(Associationfor Social Change,SPS), a voluntary organisation working in the Dharwad district of Karnataka.The SPShad in fact cut its teeth in a previouscampaignagainstHarihar Polyfibres. It had organised a movementagainstthe pollution of the Tungabhadrariver by the rayon factory, whose untreatedeffluents were killing fish and underminingthe health and livelihood of villagers living downstream.On 2 October 1984 (Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary),SPS held a large demonstration outsidethe productionunit of Harihar Polyfibres;thenin December1985,it filed a public interestlitigation in the High Court of Karnatakaagainstthe State Pollution Control Board for its failure to check the pollution of the Tungabhadraby the Birla factory.11 Before that petition could come up for hearing, SPS filed a public interest writ against Karnataka Pulpwoods Limited, this time in the SupremeCourt of India in New Delhi. SPS was motivated to do so by a similar writ in the stateHigh Court, filed by a youth organisationworking among the farmers in the Sagar taluka (county) of the adjoining Shimoga district. Here, in a significant judgement,Justice Bopannaissued a stay order instructing the Deputy Commissionerof Shimoga to ensure that commonland was not arbitrarily transferredto KPL, and that villagers be allowed accessto fodder, fuel and other usufructfrom the disputedland.12 Submittedin early 1987, the SupremeCourt petition was primarily the handiwork of SPS.The petitionersspokeon behalf of the 500,000villagers living in the regionof KPL's operations,the peoplemostdirectly affectedby the action of the statein handingover commonland to one company.The transferredland, said the petition, 'is the only availableland vestedin the village community since time immemorial and is entirely meant for meeting their basic needs like fodder, fuel, small timber, etc. Neither agriculture could be carried out, nor the minimum needsof life, such as leaves,firewood and cattle fodder could be sustainedwithout the useof the

8

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

said lands.' In this context, the petition continued, the arbitrary and unilateral action of the stateamountedto the passingof 'control of materialresources from the handsof commonpeopleto capitalists'.This was a 'stark abuseof power', violating not just the generalcanonsof social justice but also two provisions of the Indian Constitution itself: the right to fair procedure guaranteedby Article 14, and the right to life and liberty (in this case,of the village community)vestedunderArticle 21 of the Constitution.Finally, the petitionerscontendedthat the planting of monoculturesof Eucalyptus,as envisagedby KPL, would havea 'disastrouseffect on the ecologicalbalance of the region'.l3 The argumentsof equity and ecologicalstability aside, this petition is notablefor its insistencethat the lands in contentionwere commonrather than state property, 'vested in the village community since time immemorial'. Here the claims of time and tradition were counterposedto the legal status quo, through which the state both claimed and enforced rights of ownership.In this respectthe petition was perfectly in line with popularprotestsin defenceof forest rights, which sincecolonial times have held the Forest Departmentto be an agent of usurpation,taking over by superiorphysicalforce land which by right belongedto the community.I4 On 24 March 1987, the SupremeCourt respondedto the petition by issuing a stay order, thus preventing the governmentof Karnatakafrom transferringany more land to KPL. Encouragedby this preliminary victory, SPS now turned to popular mobilisation in the villages. In May, it held a training camp in non-violence at Kusnur, a village in Dharwad district, where400 hectaresof land had alreadybeentransferredto KPL. A parallel organisationof villagers, the GuddanaduAbhivruddi Samiti (Hill Areas DevelopmentCommittee) was initiated to work alongsideSPS. The two groupsheld a seriesof preparatorymeetingsin Kusnur and other villages nearbyfor a protestscheduledfor 14 November1987, to coincide with the third anniversaryof the formation of KPL. On 14 November, about 2,000 people converged at Kusnur. Men, women and children took an oath of non-violencein a school yard, and then proceeded for a novel protest, termed the Kithiko-Hachiko (Pluck-and-Plant) satyagraha. Led by drummers, waving banners and shoutingslogans,the protestersmoved on to the disputedarea. Here they first uprooted100 saplingsof Eucalyptusbeforeplanting in their place tree species useful locally for fruit and for fodder. Before dispersing, the villagers took a pledgeto water and tend the saplingsthey had planted.Is The next major developmentin the KPL casewas the partial vacation, on 26 April 1988, by the SupremeCourt of the stay it had granteda year previously. Now it allowed the transfer of a further 3,000 hectaresto KPL (such interim and ad hoc grants of land were also allowed in 1989 and

9

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

1990).16Thecourt seemingto have let them down, SPSpreparedonce more for direct action. They commencedtraining campsin the villages, planned to culminatein a fresh Pluck-and-Plantsatyagraha.Meanwhile, journalists sympathetic to their movement intensified the press campaign against KPL. 17 The mounting adversepublicity, and the prospectof renewedpopular protest,forced the governmentof Karnatakato seek a compromise.On 3 June 1988, the Chief Secretaryof the stategovernment(its highestranking official) conveneda meetingattendedby representativesof SPS,KPL and the Forest Department. He suggestedthe setting up of a one-man commission, comprising the distinguished ecologist Madhav Gadgil, to enquireinto the conflicting claims (and demands)of the villagers and KPL. Until the commissionsubmittedits report, KPL was askedto suspendits operationsin Dharwaddistrict, andSPSto withdraw its proposedmonsoon

satyagraha. The setting up of committeesand commissionsis of course a classic delaying tactic, in India resorted to by colonial and democratic governmentsalike, to defuseand contain popular protest.In this case,the governmenthad no intention of formally appointing the Madhav Gadgil Commission,for the ecologistwas known to be a critic of the industrialbias of state forest policy/8 and likely to report adversely on KPL. Thus the commissionwas never set up; in response,SPSstartedorganisinganother Pluck-and-Plantsatyagraha for 8 August 1988. This time, however, the protesters were arrested and removed before they could reach KPL's eucalyptusplot. In later years,non-violent direct action continuedto be a vital plank of SPS'sstrategy. In an attempt to link more closely the issuesof industrial pollution and the alienationof commonland, it organisedin August 1989, in the townsof Hangaland Ranibennur,public bonfiresof rayoncloth made by Harihar Polyfibres.The burning of mill-made cloth recalledthe bonfires of Manchestertextiles during India's freedom movement. Whereasthat campaign stood for national self-reliance or swadeshi,this one affirmed village self-relianceby rejectingcloth madeof artificial fibre. The following year, 1990, SPSrevertedto its own patentedmethod of protest.On Indian independenceday (15th August), it invited the respectedChipko leader Chandi PrasadBhatt to lead a Pluck-and-Plantsatyagrahain the Nagvand village of the Hirekerrur taluka of Dharwad.19 While these protests kept the issue alive at the grassroots,SPS continued to make use of the wider political and legal system to its advantage. Through friendly contacts in the state administration, it obtainedcopies of four ordersissuedin 1987 by the Chief Conservatorof Forests(General),an official known to be particularly closeto the Birlas. By theseorders he had transferreda further 14,000 hectaresof forest land to

10

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

KPL, an areafar in excessof what the SupremeCourt had allowed. On the basisof these'leaked'documents,SPSfiled a further Contemptand Perjury petition in October1988. Meanwhile,the SPSpersuadedpublic sectorbanksto delay the release of funds to KPL, pendingthe final hearingand settlementof the casein the SupremeCourt. It had also effectively lobbied the governmentof India in New Delhi to clarify its own position on KPL-style schemes.In February 1988, an official of the Union Ministry of Environmentand Forests,making a depositionin the SupremeCourt, statedunambiguouslythat the raising of industrial plantations by joint-sector companies required the prior permissionof the governmentof India. Later the sameyear,a new National Forest Policy was announced,which explicitly prohibited monocultural plantationson groundsof ecologicalstability. In June 1989 the Secretaryof the Ministry of Environment and Forests wrote to the government of Karnatakaexpressinghis disquietaboutthe KPL project. Within Karnataka,resolutionsaskingthe governmentto cancelthe KPL agreementwere passedby local representativebodies, including several Mandal Panchayats,local councilseachrepresentinga group of villages, as well as the Zilla Parishad (district council) of Dharwad.This was followed by a letter to the Chief Minister, signed by 54 members of the state legislatureand senton 11 July 1990,askinghim to closedown KPL so as 'to reservevillage commonland for the commonuse of villagers'. With public opinion and the central government arrayed against it, and possibly anticipating an adverse final judgement in the Supreme Court, the governmentof Karnatakadecidedto wind up KPL. The company'sclosure was formally announcedat a board meetingon 27 September1990,but by then KPL had already ceasedoperations.In its report for the previous financial year (April 1989 to March 1990) the company complained that 'during the year the plantationactivity has practically come to a standstill, exceptingraising 449 hectaresof plantations'-a tiny fraction of the 30,000 hectaresof commonland it had oncehopedto capturefor its exclusiveuse.

A

VOCABULARY OF PROTEST

The struggle againstKPL had as its massbase,so to speak,the peasants, pastoralists,and fisherfolk directly affected by environmentalabuse.Yet key leadershiproles were assumedby activists who, although they came from the region,werenot themselvesdirectly engagedin production.Of the SPSactivistsinvolved more or lessfull-time in the movement,onehadbeen a labour organiser,a seconda social worker and progressivefarmer, a third a biology PhD and former college lecturer, and a fourth an engineerwho

11

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

had returnedto India after working for yearsin the United States.Crucial supportwas also provided by intellectuals more distant from the action. Theseincluded the greatestliving Kannadawriter, Or Shivram Karanth, a figure of high moral authority and for this reasonthe first petitionerin the SupremeCourt caseagainstKPL. A co-petitionerwas the Centrefor Science and Environment, a respectedDelhi-basedresearchand advocacygroup whoseinfluence in the media and in the governmentwas shrewdlydrawn on by the activists from Karnataka. This unity, of communities at the receiving end of ecological degradationand of social activists with the experienceand educationto negotiatethe politics of protest, has been characteristicof environmental strugglesin India. In other respects,too, the SPS-ledstruggle was quite typical. For underlying the KPL controversywere a seriesof oppositions that frame most suchconflicts in India: rich versuspoor, urbanversusrural, naturefor profit versusnaturefor subsistence,the stateversusthe people. However the KPL case was atypical in one telling respect, for environmentalmovementsof the poor only rarely end in emphaticvictory. To put it in more explicitly ecological terms, these conflicts pit 'ecosystempeople'- that is, thosecommunitieswhich dependvery heavily on the natural resourcesof their own locality - against 'omnivores', individuals and groupswith the social power to capture,transformand use natural resourcesfrom a much wider catchmentarea; sometimes,indeed, the whole world. The first categoryof ecosystempeopleincludesthe bulk of India's rural population: small peasants,landless labourers, tribals, pastoralists, and artisans. The category of omnivores comprises industrialists,professionals,politicians, and governmentofficials - all of whom are basedin the towns and cities - as well as a small but significant fraction of the rural elite, the prosperousfarmers in tracts of heavily irrigated, chemicallyfertilised GreenRevolution agriculture.The history of developmentin independentIndia can then be interpreted as being, in essence,a processof resourcecaptureby the omnivoresat the expenseof ecosystempeople. This has in turn createda third major ecological class: that of 'ecologicalrefugees',peasants-turned-slum dwellers,who eke out a living in the cities on the leavingsof omnivore prosperity.20 In this framework, the 'environmentalismof the poor' might be understoodas the resistanceoffered by ecosystempeopleto the processof resourcecaptureby omnivores: as embodiedin movementsagainstlarge dams by tribal communities to be displaced by them, or struggles by peasantsagainst the diversion of forest and grazing land to industry. In recent years, the most important such struggle has been the Narmada BachaoAndolan (NBA), the movementrepresentingthe ecosystempeople who face imminent displacementby a huge dam on the Narmadariver in central India. The movementhas been led by the forty-year-old Medha

12

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

Patkar,a womanof courageand characteroncedescribedby a journalist as an 'ecologicalJoanof Arc'. A detailed analysis of the origins and developmentof the Narmada conflict cannotbe providedhere/' but thereis one aspectof the movement that is of particular relevanceto this book; namely, its flexible and widerangingvocabularyof protest. The term 'vocabularyof protest'is offered as an alternativeto Charles Tilly's well-known conceptof the 'repertoireof contention'.Tilly and his associateshave done pioneeringwork on the study of dissentand direct action. Their work has focused on the techniquesmost characteristicof different societies, social groups or historical periods. Tilly's own understandingof direct action tends to be a narrowly instrumentalone, with participantsdrawingon, from a broaderrepertoireof contention,those techniqueswhich most effectively defend or advancetheir economicand political interests.22 But in fact techniquesof direct action have at the same time an utilitarian and an expressivedimension.In adopting a particular strategy, social protestersare both trying to defend their interests and passingjudgementon the prevailing social arrangements.The latter, so to say, ideological dimensionof social protestneedsto be inferred evenwhen it is not formally articulated - the fact that protesting peasantsdo not distribute a printed manifesto does not mean that they do not have developednotions of right and wrong. In field or factory, ghettoor grazing ground, strugglesover resources,even when they have tangible material origins, havealwaysalso beenstrugglesover meaning.Thus my preference for the term 'vocabulary of protest' - for 'vocabulary' more than 'repertoire',and 'protest'more than 'contention'- helpsto clarify the notion that most forms of direct action, even if unaccompaniedby a written manifesto,are both statementsof purposeand of belief. In the act of doing, protestersare saying somethingtoo. Thus the Kithiko-Hachiko satyagraha was not simply an affirmation of peasantclaims over disputedproperty: as a strategyof protest,its aim was not merely to insist, 'This land is ours',but also, and equally significantly, to ask, 'What are treesfor?' To return to the NarmadaBachaoAndolan. Like the anti-KPL struggle, the Narmadamovementhas operatedsimultaneouslyon severalflanks: a strong media campaign,court petitions, and the lobbying of key players suchas the World Bank, which was to fund a part of the dam project. Most effectively, though, it has deployed a dazzlingly varied vocabulary of protest, in defence of the rights of the peasantsand tribal communities which were to be displacedby the dam. These strategiesof direct action might be classified under four broad headings. First, there is the collective show of strength, as embodied in demonstrations (Hindi: pradarshan) organised in towns and cities. Mobilising as manypeopleas they can,protestersmarchthroughthe town,

13

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

shoutingslogans,singing songs,winding their way to a public meetingthat marks the procession'sculmination.The aim here is to asserta presencein the city, which is the locus of local, provincial or national power. The demonstratorscarry a messagethat is at oncethreateningand imploring: in effect, telling the rulers (and city peoplein general),'do not forget us, the dispossessed in the countryside.We can make trouble, but not if you hand out justice'. Second,thereis the disruption of economiclife throughmore militant acts of protest.One suchtactic is the hartal or bandh (shut-downstrike), wherein shopsare forced to down shuttersand busesto pull off the roads,bringing normallife to a standstill.A variationof this is the rasta roko (road blockade), through which traffic on an important highway is blocked by squatting protesters,sometimesfor days on end. Thesetechniquesare rather more coercivethan persuasive,spotlighting the economiccoststo the state(or to other sectionsof the public) if they do not yield to the dissenters. Whereas the hartal or rasta roko aim at disrupting economic activity acrossa wide area, a third type of action is more sharply focused on an individual target. For instance,the dharna or sit-down strike is usedto stop work at a specific dam site or mine. Sometimesthe target is a figure of authority rather than a site of production; thus protestingpeasantsmight gherao (surround)a high public official, allowing him to move only after he has heardtheir grievancesand promisedto act upon them. The fourth generic strategy of direct action aims at putting moral pressureon the stateas a whole, not merely on one of its functionaries.Preeminenthere is the bhookhartal, the indefinite hungerstrike undertakenby the charismaticleader of a popular movement.This techniquewas once used successfullyby Sunderlal Bahuguna of the Chipko movement; in recentyears,it hasbeenresortedto on severaloccasionsby Medha Patkar, the remarkableleaderof the NarmadaBachaoAndolan. In the bhookhartal, the courage and self-sacrifice of the individual leader is directly counterposedto the claims to legitimacy of the state. The fast is usually carriedout in a public place,and closely reportedin the media.As the days drag on, and the leader'shealthperilously declines,the stateis forced into a gestureof submission - if only the constitution of a fresh committeeto review the casein contention. The bhookhartal is mostoften the preserveof a single,heroic,exemplary figure. A sister technique,also aimed at shaming the state, is more of a collective undertaking.This is the jail bharo andolan (literally, 'movementto fill the jails'), in which protesterspeacefullyand deliberatelycourt arrestby violating the law, hoping the governmentwould lose face by putting behindbarslarge numbersof its own citizens.The law most often breached is Section 144 of the Criminal ProcedureCode, invoked, in anticipationof social tension,to prohibit gatheringsof more than five people.

14

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

The pradarshan,hartal, rasta roko, dharna,gherao,bhookhartal andjail bharo andolan are some of the techniqueswhich make up the environmental movement'svocabularyof protest. This is a vocabularysharedacrossthe spectrumof protestinggroups,but new situationsconstantlycall for new innovations.In the 1970s,peasantsin Garhwal developedthe idiosyncratic but truly effective Chipko technique; in the 1980s, the SPS in Dharwad, opposing eucalyptus plantations, thought up the Kithiko-Hachiko satyagraha; and now, in the 1990s, the Narmada Bachao Andolan has threateneda jal samadhi(water burial), saying its cadreswould refuse to move from the villages scheduledfor submergenceeven after the dam's sluice gatesare closedand the watersstart rising. The techniquesof direct action itemised above have, of course, deep and honourableorigins. They were first forged, in India's long strugglefor freedom from British rule, by MohandasKaramchand'Mahatma'Gandhi. In developing and refining this vocabulary of protest, Gandhi drew on Western theories of civil disobedienceas well as traditions of peasant resistancewithin India itself.23 In fact, MahatmaGandhi providesthe environmentalmovementwith both a vocabularyof protestand an ideological critique of developmentin independentIndia. (The 'environmental'ideas of Mahatma Gandhi are discussedmore fully in Chapter 8.) The invocation of Gandhi is thus conductedthrough what might be called a rhetoric of betrayal. For the sharpeningof environmentalconflict hasvividly broughtto light the failed hopesof India'sfreedomstruggle.That movementcommandeda massbase among the peasantry, assiduously developed by Gandhi himself, and freedom promised a new deal for rural India. And yet, after 1947 the political elite has worked to ensurethat the benefits of plannedeconomic developmenthave flown primarily to the urban-industrialcomplex. The KPL caseillustratesthis paradoxas well as any other. On one side were the peasantsand pastoralistsof north Karnataka; on the other, an insensitive state governmentin league with the second largest business conglomeratein the country. As one protesterexpressedit in Kusnur: 'Our forefathers who fought to get rid of the foreign yoke thought that our country would become a land of milk and honey once the British were driven out. But now we seeour rulers joining handswith the monopolists to take away basic resourceslike land, water and forests from the (village) peoplewho have traditionally usedthem for their livelihood.' In much the same vein, a Chipko activist once told the present writer: 'After independence,we thought our forests would be used to build local industriesand generatelocal employment,and our water resourcesto light our lampsand run our flour mills.' But to his dismay,the Himalayanforests continuedto service the paperand turpentinefactories of the plains, and the rivers were dammedto supply drinking water to Delhi and electricity

15

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

to the national grid which feeds into industriesand urban agglomerations all over India. While private industry has thus gainedprivileged accessto natural resources,the burden of environmental degradationhas fallen heavily on the rural poor. To invoke a sloganmadefamousby the Narmada BachaoAndolan, this has been a processof 'destructivedevelopment'destructiveboth of rural society and of the natural fabric within which it rests. In a bitter commentary on this process, the common people of Dharwad district have come to refer to the noxious air outside Harihar Polyfibresas 'Birla Perfume',to the water of the Tungabhadrariver as 'Birla Teertha'(holy water of the Birlas), and to the eucalyptusas 'Birla Kalpataru' (the Birla wondertree).24 The environmentalmovement'sreturn to Gandhi is then also a return to his vision for free India: a vision of a 'village-centredeconomicorder' that has been so completely disregardedin practice. Perhapsit is more accurateto seethis asa rhetoricof betrayaland of affirmation, assymbolised in the dates most often chosento launch (or end) programmesof direct action. Thesedatesare 2 October, Gandhi'sbirth anniversary;15 August, Indian Independence Day; and most poignantly,8 August, on which day in 1942 Gandhi'slast great anti-colonial campaignwas launched,the Quit India movement- in invoking this environmentalistsare asking the state and the capitalists,the rulers of today, to 'quit' their control over forestsand water.

Two

ENVIRONMENTALISM

KINDS OF

In the precedingsectionsof this chapter,the KPL controversyhasbeenused to outline the origins, trajectory and rhetoric of the environmental movementin India. In conclusion,let us broadenthe discussionby briefly contrasting the 'environmentalismof the poor' with the more closely studied phenomenonof First World environmentalism. This analysis derives,for the most part, from my own researchon the United Statesand India, two countries, ecologically and culturally diverse, but at very different 'stages'of economic development.These arethe countries and environmentalmovementsI know best, and yet, becauseof their size and importance,they might be taken as representative,more generally, of the North and the South.25 I begin with the origins of the environmental impulse in the two contexts. Environmental movements in the North have, I think, been convincingly related to the emergenceof a post-materialist or postindustrial society. The creation of a mass consumersociety has not only enlargedopportunitiesfor leisure but also provided the meansto put this

16

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

time off work to the most diverseuses.Nature is madeaccessiblethrough the car, now no longer a monopoly of the elite but an artefact in almost everyone'spossession.It is the car which, more than anything else, opens up a new world, of the wild, that is refreshinglydifferent from the worlds of the city and the factory. In a curiousparadox,this 'mostmoderncreation of industry' becomesthe vehicle of anti-industrial impulses,taking one to distant adventures,to 'homeylittle towns, enchantingfairy tale forests,far from stale routine, functional uglinessor the dictatesof the clock'.26 Here lies the sourceof popular support for the protection of wildernessin the United States- namely,that natureis no longer restrictedto the privileged few, but availableto all. In India, still dominantly a nation of villages, environmentalismhas emergedat a relatively early stagein the industrial process.Nature-based conflicts, it must be pointed out once again, are at the root of the environmentalmovementin countriessuch as India. Theseconflicts have their root in a lopsided,iniquitous and environmentallydestructiveprocess of developmentin independentIndia. They are played out against a backdrop of visible ecological degradation,the drying up of springs, the decimation of forests, the erosion of the land. The sheer immediacy of resourceshortagesmeansthat direct action hasbeen,from the beginning,a vital componentof environmentalaction. Techniquesof direct action often rely on traditional networksof organisation,the village and the tribe, and traditional forms of protest,the dharna and the bhookhartal. Northern environmentalism,in contrast,relies rather more heavily on the 'social movementorganisation'- suchas the SierraClub or the Friends of the Earth - with its own cadre,leadershipand properly auditedsources of funds. This organisation then draws on the methods of redressal availablein what are, after all, more completedemocracies- methodssuch as the court case,the lobbying of legislatorsand ministers,the exposureon televisionor in the newspaper.But the experienceof recentyearssomewhat qualifies this contrast between militant protest in the one sphere and lobbying and litigation in the other. Indian environmentalists(as with the KPL case)are turning increasinglyto the courts as a supplementto popular protest, while in America, radicals disaffectedby the gentle, incremental lobbying of mainstreamgroupshave taken to direct action - the spiking of trees,for example- to protect threatenedwilderness. In both the North and the South,however,environmentalismhasbeen, in good measure, a responseto the failure of politicians to mobilize effectively on the issue of, as the case may be, the destruction of the wildernessor the dispossessionof peasantsby a large dam. In India, for instance, the environmental movement has drawn on the struggles of marginalpopulations- hill peasants,tribal communities,fishermen,people displacedby construction of dams - neglectedby the existing political

17

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

parties. And as a 'new social movement',environmentalismin the North emerged, in the first instance, outside the party process. Some environmentalists considered themselves as neither left nor right, representinga constituencythat was anti-classor, more accurately,postclass.27 However, over time the environmentalconstituencybecamepart of the democraticprocess,sometimesthrough the formation of Greenparties that fight, and evenoccasionallywin, elections. Origins and political styles notwithstanding, the two varieties of environmentalismperhapsdiffer most markedly in their ideologies. The environmentalismof the poor originates as a clash over productive resources:a third kind of class conflict, so to speak,but one with deep ecological implications. Red on the outside, but green on the inside. In Southernmovements,issuesof ecologyare often interlinkedwith questions of human rights, ethnicity and distributive justice. These struggles, of peasants,tribals and so on, are in a sensedeeply conservative(in the best senseof the word), refusing to exchangea world they know, and are in partial control over, for an uncertainand insecurefuture. They are a defence of the locality and the local communityagainstthe nation.At the sametime, the sharperedge to environmentalconflict, and its close connectionsto subsistenceand survival, have also prompteda thoroughgoingcritique of consumerismand of uncontrolledeconomicdevelopment. In contrast,the wildernessmovementin the North originatesoutside the productionprocess.It is in this respectmoreof a single-issuemovement, calling for a changein attitudes(towardsthe natural world) rather than a changein systemsof production or distribution. Especially in the United States,environmentalismhas, by and large, run parallel to the consumer society without questioning its socio-ecological basis, its enormous dependence on the lands,peoplesand resourcesof otherpartsof the globe.28 It is absorbednot so much with relations within human society, as with relations betweenhumansand other species.Here the claims of national sovereigntyare challengednot from the vantagepoint of the locality, but from the perspectiveof the biosphereas a whole. This is a movementwhose self-perceptionis that of a vanguard, moving from an 'ethical present' where we are concernedonly with nation, region and race to an 'ethical future' where our moral developmentmoves from a concernwith plants and animalsto ecosystemsand the planetitself.29 In the precedingparagraphs,I havesketcheda broad-brushcomparison betweentwo movements,in two different partsof the world, eachcarrying the prefix 'environmental'. One must, of course, qualify this picture by acknowledgingthe diversity of ideologies and of forms of action within eachof thesetwo trends.In the United States,anti-pollution strugglesform a tradition of environmentalaction which has a different focus from the 'wildernesscrusade'.Such,for instance,is the movementfor environmental

18

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

justice in the United States, the struggles of low-class, often black communities against the incinerators and toxic waste dumps that, by accidentand frequently by design,come to be sited near them (and away from affluent neighbourhoods).One American commentator,Ruth Rosen, has nicely captured the contrast between the environmental justice movement and the wilderness lovers. 'At best', she writes, 'the large, mainstreamenvironmentalgroups focus on the health of the planet- the wilderness,forests and oceansthat cannotprotect themselves.In contrast, the movementfor environmentaljustice, led by the poor, is not concerned with overabundance,but with the environmentalhazardsand social and economic inequalities that ravagetheir communities.'30 in the Likewise, the Northernwildernesscrusadehasits representatives Third World, who spearheadthe constitutionof vast areasas nationalparks and sanctuaries,strictly protected from 'human interference'. Southern lovers of the wildernesscome typically from patrician backgrounds,and have shownlittle regardfor the fate of the humancommunitieswho, after parkland is designatedas 'protected', are abruptly displaced without compensationfrom territory that they have lived on for generationsand come to regardas their own.3! These caveatsnotwithstanding,there remains, on the whole, a clear distinction, in terms of origins and forms of articulation, betweenhow environmentalaction characteristicallyexpressesitself in the North and in the South.Take thesetwo episodesof protest,one from California, the other from central India, the last illustrationsof this chapter. In May 1979, a young American environmentalist, Mark Dubois, chained himself to a boulder in the Stanislaus river in California. The canyonwherehe lay formed part of the reservoirof the New Melonesdam, whoseconstructionDubois and his organisation,Friendsof the River, had long but unsuccessfullyopposed. In October 1978, the Army Corps of Engineershad completedthe dam, and the following April it closed the floodgates.The level of the reservoirstartedto rise, and it appearedasif the campaignto 'Save the Stanislaus'had failed. But then, in an act of rare heroism,Mark Dubois went into the watersand chainedhimself to a rock. He chosea hiddenspot, and only one friend knew of the location.32 Fourteen years later, an uncannily similar strategy of protest was threatenedagainstanotherdam,on anotherriver and on anothercontinent. In August 1993,with the onsetof the Indian monsoon,the vast reservoirof the SardarSarovardam on the Narmadariver beganfilling up to capacity. It now seemed that the decade-long Narmada Bachao Andolan had irrevocably lost its fight. But the leader of the movement,Medha Patkar, decidedto drown herself in the waters. Patkarannouncedher decisionto walk into the river on 6 August, with a group of colleagues,but at a place and time not to be disclosed. Fearing detention by the police, Patkar

19

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

disappearedinto the countrysideweeksbeforethe appointeddate. I dare say Medha Patkar had not heard of Mark Dubois, but the parallelsin their chosenforms of protestare striking indeed. Both formed part of ongoing,popularmovementsagainstlarge dams.It was only when the movementseemedto have failed that Patkar and Dubois decided to throw the last card in their pack, offering their lives to stop the dam. Notably, in both casesthe political systemwas alert (or open)enoughnot to allow the environmentaliststo make this supremesacrifice. In Stanislaus, the Corpsof Engineersstoppedfilling the reservoir,and sentsearchparties by air and on land to find andrescueDubois. In the Narmadavalley, Patkar and her band were found and prevailedupon to withdraw their samarpan dal (martyrssquad),in return for which the Governmentof India promised a fresh, independentreview of the SardarSarovarproject. While the strategies of direct action might have been superficially similar, their underlying motivations were not. Mark Dubois and his colleagueswere striving, aboveall, to savethe Stanislauscanyonas one of the last remaining examplesof the unspoilt Californian wilderness. As Dubois wrote to the Colonel of the Corpsof Engineersprior to enteringthe river: 'All the life of this canyon,its wealth of archaeologicaland historical roots to our past,and its unique geologicalgrandeurare enoughreasonsto protectthis canyonjustfor itself. But in addition, all the spiritual valueswith which this canyonhas filled tens of thousandsof folks should prohibit us from committing the unconscionableact of wiping this placeoff the face of the earth'.33 In contrast, Patkar and her colleagueshoped not only to save the Narmadariver itself, but also (and more crucially) the tens of thousandsof peasantsto be displaced by the dam being built on the river. When completedthe SardarSarovarproject will submergea total of 245 villages, with an estimatedtotal population of 66,675 people, most of whom are 34 tribals and poor peasants. True, the dam will also inundateold-growth forests and historic sites, but it will most emphatically of all destroy the living culture of the humancommunitieswho live by the Narmadariver. It is thus that the struggleof Patkarand her associatesbecomes- as they put it in a messagewritten on the 42nd anniversaryof Mahatma Gandhi's martydom -a move 'towards our ultimate goal of [a] socially just and ecologically sustainablemodel of development'.35 The Stanislaus/Narmada or Dubois/Patkarcomparisonillustrates a more fundamentaldifference betweentwo varieties of environmentalism. The actionof Mark Dubois,heroic thoughit undoubtedlywas,was quite in line with the dominantthrustof the environmentalmovementin the North towardsthe protectionof pristine, unspoilt nature:a reservoirof biological diversity and enormous aesthetic appeal which serves as an ideal (if temporary)haven from the urbanworkadayworld. In protectingthe wild,

20

THE ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR

it asserts,we are both acknowledgingan ethical responsibility towards other speciesand enriching the spiritual side of our own existence. In contrast, the action of Medha Patkar was consistentwith the dominant thrust of the environmentalmovementin India, which strongly highlights the questionsof production and distribution within human society. It is impossibleto say, with regardto India, what JurgenHabermashasclaimed of the European green movement: namely, that it is sparked not 'by problemsof distribution, but by concernfor the grammarof forms of life'.36 'No Humanity without Nature!', the epitaph of the Northern environmentalist,is here answeredby the equally compelling slogan 'No Naturewithout Social Justice!'37

21

Chapter 2

From Political Economy to Political Ecology ... each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories and possessions ... '

INTRODUCTION The inability of orthodoxeconomicsto copewith greenissueshasgiven rise to ecological economics,which is the study of the compatibility betweenthe humaneconomyand ecosystemsover the long term. Becausein ecological economics we see the market economy as embedded in a physical-chemical-biologicalsystem, the question arises of the value of naturalresourcesand environmentalservicesfor the economy.Is it possible to translate environmental values into monetary values? Ecological economists are very sceptical about the possibility of translating or transmuting future, uncertain, irreversible externalities into monetary values. In ecologicaleconomics,the study of distributional issuesconstitutesa new field of study, which we call 'political ecology'. While political economy(in the classicaltradition) studieseconomicdistribution conflicts, a new field of study is emerging,political ecology,which studiesecological distribution conflicts.2 There are some differences as regards distributional issues between conventional economics and ecological economics. In the ecological economy, future human generations,and the values attributed to other species,play a role precisely becausethe time horizon of the ecological economy is much longer, as we take into account slow biogeochemical

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

cyclesand irreversiblethermodynamics.Moreover,manynaturalresources and environmental services are not marketable,becausethey have no owner. Endowmentof 'propertyrights' and inclusion in the marketwould changeboth the distribution of income and the pattern of prices in the marketeconomyembeddedin the ecologicaleconomy. Economic incommensurability is one main tenet of ecological economics.It arisesnot only from the fact that prices in actual or surrogate markets depend on the endowment of property rights and on the distribution of income, and from the fact that we must value future costs and benefits without being able to engagein transactionswith as-yetunbornindividuals without knowing whetherthey will be pooreror richer than we are (hence, the arbitrarinessof the rate of discount). Economic incommensurabilityalso arisesbecausemost environmentalresourcesand services are not and cannot be in the market or in surrogatemarkets.3 Instead of focusing on the internalisationof externalities into the price system by means of actual or surrogatemarkets, this chapter looks at ecological distribution conflicts which operate at local and global levels over the depletionof resourcesand environmentalpollution.

MARXISM ANDENVIRONMENTALISM Environmentalism is sometimes seen as a product of prosperity, an approachusually known as the 'post-materialist'thesis,but this fails to do justice to the scope of environmentalmovementstoday and in history, particularly to the 'environmentalismof the poor' which grows out of distribution conflicts over the use of ecological resourcesneeded for livelihood. Despitethe importanceof suchconflicts, and the robustMarxist intellectual tradition of studying and explaining social conficts, an ecological Marxism has scarcely existed. Indeed, from the Marxist perspectiveand in general that of the New Left, the first reaction to the explicit social presenceof environmentalismin the late 1960s and early 1970swas one of surpriseif not repudiation.'The rise of the Greenparty in Germanywas met by incomprehension. With exceptionssuch as Raymond Williams, most Marxists chose to interpret environmentalismas a frivolous upper-class fad. They only consideredthe environmentalismof the IUCN, the WWF and the Sierra Club. Some Marxists thought that environmentalismwas a dangerous, romantic anti-industrial trend; for instance, they wrongly identified the German Greens with the ideology of Blut und Boden (blood and soil). SouthernMarxists rejectedenvironmentalistcritiquesbecausethey thought it was a Western ploy to keep the Third World underdeveloped.They

23

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

implicitly accepted the thesis which attributes environmentalismto prosperity. They could sometimesunderstandthe struggles against the effluents of affluence, but they certainly did not understand the environmentalismof the poor. This was eloquentlyexpressedmuchlater by Hugo Blanco: At first sight, environmentalistsor conservationistsare nice, slightly crazy guys whose main purpose in life is to prevent the disappearanceof blue whales or pandas.The common people have more important things to think about, for instancehow to get their daily bread.Sometimesthey are taken to be not so crazy but rather smart guys who, in the guise of protecting endangeredspecies,have formed so-called NGOs to get juicy amountsof dollars from abroad... Such views are sometimestrue. However,thereare in Peru a very large numberof peoplewho are environmentalists.Of course,if I tell such people,you are ecologists,they might reply,'ecologistyour mother',or words to that effect. Let us see,however.Isn't the village of Bambamarcatruly environmentalist,which has time and again fought valiantly againstthe pollution of its water from mining?Are not the town of 110 and the surrounding villages which are being polluted by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation truly environmentalist?Is not the village of Tambo Grande in Piura environmentalistwhen it rises like a closed fist and is ready to die in order to prevent strip-mining in its valley? Also, the people of the MantaroValley who saw their little sheepdie, becauseof the smokeand wastefrom La Oroya smelter.And the population of Amazonia,who are totally environmentalist,and die defending their forests against depredation. Also the poor people of Lima are environmentalists,when they complain against the pollution of water in the 5 beaches.

If, insteadof Peru, we considerits immediateneighboursto the South or to the North, similar lists can be compiled for each country. Thus, in Chile, we could ask: Is the poor urban population of Santiago, who repeatedlycomplaineduntil the stinking wastedump called Lo Errazuriz was closeddown, not environmentalist?Are the Huiliche communitiesof Compu and Guequetrumao,which on Chiloe island confronted a woodextraction firm, called Golden Spring, not ecologists?And the people of Paipote,who complain about the sulphur dioxide emissionsfrom copper smelting,and thereforeare themselvesin dangerof jeopardisingtheir own sourcesof wage labour and their incomes?And the ruined olive farmers of Huasco,someof them poor, somebetter off, all of them in trouble because of emissionsof iron particlesand other metalsfrom the pellets factory, are they not environmentalistswhen they protest,evenif they would probably refusethe term? And in Ecuador,is the indigenouspoor population of Zambiza, in a valley to the north-eastof Quito, who unsuccessfullycomplainsbecause

24

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

everyday more than one million kilogrammes of domestic waste are depositedin this municipal waste dump, not environmentalist?And the people from Salango,on the coast, who complain about pollution from a fishmeal factory, as they also do in so many other placesin the Pacific coast of SouthAmerica: in Chimbotein Peru,in Talcahuanoin Chile? Although perhapsstill unawareof the existenceof the word itself, are the membersof the peasantcommunityof Salinasin Bolivar province,who were successful in preventingmining in their community by Rio Tinto Zinc, though they never knew exactly which ore RTZ was to mine, not ecologists?And the indigenouspopulation of Amazonia (the Secoia,the Huorani) who have fought Texaco, and other foreign oil companies,and also Petroecuador? And the black, poor populationin Esmeraldas,mainly women, who lead the struggle against the destruction of the mangrovesby the shrimp industry? Therehasbeenno lack of ecologicaldistribution conflicts in the history of humankind.However,the Marxist neglect ofecologygoesbackto Marx's and Engels'own negativereactionto SergeiPodolinsky'sattemptin 1880to introducehumanecologicalenergeticsinto Marxist economics.Podolinsky had analysedthe energeticsof life (life systemsbeing opento the input of energy),and applied theseideasto the analysisof the economy.This was a missedopportunity,and the decadesof neglect ofthe study of energyflow by Marxist historiography and economics have continued to this day. Engels'hastyprivate noteson the SecondLaw of Thermodynamics,which he found logically contradictedthe First Law, were glorified in successive editions of Dialectics of Nature (first published in 1925). If Engels had written, as he might well have done, that the First and SecondLaws were dialectically complementary, it could have become the orthodox interpretation.Engels'negativecommentson Podolinsky'swork in letters to Marx of December1882 were first published in 1919, and were not questioneduntil the late 1970s, when my own work (together with J.M. Naredo)on Podolinsky'sideas was published.6 This delay was rather odd becausePodolinsky's work had already and explicitly been praised by Vladimir Vernadskyin the 1920s.7 When The Entropy Law and the Economic Process by Georgescu-Roegen appearedin 1971 (see Chapter9), asserting the relevancefor economicsof the SecondLaw of Thermodynamics,there was virtually no responsefrom Marxists for 20 years.Even today one may read astonishingdeclarationsfrom Marxist authors. For instance,David Harveyproclaimsthat neitherthe SecondLaw of Thermodynamicsnor the inherentsustainingpowerof ecosystemsare 'helpful at all in explainingthe shifting history of humansocial organisation',an attackon humanecology and ecological economicsfrom a geographerwho should know better, if nothing else from readingPatrick Geddesand Lewis Mumford.8 Between, say, 1880 and 1980, there was no school of Marxist

25

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

environmental-socialhistory combining the study of classconflict with the study of the humanimpact on the environment.There was Karl Wittfogel, whosetheory of Oriental Despotismwas closerto deterministicgeography than to environmental history. Although Marx and Engels were contemporaries of the physicists who established the laws of thermodynamics in the mid-19th century, Marxian economics and economichistory were basedon social and economicanalysisalone. In the North American context, an entry to ecological history (or that part of ecological history which pays attention to the flow of energy in human societies, to the efficiency of its use, to endosomaticand exosomatic consumption of energy9), was provided by Henry Adams' 'Letter to American Teachersof History' in which he proposeda historical law of exponentialgrowth of energy use.tO As will be shown in Chapter3, the debateon whether growth of the economy goes together with a parallel growth in the use of energyand materialsis still very much alive today. If Henry Adams was right, one could expect an abrupt 'end of history'. However, there are gains in technicalefficiency in the use of materialsand energy. We are neverthelesssceptical about the possibilities of an 'angelised' economy (to use Herman Daly's expression, which Henry Adams would have appreciated),and tend thereforeto worry about 'the effluentsof affluence'and the depletionof resources. Marxists have resisted the introduction of ecology into historical explanationperhapsbecauseof the fear that this could 'naturalise'human history. Therehasbeen,of course,no lack of attemptsin this direction,from Malthus' law of populationonwards.Indeed,ecologicalconcepts,or at least terms suchas Lebensraum,for instance,havebeenusedwith criminal intent and to devastatingeffect againstfellow humanbeings.Social Darwinism is still very much alive, as for instancein Garrett Hardin's espousalof 'lifeboat ethics'. Sociobiologists have attempted in recent years to provide 'natural' explanations (the 'selfish gene') of women's historical social subjection.Nevertheless,to introducehumanecologyinto history doesnot so muchnaturalisehumanhistory as historiseecology. The direct endosomaticenergy intake for humanlivelihood is indeed geneticallydetermined,evenif in today'sworld somepeoplestarvewhile, through energy-intensivefarming and a high intake of meat, the rich indirectly consumemany more calories to feed themselves.But human ecology is different from the ecology of other animals in several crucial respects:(1) Humans lack genetic instructions on the exosomaticuse of energy and materials. Such exosomatic consumption depends not on 'nature', but on economics, politics and culture, and exhibits large differencesbetweenrich and poor, which are certainly not in our genes.ll The natural sciences allow us to describe such facts of ecological distribution, but they do not provide explanations. (2) As regards

26

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

demography,althoughthe growth of humanpopulationsfollows Verhulst's logistic curve, human demographyis much more 'self-conscious'than in other species,and it dependson changing social structuresY (3) Finally, human territoriality is politically constructed,a fact that is obvious when considering the issue of freedom (or lack of freedom) of migration. Ecologists are able to explain the patternsof migration of birds or other animals,but in order to explain the migration of humanswe must resortto economics,politics and law. Ethological analogiesare faulty. For instance, migration from Morocco to Spain is almost completely banned, but migration between Sweden and Spain, both member countries of the EuropeanUnion, is now free. Introducing ecology into the explanationof human history thus does not imply in the least the naturalisation of humanhistory, or the idea that 'capitalism or the market system are natural outgrowths of human propensities'.On the contrary, introducing ecology into history historises ecology. Ecology is not a longue duree backdrop to human history; sometimesit changesmore rapidly than economicor political systems,as in many regions of America after 1492, and perhapsagain today with global warming and massbiological extinction.

DISTRIBUTION, THE DISCOUNT RATE AND

INCOMMENSURABILITY

The economyis embeddedin the social perceptionof externalities,which sometimesgive rise to social movements.Therefore, from an ecological point of view, the economy lacks a common standardof measurement, becausevalueswould dependon the endowmentof propertyrights and on the distribution of income, and they would also dependon the strengthof environmental movements and the distribution of power. In the intergenerationalcontext, pricing of environmentalresourcesand services, which dependson the distribution of income and on the problematic endowment of property rights on items of 'natural capital', is further complicatedby another issue, i.e. the rate of discount neededto weigh future costs and benefits. We do not know how to give presentvalues to future, uncertain and irreversible contingencies.In order to give present values to future costs and benefits, we need to determinefirst a rate of discount(which could be zero). But how can this be determined? One justification for a positive discount rate that is analytically weak and which some economists have dismissed is pure time preference. Another justification for a positive discountrate is the decreasingmarginal utility our descendantswill obtain from their abundantconsumption,on

27

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

the assumptionthat they will be richer than we are. From the point of view of ecologicaleconomics,there is no reasonto believe they are going to be richer, even leaving aside populationincrease.In fact, a positive discount rate basedon such an optimistic view will give rise to the paradox that future consumption will be undervalued, and therefore the present generationwill consumemore exhaustibleenvironmentalresourcesand servicesthan it would otherwise,leaving future generationspoorer. What further reason is given for a positive discount rate? The productivity of capital, or the opportunity costs of investment.We agree with this argument,and reject the fundamentalistnotion of a zero rate of discount,becauseinvestmentsometimesincreasesproductivecapacity.For instance,when in the Andesconsumptionand/or leisurewere sacrificedin order to build terracesand irrigation systems,this increasedthe capacityto use solar energy for photosynthesis,and crops increased: a genuine investmentunder the Inca empire. Without a discountrate, i.e. with equal valuation per unit of present consumption (sacrificed) and future consumption (increased), there would be an irrepressible tendency to increasetoday's investment,ultimately sacrificing the presentgeneration, and in fact bringing all successivegenerationsexceptthe 'last' onesdown to the consumptionminimum. But when 'investment'consists,as is often the case,not in a genuineincreaseof productivecapacity,but in a mixture of production and destruction, then the appropriate rate of discount is in doubt. This may bestbe defined as the rate at which investmentincreases sustainableproductioncapacity. But to assesshow much of the increasein capital producesan increasein sustainableproduction, and how much producesan increasein destructionof nature,is a distributional issue. How is naturalcapital depreciationto be measured?If so-callednaturalcapital is not eveninventoried(for instance,the loss of biodiversitybecauseof timber extraction), or if natural capital has a low price (becauseit belongs to nobody, or it belongsto poor and powerlesspeople who sell it cheaply), then the destructionof nature is undervalued.Distributional issuesthus impinge on the discount rate through the economic measurementof sustainability.The appropriatediscount rate would be that determinedby the 'sustainable'productivity of capital; but the measureof sustainability dependson the measureof depreciationof naturalcapital, and the measure of naturalcapital dependson the endowmentof propertyrights, and on the distribution of income. This point is closely linked to the critiques brought againstthe purportedempirical results of David Pearceand colleagueson 'weak sustainability'.n Sustainabilityneedsto be assessedthroughbiophysicalindicators that incorporate consideration of ecological distribution, as captured, for instance, in concepts such as the Ecological Footprint or Appropriated Carrying Capacity or EnvironmentalSpace,which estimatethe extent to

28

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

which a region dependson the rest of the world.14 Similarly, one might also assessthe human appropriation of net primary production, which, if calculatedfor different regions and countries of the world, would show how some populationslive beyond their own biomassproduction, while othersare still below their own production.15 Ecologicaleconomiststhus posethe issueof incommensurability,which shouldbe squarelyfaced.16 For instance,one kilowatt-hour generatedfrom fossil fuels is not commensurablein money terms with one kilowatt-hour generatedby nuclearenergy,onceexternalitiesare internalised,becausewe do not know which monetaryvaluesto give to suchexternalities.Much will dependon the time horizonand discountrate,on the uncertaintiesof future technicalchangeand on the distribution of income. In the caseof nuclear energy, the cost of decommissioningnuclear plants will loom larger and larger in the yearsahead.Of course,adjourningthe decisionmakesnuclear energyappearcheaper,just by virtue of the discountrate. But we are then compromisingthe ability of future generationsto meet their own needs. The monetary values given to externalities appear therefore as a consequenceof political decisions which are themselvesoften based on 17 spuriouseconomicarguments. Incommensurability means that there is no common unit of measurement,but it does not mean that we cannot comparealternative decisionson a rational basis,on different scalesof value, as in multi-criteria evaluation.In projectevaluation,multi-criteria evaluation,which is applied political ecology, takesprecedenceover cost-benefitanalysis,which breaks down becauseof incommensurabilityof values.18 Incommensurabilityhas been in the tradition of ecological economics since Otto Neurath and William Kapp. In the 1920s, in the context of the debate on economic calculusin a socialisteconomy,Neurathhad askedhow a socialisteconomy could assesspreservationof coal reservesfor future generationagainst extra manual work from the present generation. In his idea of a Naturalrechnung,an 'economyin kind', Neurathwas influencedmainly by the Austrianengineerand socialreformerPopper-Lynkeus,who had drawn many energyand materialbalancesfor the Germaneconomy,anticipatinga revolution. Von Mises, from the liberal side in the debateon the socialist economy,was to assertthat suchan economywould be irrational, because, since the means of production would be socialised,there would be no prices,and thereforetherewould be no rational meansof deciding whether electricity should be generatedfrom coal or from waterfalls. A reply came later from Oskar Lange, arguing for a 'parametric'role of prices (lack of marketswould not preventthe authoritiesfrom issuingprice lists for inputs and outputs, to guide decisions by managers,who would follow the efficiency rule of equalising marginal costs and marginal revenues),and indeed, a socialist economy does not necessarilyimply the abolition of

29

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

actual markets. This debate is well known. It is important, however, to understandNeurath'sintroductionof ecologicalissuesto the debate,which led him to a conclusion of 'incommensurability'of the elementsof the economy. Should the economy use more coal, and less human labour, or vice versa?askedNeurath.The answer dependsfor example on whether one thinks that hydro-electric power may be sufficiently developedor that solar heat might come to be better used,etc. If one believesthe latter, one may 'spend'coal more freely and will hardly waste human effort where coal can be used.If however one is afraid that when one generation uses too much coal thousandswill freeze to death in the future, one might use more human power and save coal. Such and many other non-technical matters determinethe choice of a technically calculableplan ... we can see no possibility of reducingthe productionplan to somekind of unit and then to comparethe various plans in terms of such units.19

Or, as Kapp put it half a centurylater To place a monetaryvalue on and apply a discount rate (which?) to future utilities or disutilities in order to expresstheir present capitalised value may give us a precisemonetarycalculation,but it does not get us out of the dilemma of a choice and the fact that we take a risk with human health and survival. For this reason,I am inclined to considerthe attemptat measuringsocial costs and social benefits simply in terms of monetaryor market values as doomed to failure. Social costs and social benefits have to be consideredas extra-marketphenomena;they are borne and accrue to society as a whole; they are heterogeneousand cannot be compared quantitatively among themselvesand with each other, not even in principle.20

The increasedgreenhouseeffect, and the long-termproblemsof nuclear power, canbe readily broughtinto this framework. Comparabilityneednot presupposecommensurability.We can rationally discusssourcesof energy, transportsystems,agriculturalpolicies,patternsof industrialisationand the preservationof tropical rainforests,taking into accountboth monetarycosts (and benefits) and present and future socio-environmental'costs' (and 'benefits') as they impinge on different groups of people,now and in the future, without an appeal to a common monetary unit of measurement. Such economic incommensurability opens a broad political space for environmentalmovements.

30

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

ECOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION CONFLICTS If political economy studies economic distributional conflicts, political ecologywould study 'ecologicaldistribution' conflicts. What doesecological distribution mean? This refers to the social, spatial and temporal asymmetries or inequalities in the use by humans of environmental resourcesand services,i.e. in the depletionof natural resources(including the loss of biodiversity) and in the burdensof pollution.21 For instance,an unequaldistribution of land, when coupled with pressureof agricultural exports on limited land resources,may causedegradationby subsistence peasantsworking on mountain slopeswhich would be not cultivated so intensively if the land in the valleys were more equally distributed.22 Other examplesare the inequalitiesin per capitaexosomaticenergyconsumption and in the use of the Earth'srecycling capacityfor carbondioxide, and the territorial asymmetriesbetweensulphurdioxide emissionsand the burdens of acid rain; the intergenerationalinequalities betweenthe enjoyment of nuclear energy (or emissions of carbon dioxide), and the burdens of radioactivewaste(or global warming). Some of these asymmetriesare beginning to be classified, but the transfers to which they refer have no agreed prices. For instance, 'environmental racism' in the United States means locating polluting industriesor toxic wastedisposalsitesin areasof Black, Hispanicor Indian population.Again, there is increasingdiscussionon 'ecologically unequal exchange'and on the 'ecological debt' (with both spatial and temporal aspects).Thuswork hasbeendonein the Netherlandson the environmental space,both for procuring resourcesand for disposal of emissions,really occupiedby her heavily populated,rich, and polluting economy.Europeans pay nothing for the environmentalspaceusedin order to disposeof carbon dioxide emissions. The Europeans(and also the citizens of other rich countries)vastly exceedtheir rightful per capita carbondioxide allowance, and they act as if they owneda sizeablechunk of the planetoutsideEurope, but (almost) nobody is yet complaining,or trying to chargethem a fee.

EnvironmentalJusticein the United States There havebeenfor a long time two main schoolsof environmentalismin the United States, (as explained more fully in Chapter 4), identified respectivelywith John Muir (the preservationof wilderness)and Gifford Pinchot(the conservationof natural resourcesto be exploited sustainably). Little by little, there arose in the 1960s and 1970s another type of environmentalmovement,against the effluents of affluence which today hasacquiredsocial roots among'peopleof colour'. This new environmental

31

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

justice movementagainst'environmentalracism' is said to have startedin Warren County in North Carolina in 1982.23 While there are attemptsat connectingthe environmentaljustice movementwith mainstream'western' environmental movements,24an important political task would be to connect this American movement with the many environmental movementsof the poor in other countries,which, in termsof the numberof peopleinvolved, have far more weight. Onemain platform of the environmentaljusticemovementhasbeenthe oppositionto the incinerationof wastebecauseof the risk of dioxines and furans.25 Many African American, Native American and Latino communities in the United States have depressedeconomies; these communitiesoffer attractivelocationsfor thosewho advocatethe siting of toxic wastefacilities or polluting industriesas a meansto give employment and increase local economic growth. We have here an application of LawrenceSummers'principle, 'the poor sell cheap.'2"The market-through willingness to acceptcompensation,or through so-called'hedonicprices', i.e. the decreasein value of properties threatenedby pollution-would indicate that locations where the poor live are more appropriate than locations where the rich live. The defence of the poor against pollution dangershas come throughthe organisedenvironmentaljustice movement, which came into being with the First National People of Color EnvironmentalLeadershipSummit in October1991 in WashingtonDC, and which doesnot appealto an ecologicallyextendedmarketbut to the judicial system or to forms of direct action, often inspired by the Civil Rights movementof the 1960s.Similarly, in India, the environmentalmovements of the poor resort to forms of civil disobedienceinspired by Mahatma Gandhi's national liberation struggles. In the United States, ethnic awarenessnow serves environmental purposes,but this is scarcely a novelty in world history.

Genderand the Environment Enrique Mayer and CesarFonsecaexplain that on one occasion,in Peru, in the community of Tapuc ... the women, speaking Quechua,were strongly complaining that the eucalyptustrees planted on the manay should be pulled off immediately. Manay is the fall owed land in the sectoral fallowing system [communally controlled,and with a long rotation period of six or eight years] ... the women insisted on behalf of the community that the land under manay had been inherited from the ancestorsin orderto grow potatoesand other rootcrops, and that they could not feed their children with the leavesof eucalyptus.Moreover, where the eucalyptustree grows,the soil get poorer,and it becomesuselesseven for onions.27

32

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

Eucalyptus(as shownin the previouschapter)is a contentioustree,but one cannot deny its contribution in the Andes to the availability of fuelwood andbuilding materials,and to the control of erosion.However,the question arises,who was right from an environmentalpoint of view: the womenwho spokeQuechua,or their menfolk and the forest engineerswho, in Spanish, were promoting the plantationof eucalyptustrees on the commonfallow lands?When naturalresourcesbecomedegraded,and privatised,it is to be expectedthat women will be in the forefront of resistance.Women have been leadersof environmentalmovementsof the poor much more often than they have been leadersof union struggles.Why should this be so? Bina Agarwal hasoutlined severalreasonsfor women'sparticipationin and leadership of these movements. First, women are concerned with the provisioning and care of the household,not becauseof a particular liking for it, but becauseof a constructedsocial role. Scarcity and pollution of water and lack of fuelwood, are women'spreoccupations.Thereis no need to postulatean essentialbiological link betweenwomenand naturein order to understandwomen'srole in the materialprovisioningof the oikos, i.e. in the ecologicaleconomyas opposedto the moneyeconomy.Second,women have a small share of private property, and depend more on common property resources. Third, women often have specific traditional knowledge(in agricultureand medicine)which becomesdevaluedwith the growth of the generalisedmarketsystem,or the intrusion of the state.28 In the environmental justice movement in the United States, the participationof womenis remarkablyhigh, and at leastthe first two reasons offered by Bina Agarwal also apply. Lois Gibbs started the Love Canal struggleagainsttoxic waste,and had for a while a leading position in the environmental justice movement. But the specific social situation is different from that in India or the Andes, in the sense that the environmentalismof the (relatively) poor in the United States may be characterisedas a strugglefor a betterquality of life, againstthe effluentsof affluence, rather than a struggle to keep control over environmental resourcesand servicesnecessaryfor livelihood and survival. Indeed, one main purposeof this chapter,and of this book more generally,is to work towardsa classificationof suchdifferent varietiesof environmentalism.

Varieties of Environmentalism Was the concern in Germany for the Waldsterben caused by acid rain motivatedby an ancestralGermanlove of the forests,or by a post-material interestin landscapes?Might it have beenmotivated also by the material worry aboutthe loss of forestsas sinks for carbon?Environmentalismcould be explainedby concernfor the increasingdepletionof material resources and increasing environmental pollution, or increasing expenditures to

33

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

mitigate pollution. Environmentalismhasalso beenexplained,accordingto the post-materialistthesis of Richard Inglehart and others, in terms of a change in cultural values away from material consumption, towards 'quality of life' issues.The fact that economicdistribution conflicts are no longer so acute, leads to a generationalshift towards new values, which include an increasingappreciationof environmentalamenitiesbecauseof the declining marginal utility of abundant, easily obtained material commodities. Inglehart's research interests lie mainly with the industrialisedcountries.We have criticised this thesis on the groundsthat there is indeed much evidencefor the 'environmentalismof the poor' in many social conflicts in history and at present.Sometimesthe contentsof suchconflicts are immediatelyidentified as 'environmental';at other times, non-environmentalidioms are used. Also, it is easy to find evidence (through opinion polls) for a strong interest in the environmentin poor countries as well. 29 Is the contrast then between a post-materialist environmentalismof affluence and a materialist environmentalismof the poor?This is too simple. Thereexistsa materialistenvironmentalismin rich countriesagainstthe effluentsof affluence.Sometimesthe participantshave been relatively poor people but, at other times, as in the anti-nuclear movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the leaders were often middle-class professionalsworried about radioactive waste and future generations. Being rich may offer some protection against but certainly not invulnerability to radiation from nuclear wastes. Like radiation, the potential risks posedby depletionof the ozonelayer or by climate change are both material in nature and cut acrosscategoriesof wealth and class: another'material'reasonfor being an environmentalistin the North. On the other hand, the environmentalismof the poor is not always materialist in origin. For instance, there have been attempts to explain Southern environmentalismin terms of non-materialist(especiallyreligious) values and also to explain the environmentalismof peasantwomen in terms of a non-materialist,essentialistidentification with nature.3D Perhapsthe best-knowninstancesof the environmentalismof the poor are Chico Mendes and the seringueiros(in Brazil), the Chipko movement and the NarmadaBachaoAndolan (in India), and now the Ogoni struggle againstShell in Nigeria. But there are many more. To take someexamples from Brazil, there is the ethnic group of ex-slavesof the Trombetasriver, which from the mid-1970s has fought hydro-electricity generation and bauxite mining by Brazilian and foreign companies,which threatenedto destroythe waterfall CachoeiraPorteira,a placesacredto them.At the same time this group confrontedIBAMA, the stateenvironmentalagency,which designated the territory occupied by these negros de Trombetas as a 'biological reserve',but which is seen as a trick to dislodge them to the benefit of mining corporations.Again, in the region around Santarema

34

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

conflict exists betweenribeirinho fishermen - who fish in the varzea lakes which the Amazon leavesbehind in the period of low waters,from July to December- and industrial fishermencalled geleiros (icemen).Attempts are being madeto legally institute a systemof communalmanagementof the lakes,to the benefit of the resourceand the local people.The movementin defenceof the babassupalm in Maranhaoand neighbouringstates,in the Brazilian north-east,basedmainly on women (the quebradeirasde coco) is alsobecomingwell known. Womenwho makea living or complementtheir meagreincome by collecting the fruit, breaking it up and and selling the seed want to preserve the palm trees against landowners. Finally, in various parts of Brazil we can find movementsof atingidos pelas barragens, strugglesof peopleto be displacedby large dams.31 One could travel around the world collecting such cases of the environmentalismof the poor. What an enjoyable researchjourney that would be! In betweenjourneys (or on the bus and train) researchon the environmentalismof the poor as it is manifestedin fiction, in Latin America and elsewherecould be done,if fiction is the word. Thus, in the Peruof the 1950s and 1960s, which is described in Jose Maria Arguedas' Todas las Sangres ('All Bloods'), we could ask: Were they not environmentalist,the poor neighboursof SanPedrode Lahuaymarcawho allied themselveswith the Indians of the community, and burned down their own church and killed the main engineerof the mining companyof Wisther & Bozart,whom the authoritieshad allowed to usethe maizefields of La Esmeraldato place the slag? Table 2.1 classifies some varieties of environmentalism.Although the basic typology is sound (the environmentalismof affluence versus the environmentalismof survival; the environmentalismof enhancedquality of life versus the environmentalism of livelihood), some overlapping situationsdo not easily fit into the table. For instance,there are strugglesin poor countriesagainsttoxic waste,whetherimported or locally produced, while there are struggles in rich countries (Canada, New Zealand, the United States) by native peoples to enforce territorial rights in order to retain accessto their own naturalresourcesor to protectthemselvesagainst waste dumping. Also, the defenceof communitiesagainstthe state or the marketoften restsin part on religious values.And certainly there are cases of the 'anti-environmentalismof the poor', for instance,the Amazonian garimpeiroswho look for gold, and pollute rivers with mercury. The global versuslocal dimension,not shownin Table 2.1, will be discussedin the next section.

35

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Table 2.1 SomeVarieties of Environmentalism Materialist

In affluent countries

In poor countries

Non-materialist

Reaction against the increased impact of the effluents of affluence, e. g. the environmental justice movement in the United States, the antinuclear movement

Cultural shift to postmaterial 'quality of life' values and increased appreciation of natural amenities because of declining marginal utility of abundant, easily obtained material commodities

The environmentalism of the poor, i. e. the defence of livelihood and communal access to natural resources, threatened by the state or by the expansion of the market

'Biocentric' eastern religions (as distinct from western 'anthropocentric' religions)

Reaction against environmental degradation caused by unequal exchange, poverty, population growth

Essentialist eco-feminism (poor women intrinsically close r to natu re)

INTERNATIONALEXTERNALITIES Today'sexploitationof natureraisesthe novel issueof the internalisationof externalities.The value of suchexternalitiesis clearly relatedto outcomesof distributional conflicts. Some examplesfrom Ecuador will be given, but similar casesare found in other countriesof the South;for instance,in Peru pollution by sulphur dioxide from the SouthernPeru CopperCorporation has given rise to an internationalcourt case(New York Times,12 December 1995). Thereis also a court caseagainstthe mining firm Freeport-McMoran in New Orleansfor damagesin Irian Jaya(the Economist,20 July 1996; Down to Earth, 31 July 1996). What is the true value of a barrel of Texacooil, a bunchof bananas,or a box of shrimps from Ecuador?It dependson the value of the damages caused.Thereare no 'true' values.Thereare no 'ecologicallycorrect' prices,

36

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

although there might be 'ecologically corrected'prices. The value of the perceived negative externalities is a product of social institutions and distributionalconflicts. In principle, if the peopledamagedare poor (and of future generations),then the externalities will be cheaper, but the internationalisationof environmental conflicts may provide interesting counter-examples. Texacowas involved in the extractionof oil from the northern part of the Amazonian territory of Ecuador from the early 1970s until 1990. Damagesof US$l,500 million have been claimed, arising from oil spills, deforestation,and disruption of the life of local communities.The caseis now underconsiderationby a court in New York. 32 Texacoextractedabout 1000 million barrelsof oil during that period, so that damagesclaimed are about US$1.5 per barrel, about 10 per cent of the grossvalue of sales.The governmentof Ecuador,which madethe original agreementwith Texaco,is not a plaintiff in the class-actionsuit in the New York court. On the contrary, the governmentis pushingfor an out-of-courtsettlement,by which Texaco would pay for the restorationof some damageand would also pay some indemnities- in the form of healthcentresand the like - to the communities affected. Most of the Indians and other plaintiffs involved have not much experience of the generalisedmarket economy, let alone the US legal system. The out-of-court settlementdiscussedin 1994-95, by which the governmentof Ecuadorwas trying to stop the court case,seemedto imply a paymentby Texacoof about US$15 million, one hundredtimes less than the damagesbeing soughtin court. Should the casebe eventuallyheardin New York, the court will be in a position to decide(as would havebeenthe case for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy) whether distribution of income should or should not influence the price of externalities.Should Texaco,a US company,pay accordingto US valuesor Ecuadorianvalues?If there is an out-of-court settlement (as happenedin the civil case over Bhopal), this would also have interesting implications. Perhapsdamages will be paid of only one cent per barrel of oil extracted.This would be anotherapplicationof the principle 'the poor sell cheap',which I also call 'LawrenceSummers'principle'. Poor people acceptcheaply,if not gladly, inconveniencesor risks which other peoplewould be ready to acceptonly if offered large amountsof money. But money is not the relevantstandard of comparison for people who are not yet wholly immersed in the generalisedmarketsystem. Another case, of smaller dimension, was brought by unions from Ecuadorand other countries,in a Texascourt againstShell, StandardFruit, Dow Chemical and others, arising from the pesticide DBCP applied to bananaplantations,which has causedmale sterility. This casefirst arosein Costa Rica. In Ecuador,the bananafarms are owned by Ecuadorians,but they produceundercontractand were inducedby the trading firms to use

37

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

the chemical.How much is a caseof male sterility worth? Shouldit be paid at US prices or those of Ecuadorianbananaworkers?Will Dow Chemical pay higher indemnities for damagesfrom silicon implants to US women than for damages from DBCP to Ecuadorian men? The existence of externalitiesdependson whether (real or claimed) property rights have beendamaged,and in such cases,there is no doubt that peopleown their own health; however the value of the externality depends on the distribution of income.As LawrenceSummersput it, 'the measurementof the costs of health-impairingpollution dependson the foregoneearnings from increasedmorbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amountof health-impairingpollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages'.33The courts might decide, however, againstthe logic of the market, and assess damagesfrom DBCP at US 'prices', on the grounds that the damagehas been causedby North American firms. Such internationalcasesare good examples of the social and institutional non-market influences on the valuationof externalities.In Ecuador,as in Colombia,therecould be similar casesfor damageto healthin the productionof flowers for export. A third suchconflict in Ecuadoropposescommercialshrimp or prawn cultivation to the preservationof mangrovesin the Pacific coast.Here there is as yet no court case,but possibleplaintiffs would be peoplewho usedthe mangrovessustainablyand outside the market, and who are damagedby their destructionby the shrimp industry. These people are mostly poor womenand their families, who live sustainably,if poorly, by directly using or selling the products of the mangroves.A strong protest movement againstthe destructionof mangrovesby the shrimp industry arosein 1995 in Esmeraldas,the coastal northern province of Ecuador, led by local people, and environmentalactivists. Property rights over the mangroves are unclear.Although the demandfor shrimpsis international,the industry itself is owned by nationals. How much are the externalities involved worth, at presentvalue? Factorsto be taken into accountare the period of regenerationof the mangrovesafter being destroyedby shrimp farming, and the discount rate to be applied to the benefitsof shrimp farming and the costsof mangrovedestruction.Beyond this, pseudo-marketvaluations of damagesin terms of willingness to acceptcompensation,for instance, would dependon incomelevels.

Ecologically Unequal Trade? Someaspectsof historical geographywhich were studiedin in the pastare currentlybeing studiedfrom a more critical perspectiveusing notionssuch as Raubwirtschaft,which had been forgotten even though the term was coined by geographersand introducedby JeanBrunhesin his classicbook

38

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

GeographieHumaine.34 There is also a new discussionof the staple theory of growth, a theory that is often attributed to the Canadianhistorian Harold Innis, in his work on the export of raw materials from Canadaand the relation between these exports and economic growth due to different linkages.Later, Innis' critical perspectivewasforgottenand doctrinaireneoliberals glorified economic growth based on the extraction of natural 35 resources. As part of the attempt at creating a theory of ecologically unequal exchange,new argumentshave been raised against the staple theory of growth.36 Extractive economiesproducepoverty at a local level, and an absenceof political power, leadingto the inability to slow down the rate of resourceextraction or to raise the prices. This is, for example,the situation that Algeria presentlyfaces,with its currentand future exportsof non-renewableresourceslike oil and gas. Mexico also faces this situation. Which movementsand political organisationswill defendtheseresources? What political discoursewill they adopt? Someregionshavedevelopedon the basisof extractiveenterprises.For example,despitethe continuousdisplacementof coffee plantationsin Sao Paulo due to soil exhaustion,many local economiclinkages were created becausefazendeiros (landowners)and exportersresidedin this state.There are many examplesthat cast doubt on the staple theory of growth and strengthen the theory of underdevelopmentas a consequenceof dependenceexpressedas unequal trade. This is not only becauseof the undervaluationof the labour of the world's poor and the deteriorationof the terms of trade expressedin prices; there are also the different 'productiontimes' exchangedwhen extractedproductswhich can only be replacedover a long period, if at all, are traded for productsthat can be produced quickly. In the case of mineral resources,it is obvious that exploitationoccursmuchfasterthanreplacement;often the resultis to leave a polluted hole in the ground and a gaping hole in the social fabric of the mining area.37 Only if agriculturalor forestry exportsdo not outstrip the rate of replacement,and if prices are reasonable,would it appearthat they can provide lasting economicbenefits. But it is necessaryto bear in mind that from the ecological point of view, theseare not only exports of the solar energyincorporatedwithout cost by meansof photosynthesis,but also of soil nutrients.In the caseof fish exports,which in principle also appearto be biologically renewable,the extremevariability of planktongrowth must be taken into account. This makes the application of the concept of 'maximumsustainableyield' - first developedby Germanforestry science and later by Gifford Pinchot in the United States- impossible.In practice we see how one area after another exhaustsits fishing resources.The histories of some of these disasters,like that of California, have already beenwritten/8 while others,suchas Peru,still await their historians.39 The argumentthat in exporting non-renewableresourcesan unequal

39

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

exchangeresults,sincethe marketundervaluesthe necessitiesof the future, is almost never referred to in internationalpolitics. It is an argumentthat will grow in the Third World in the coming years,althoughit could have becomepolitically relevantmuch earlier: for instance,in Andeancountries during the 'age of guano',between1840 and 1880, or throughoutthe 200 years (since the mid-17th century) of exports of the bark of Chinchona officinalis, the quinine tree.

Global and Local Ecological Distribution Conflicts Until the secondhalf of the 1980s,therewere almostno attemptsto develop a political ecology linked to political economy,or to theorisean ecological Marxism at local and global levels which could deal with ecological distribution conflicts. Sincethen, the GermaneconomistElmar Altvater has publishedseveralbooks40 in which he hasdevelopeda spatialand temporal dialectics of capitalism. The capitalist economy continuously attemptsla mise-en-valeurof new territories,suchasAmazonia.The marketvalorisation of the resourcesextracted implies a speed of extraction (or a speed of insertion of pollutants)which is quicker than the biogeochemicalcycles of nature.To extractmeansto takeout without putting back, and so petroleum and many other natural resources,such as mahogany,havebeenextracted (rather than produced)and destroyed!!The need to pay real interestrates of over 5 per cent per year, or the required rates of profit on capital, contradictthe rhythms of nature,and clearly contradictthe law of entropy, which Altvater, following Georgescu-Roegen, includesin his analysis,in the stepsalso of FrederickSoddy'swritings of 70 yearsago. Economictime in the newly incorporatedterritoriesis quicker thanbiological time, at leastfor a while, and peoplewho followed the rhythms of natureare dispossessed in the process. Some neo-Marxist authors such as JamesO'Connor and Enrique Leff haveexplainedenvironmentalmovementsas the result of non-internalised externalitiesY The growth of capitalism, which is still threatenedby the exploitation of workers and the exploitation of the peripheralpopulations of the world - what O'Connorcalls the first contradictionof capitalism- is also threatenedby a secondcontradiction,as firms externalisesocial and environmentalcosts,which sometimesgives rise to new social movements. Suchmovementsconfrontnot only capitalistsbut also the statebecausethe state is assumedto provide the conditions of livelihood and production threatenedby the growth of the capitalist economy.As the market system hasspreadover the world it hasled to more intensiveuseof renewableand exhaustibleresources,and it has also led to the productionof externalities, i.e. lossesnot measuredby market prices, including the loss that resource exhaustionrepresentsfor future generations.As the market expandsit

40

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

paradoxically uses or wastes more resourcesand more environmental servicesthat are outsidethe market,and preciselybecausethey are outside the marketplaceno value is assignedto them. In the sameway that unpaid domestictoil is unpaidbecauseof the social structuresand conventionsthat exist, so the conditions of livelihood and production representedby an adequatesupply of water, energy,cleanair, land and wastedisposalare all 43 provided by nature from outside the marketplace. If natureis degraded, the generalsuppositionis that it is the state'sresponsibilityto correct this environmentalimpact or to find new resources,to the extentof 'oil wars' if necessary,in order to maintain the conditionsof production.Thus the role of the state, not just that of the market, means that conflicts over the ecologicalconditionsof livelihood and productionsoon turn into political conflicts. In a later chapterwe explain how the growth of capitalist agriculture, with an intensive use of fossil fuels and biologically simplified, has produceda movementof self-consciouspeasantagroecologywhich is not at all a post-modernfad but a route towardsan alternativemodernitybased on the defenceof agriculturalbiodiversityand sensibleagronomicpractices which are threatenedby modern, anti-ecological agriculture. This is an exampleof the secondcontradiction.The environmentaljustice movement in the United Statesis anotherexample,with its mix of race and class.It is easyto find other examplesof the secondcontradiction,but there are also cases in which despite the existenceof an acknowledgedexternality global warming, destructionof the ozonelayer, loss of wild biodiversity there has not been a spontaneousbirth of grassroots environmental movements. First, the scientists and, sometimes, the international wildernessmovement,havecalled attentionto suchexternalitiesbeforeany grass roots movementadoptedthem as issues.The debateon trade and environmentwas effectively started by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (with a paperby Arden-Clarke),thoughif this debateis setin the contextof the more generaldebateon unequalexchange,then the origin is certainly more remote. This absenceof grassrootsmovementscontrastswith their presencein other types of environmentalconflicts, as for instancesulphur dioxide emissionsfrom power stationsor smelters,or the loss of accessto common property resourcesby private enclosures.There is need for scientific warning systemsin suchcases. There is then at first sight a gulf betweenlocal movementsand global issues. However, if we look (as we do in Chapter 6) at the defence of agriculturalbiodiversity (by CLADES in Latin America,by the Third World Network in India), we notice an interestingphenomenon:the use of global environmentalideas for local struggles. As a responseto the attempts through the GATT negotiationsto enforce intellectual property rights on 'improved' seeds,when nothing has ever been paid for traditional seeds

41

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

and traditional knowledge, there were strong movementsof protest in India. In fact, an 'agriculturalexception'in GATT would make as much or even more sensethan the 'cultural exception'demandedby some French and other European film-makers against the free entry of Hollywood products. The useof global ideasin order to fight for local or nationalaims is also presentin other debatesarising in the South.For instance,the lack of action in the North to preventemissionsof carbondioxide (the main greenhouse gas)far in excessof the ability of the Earthto absorbcarbondioxide through new vegetationor in the oceanswill acceleratethe debateon the ecological debt, while the proposals for 'joint implementation' - i.e. paying for reforestation projects in the South to offset excessive carbon dioxide emissions in the North - will provoke a general discussion on carbon dioxide emission allowances or on property rights on the absorptive capacityof the Earth, following Agarwal'sand Narain'sproposalsof 1991.44 Until about 100 years ago, the social perception of carbon dioxide emissionsby humansburning fossil fuels as an externality did not exist, and in fact, until the 1950s,the usualinterpretationby scientistswas that an increasein temperaturewould be good. Attempts at cost-benefitanalysis of the increasedgreenhouseeffect are not convincingbecauseof the doubts over the type of value appropriatefor the valuationof damagessuchas loss of human life, becausemany items are not easily measuredin physical terms,much less easily valued in money terms. In this context, we could look at casesof 'joint implementation'in the tropics; as, for example, between FACE (Forest Adsorption of Carbon Dioxide Emissions,a Dutch foundationof electricalfirms) and INEFAN, the agencyfor naturalparksand forestsin Ecuador. Here we seea typical case of buying a cheapsink for carbondioxide in the expectationthat this will be credited to the account of Dutch carbon dioxide emissions. FACE has projectsin severalcountriesof the world. One of them, Profafor, consistsof planting 75,000hectaresin the Andeswith eucalyptusand pines. The FACE repor~5 report45 statesthat in the EcuadorianAndes at altitudesbetween2,400 and 3,500metres,'agricultureis no longer possible,and livestock farming is less profitable'- an arrogantstatement,althoughperhapsone shouldnot expect greatexpertisein mountainagriculturefrom a Dutch foundation. 'Joint implementation' is usually praised on the grounds of cost effectiveness. It is cheaper to place carbon dioxide in the growing vegetationof tropical countriesthan to reducecarbondioxide emissionsin rich countries. Indeed,were it not for the absorptionof human-produced carbondioxide by naturalsinks - namely,new vegetationand the oceansthe greenhouseeffect would be even more marked. Despiteuncertainties over 'missing' carbon sinks (perhaps in Northern forests), there is a consensusthat approximatelyone-halfof the carbondioxide producedby

42

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

humansburning fossil fuels doesnot accumulatein the atmosphere,but is placedgratis in suchnaturalsinks. Thus the rich behaveas if they were the owners of a disproportionate part of the carbon dioxide absorption capability provided by the new vegetationand the oceans. The remaining carbondioxide is dumpedinto the atmosphereasif they ownedthat too. In this sense,joint implementation- i.e. exporting carbondioxide to outside sinks,beyondone'sown environmentalspace- hasbeengoing on for many decades. What is now being proposedis that, in specific casesamounting to a minute proportion of the excessiveemissionsof carbon dioxide, a payment will be made for the use of one of the natural sinks, new vegetation. Therefore, such explicit afforestation proposals for joint implementationasexist at the momentput on the table the issueof property rights over the absorptivecapability of carbondioxide. They also raisethe issueof the North's ecologicaldebt to the South, given the environmental serviceof carbondioxide absorptionprovided gratis up to now. Countries in a creditor position in the matter of ecologicaldebt could provide a lead, and could lend a sense of urgency to negotiations on climate change. Furthermore,the global discussionon carbon dioxide emissionscan be locally linked to campaigns againsturban planning in the service of the motor car (from Mexico to Bangkok). There is already an Alliance for Climate (againstcarbon dioxide emissions)betweenenvironmentalistsin Northerncities who wish to restrictcar traffic and the Amazonianumbrella organisationfor indigenousgroups,COICA, which wishesto preservethe rainforestagainstlogging, cattle ranching,mining and oil extraction.There is also a growing international organisation,called Oil-Watch, trying to combine the efforts of the many communitiesof the South endangeredby the oil industry - for instance,by Shell in Nigeria, a casemadenotorious by theexecutionof Ken Saro-Wiwa.Shell is also active in extractingoil and gas in Amazonia,and in many other places,including the North Seaand the Brent Sparplatform. Here I shall quote from an Oil watch report46on the consequencesof Shell's activities in the PeruvianAmazonin the 1980s. In the lower Urubamba area of Peru, Shell started a programme of seismic prospectingto evaluatethe state of the reservesof natural gas. The group most affected by the programmewas the Nahuapeople. Before 1984,the Nahuahad no previous contactwith the outside world. The first contactswere often sporadic and often violent; their confrontationswith Shell, for instance,causeda numberof injuries and put the continuation of the work at risk. The company tried to improve relations with the Nahua,offering them tools, food and other gifts, even taking someof the Nahuato the Shell camps. The initiative was a successand the exploration programmewas able to continue. The budding relationship between Shell and the Nahua lead to forestry companiesattempting a similar approach,

43

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

offering gifts in return for wood. Unfortunately.the repeatedcontact introduced whooping cough and influenza.to which the Nahua had no resistance.The most conservativeestimatesare that 50 per cent of the population died. and that many others fled to a neighbouringarea or to the city of Sepahua.where their culture completelydisintegrated.condemingthem to beggingin the street. Recently.Shell signed a contract with the Peruvian government to exploit the Camisea gas reserves.

Table 2.2 is offered in lieu of a conclusion. It attempts a fairly comprehensiveclassification of ecological distribution conflicts, both domestic and international. It also includes the related resistance movements.The rangeof casesit containsconstitutesthe researchagenda of the evolving field of political ecology.

Table 2.2 Ecological Distribution Conflicts and Related ResistanceMovements

Definition

Name Environmental racism

Dumping of toxic waste in locations inhabited by African Americans. Latinos and Native Americans

Environmental justice

Movement against environmental racism

Environmental blackmail

Either you accept LULU (locally unacceptable land use). or you remain jobless

Toxic imperialism

Dumping of toxic waste in poorer countries

Ecologically unequal exchange

Importing products from poor regions or countries at prices which do not take account of exhaustion or of local externalities

Ecological dumping

Selling at prices which do not take account of exhaustion or externalities; it takes place from North to South (farm export from Europe or USA). and from South to North.

Internalisation of international externalities

Law suits against multinationals (Union Carbide. Texaco. Dow Chemicals. Shell. ete.) in their country of origin. claiming damages for externalities caused in poor countries

Ecological debt

Claiming damages from rich countries on account of past excessive emissions (of carbon dioxide. for

44

FROM POLITICAL ECONOMY TO POLITICAL ECOLOGY

Transboundarypollution

instance)or for plunderingof natural resources Applied mainly to sulphur dioxide emissions crossingbordersin Europe,and producingacid rain

National fishing rights

Attempts to stop open-accessdepredation by imposing(sincethe I 940s in Peru,Ecuador,Chile) exclusivefishing areas

Environmentalspace

The geographicalspaceoccupiedby an economy, taking into accountimports of natural resources and disposalof emissions

Omnivoresvs. ecosystempeople

The contrastbetweenpeople living on their own resources,and people living on the resources of other territories and peoples

Ecological footprint or appropriatedcarrying capacity

The ecological impact of regions or large cities on the outside space

Biopiracy

The appropriationof genetic resources('wild' or agricultural) without adequatepaymentor recognition of peasant/indigenous knowledgeand ownership(including the extremecaseof the Human Genomeproject)

Workers' strugglesfor health and safety

Actions (in the framework of collective bargaining or outside it) to preventdamagesto workers in mines,plantation or factories

Urban strugglesfor clean water,green spaces...

Actions (outsidethe market) to improve environmentalconditions of livelihood or to gain accessto recreationalamenitiesin the urban context

Indigenousenvironmentalism

Use of territorial rights and ethnic resistance againstexternal use of resources(e.g. Crees againstHydro Quebecin Canada,Ogoni against Shell in Nigeria)

Social ecofeminism

The environmentalactivism of women,motivatedby their social situation;the idiom of such strugglesis not necessarilythat of environmentalism/feminism

Environmentalismof the poor

Social conflicts with an ecological content(today and in history) of the poor againstthe (relatively) rich, not only but mainly in rural contexts

45

Chapter 3

Poverty and the Environment: A Critique of the Conventional Wisdom

l

The general proposition that economic growthis good for the environmenthas been justified by the claim that there exists an empirical relation between per capita income and some measuresof environmentalquality. It has been observed that as incomegoesup there is increasingenvironmentaldegradationup to a point, after which environmentalquality improves... There are... reasonsfor caution in interpretingtheseinverted U-shapedcurves.2

INTRODUCTION The relationship between wealth (or poverty) and environmental degradationvaries with each factor analysed.For instance,emissionsof carbon dioxide increasewith wealth. Emissions of sulphur dioxide also increase with industrialisation, but diminish when a country becomes richer and filters are installed in power stationsor metal smelters.As for water quality, it is lower in poor countriesand increaseswith wealth, but the consumptionof water also increaseswith wealth; hencewater reserves are overexploitedin some rich countriesand suffer salinisationin coastal areas. Finally, the production of domestic wastes increases as living standardsincrease,and their compositionmakesthem harderto recycle. By providing the results of a few selectedindicators,it can be argued not only that wealth increasesappreciationof environmentalvalues but also that wealth itself is good for the environment.The main messageof the Brundtland Report was that poverty is the main causeof environmental degradation,and it explicitly recommendedan annualgrowth rate of 3 per cent for the South as well as for the North (to accomodatehigher exports from the South). Brundtland's messagewas that economic growth, renamed 'sustainabledevelopment',is a remedy for both poverty and 3 environmentaldegradation. The proponents of the 'post-materialist' thesis4 accept that in the

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

affluent countries there is concern about the deterioration of some environmentalindicators,and aboutthe increasingpart of GNP which must be spent on 'protective', 'defensive','corrective' or 'mitigatory' measures against environmentaldamageS,but this school neverthelessemphasises cultural changeas the main explanationof environmentalism.It tends to emphasisethe purported'dematerialisation'(and 'de-energisation')of the economy,and would therefore explain the rise of environmentalismas a post-material cultural shift towards appreciation of nature and the amenitiesit provides.This has also beenthe consensusamongmainstream environmental and resource economists in the United States6 until challenged by the new ecological economics.7 Indeed, orthodox environmentaleconomicshadproposedthat the demandfor environmental goodsincreaseswith income,and that the poor are 'too poor to be green'. Ingleharfl describesthe environmentof the Netherlandsas 'nearlypristine', a most optimistic assessmentsince this is a country with a population densityof 400 personsper squarekilometre, and nearly as many cows,pigs and cars as humans.This misrepresentationallows him then to attribute Dutch environmentalismmostly to 'post-materialism'.The Scandinavian countriesare also classifiedby Inglehartas 'nearly pristine' environments. They are certainly less populated than the Netherlands.The growth of environmentalconcernin Scandinaviais onceagainattributedby Inglehart mostly to 'post-materialism',with no regard to the following facts: their economiesare partly basedon extractionof natural resources;one country (Sweden)has an excessivenumberof nuclearpower stationsrelative to its population; the countries have been subject to radiation from Chernobyl and to acidification from external sources. There are certainly enough material reasonsto becomean environmentalistin Scandinavia.

SUSTAINABILITY AND CARRYING CAPACITY That wealth provides the means to correct environmentaldamage,that wealthy people are environmentally more conscious becausethey can afford to carefor quality of life issues,and that poverty is one main causeof environmentaldegradation,are the politically correctbeliefs. However,for many ecologists this constellationof beliefs representsno more than an attempt to blame the victims, and it provokes outrage. In this chapter, indignation is repressed,and the argument that the poor destroy the environmentis consideredcalmly, even when the speakercomesfrom the South such as the former FinanceMinister of India Dr. ManmohanSingh, who justified programmes of trade and market liberalisation on the grounds that they would generate resources for cleaning up the

47

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

environment.9 It may appearthat poverty is the causeof environmentaldegradation only when the numberof poor people is large and exceedsthe territory'S carrying capacity. Let us thereforeanalysethe conceptof human carrying capacity. Indeed, the intellectual origin of the notion of sustainable developmentis the link betweencarrying capacityand economicdevelopment, as explicitly statedby Jeffrey A. McNeely of the InternationalUnion for the Conservationof Nature, which was already using the term 'sustainable development'in 1980: ... future consumption depends to a considerable extent on the stock of natural capital. Therefore, conservation may well be a precondition for economic growth. Conservation is certainly a precondition for 'sustainable development', which unites the ecological concept of carrying capacity with the economic concepts of growth and development.,Q

Without doubt, ecological degradation could be caused by excess population.It could, however,also be due to the pressureof exports on a limited resourcebase. We therefore start with a discussionof these two concepts:'populationpressure'on resourcesand 'productionpressure'on ll resources. Once we have clarified this difference, we will considercases where poverty is the causeof environmentaldegradationwithout it being due to populationpressureon resourcesor productionfor export.

Export-BasedEconomicGrowth Some areas are net exporters of agricultural products and therefore experiencea degradationof their cultivatedland that is not due to excessive population pressureon resourcesbut rather to the pressureof production on resources.In someHispaniccountriesin the Caribbean,productionfor local consumptionis known asJrutos menores('lesserfruits', meaningsomething insignificant). In parts of the Andes it is called somethingmore suggestive of basic local necessities: panllevar ('bread in hand'). This situation of pressureof exports on resourceshas been known since J. von Liebig, the founder in 1840 of agricultural chemistry,comparedsmall- and large-scale agriculture,praisingthe former for recycling nutrientsmore efficiently than it was possiblefor the large-scaleagriculturenecessaryto supplylarge cities or foreign markets. In North American economic circles this idea was supported by the protectionist Carey. In Europe, Marx cited Liebig approvingly. Let us consider some examples of export pressureon resourcesin Central America. Costa Rica is a fertile country, relatively prosperousand with protectedareas.Grazingland for meatproductionhasexpandedat the

48

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

expenseof forests,and evenat the expenseof agroforestryand exclusively agricultural land, although this processis not as rapid now as it was 20 yearsago. Coffee and bananaexportsalso put pressureon resources,while both sectorssuffer regular price slumps due to excessworld supply and Europeanprotectionism.Bananacultivation, now expandingin the tropical rainforest of the Atlantic coast,has led to deforestationand an increasein pesticideapplications- despiteloud protestsfrom the workers exposedand to damage to river and marine ecosystems.In Costa Rica coffee occupiesthe highlandsand is basedon mediumand small farmerswho are the backboneof Costa Rica's democracy,while bananasare grown in the lowlands by wage-labourerson foreign-owned plantations. Coffee was introducedto the Americasc. 1650,and in different countrieshasproduced different cultural andpowerstructures.In CostaRica, the populationlinked to coffee cultivation is of Hispanic origin, the propertiesare not very large, and commercialisationis undernationalcontrol. The banana- from SouthEast Asia, which reachedAfrica by c. 1500 and the Caribbeanby c. 1600 was establishedon the Atlantic and Pacific coastsunderthe supervisionof large multinational companies,such as United Fruit, the famous 'Mamita Yunai' in Fallas' novel of this title. In both cases,the productshave been exported under conditions of cyclic excessproduction. There is a further crisis in the conditionsof productiondue to soil exhaustion(as has already happenedwith the banana,and may yet happenwith coffee cultivated without shade on steep slopes) and excessive pesticide use (as has happenedwith the banana).Seventy years ago the workers on banana plantationsspreadinginsecticidesaskedfor nothing more than a little more pay and a little less work. However, in the 1980sthey took the bananaand chemical companiesto court in the United Statesand even won a caseor two. The expansionof cattle farming peakedin the 1970s. Economic gains from cattle productionhavealso underminedthe conditionsof production, as much grazing land was abandonedafter a few years becauseof weed growth, nutrient loss and soil compaction. In Central America the proportion of total meat productionfor export has diminished,partly due to foot-and-mouthdisease.Between1971 and 1975, exports accountedfor 41 per cent of production,dropping to 38 per cent between1976 and 1980, and later to only 20 per cent,I2 showing the existenceof a growing local market.Although consumptionper capitais low in comparisonwith that of the Ui,ited States, this local market has been growing faster than the population. Central America as a whole generatesa positive balanceof trade for productssuchas meat,fruits andvegetables,sugar,coffee,tea and cocoa.As a result of the currentwave of neo-liberalpolicies, there is now pressureto increasethese exports, or promote new exports such as shrimps, at the

49

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

expenseof local productionof basic foodstuffs, suchas cerealsand pulses, and at the expenseof the environment. Both production pressureand populationpressureon resources- becauseof a growing population,which leadsdirectly to deforestationby increasingprecariousagriculture- could put a country like CostaRica in an ecologicalposition as perilousas that of Haiti or El Salvadorin as little as 20 years.Over the past20 yearstherehave certainly beenwidespreadprotestsin CostaRica againstthe destructionof the tropical rainforest,threatenedby both precariousagricultureand cattle productionfor export (what is called the HamburgerConnection)or local consumption,as well as by the expandingcultivation of bananas,coffee and other export crops. A counteringtrend is the growing crop of 'ecotourists' in CostaRica's national parks, while the sale of bioprospectingservicesis meanwhile becoming very controversial (as we shall see in Chapter 6). Costa Rica covers 50,000 km2 and has three million inhabitants.There are signs of overpopulation,although populationdensity is still much below the Europeanaverage:for instance,a partly industrialisedEuropeanregion such as Catalonia covers 30,000 km2 and has six million inhabitants. In CostaRica the populationis still growing quickly, althoughthe birth rate is fortunatelynow in decline.Thereforeboth exportsand the local population are exertingpressureon resources. Turn now to Chile, whoseboomingeconomyhasbeendescribedas 'The Tiger without the Jungle'.l3 What is behind the boom in the Chilean economy?Adjusting for inflation, the value of export earningsmore than doubledbetweenthe start of the Pinochetregime and the end of the 1980s. Exportsincreasedto a 40 per cent shareof grossdomesticproductand also changedin composition,as shownin Table 3.1. Table 3.1 Breakdown of Chilean exports, 1970 and I 989 Sector Mining Forestry Farming Fishing Others

1970 85.8% 3.9% 1.5% 2.7% 6.1%

1989 55.4% 9.5% 9.4% 9.1% 16.6%

Main product Copper Cellulose Fresh fruit Fishmeal Metallurgy

Source: Banco Central de Chile, cited by M6nica Rios in 'Desarrollo sostenible y reformas econ6micas:el caso de Chile' (SustainableDevelopmentand EconomicReforms:The Caseof Chile), in Olman Segura,cd., DesarrolloSostenibley Politicas Economciasen America Latina (San Jose, Costa Rica: DEI, 1992).

Without being overly simplistic, it is plain to see the extent to which the

50

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

boom is basedon the export of exhaustibleresources,such as copper, or renewableresourcesthat areperhapsbeingexploitedat unsustainablerates. Many Chileansare awareof the needto restrainexploitationof fishing and forestry resourcesand are speakingout. Sweptalongby the neo-liberaltide, the Chilean economyis obviously not a victim of demographicpressure, but perhapsit will fall victim to the pressureon its resourcesof production for export. Indeed,the ecologicalhistory of SouthAmerica mustbe interpretednot in termsof populationpressure- becauseof the demographiccollapseafter 1492 - but as a history of exporting naturalcapital, a history of 'ecological dependence'.More recently,and both in Africa and Latin America: the penetration of the South by new agricultural production, marketing, and contract agriculture technologies,has ... changedagriculture in some areas of America and Africa, substitutinggreater specialisationand economic dependency for the traditional, ecologically sustainablesystem.These problemsare aggravated by the large external debt of so manyAfrican and Latin American countries,forcing them to pay by exporting cash crops or forestry products,etc. Environmental changes in the South must thus be understood in terms of the international division of capitaL'·

In some Latin American countries where there is still a significant indigenous presence,there is a growing pride in non-moderntechnical knowledge: Our forefathershad [apparently] less adequatetechnologicalresourcesand made the ecosystems qualitatively and quantitatively productive. They developed appropriatetechnologiesfor each habitat. But now, what technology has been transferred has been inappropriately applied, and there has been a change in attitudesand practicetowards nature ....There is no environmentalistethic and this has led to Guatemalafunctioning - at a national and local scale - as an agricultural exportsterminal for more developedcountries.'5

This retrospectivepride in pre-conquestagricultural achievementsis supportedby the present awarenessthat peasantagriculture preserves biodiversity and is also more efficient than modernagriculturein terms of energyuse.16 However,the distinctionbetweenlocal and exportcrops (with the latter consideredan exampleof 'productionpressureon resources')is sometimes valid, but not always. It is valid in the caseof Peruvianproductionof coca leaf for export, which greatly exceedslocal demandand might be another example of an environmentalcatastrophedue to export pressure.Coca production leads to gully erosion if the terraces have not been built

51

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

carefully enough.This is becausethe coca plant requiresfirst deforestation and then completeremoval of weeds.In addition there is normally no tree cover. 17 In contrast,sugar and cotton need not be export crops, although this hasbeentheir role in the economichistory of Peru and other countries. In fact, domesticconsumptionof sugarin Peru has increasedand exports have diminished, and now the question is what health effects the consumptionof this cheapcalorie sourcewill have. 'Productionpressureon resources'gradually turns into 'population pressureon resources'when export cropsbecomesubsistencecrops. In general,however,in Latin America,and also in someother regionsof the world, pressureon the environmentis duenot to demographicpressure, but rather to external demandsor internal inequalities.This is one of the reasonswhy the relationship between poverty and the environment is analysedhere without resort to the conceptof carrying capacity. Another argumentagainstthe useof this conceptis that agriculturalproductioncan increasegreatly if inputs are increased.According to the FAO-IIASA study on potentialagricultural production'S, not a single Latin American country, not even Haiti, El Salvador or Peru, would face serious problems in securingan adequatesupply of food if what the study defines as a 'high level of inputs' were used. But would this be sustainable?The general principle is that discussionof carrying capacityrequiresthe specificationof the level of inputs. When theseinputs are exhaustibleresources,as they are in the industrial and agricultural sectorsin high-incomecountries,then it can be arguedthat the carrying capacityhas alreadybeenexceeded,since resourcesused now will not be available in the future. Anyway, there is always the opposing argument that new technologiesmay create new resources.Thus, if one believesthat environmentalproblemsare causedby excessivephysical pressureon resources,by the economyoutstrippingthe productive and regenerative capacity of the environment, orthodox economists may reply that economic decisions taken regarding total pressureon resourcesare,in the final analysis,choicesbetweenpresentand future use of resources,applying presentvaluesto future uses.This means that the ecological discussionof carrying capacity becomesan economic discussionof the currentvaluation of unknownfuture phenomena.

Carrying Capacityand Boserup'sThesis The 'carrying capacity' of a specific area is the maximum populationof a given speciesthat can be indefinitely maintainedwithout a degradationof the resourcebasethat might lead to a reduction of the population in the future.19 Although the poor consumelittle, if they are numerousa greater burdenon the environmentis implied. In most countries,birthrateshave fallen or are falling, but the populationpressureon resourceswill increase

52

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

for at least the next 50 years. The world populationwas about 900 million in 1800 and grew to 1,600 million in 1900. In 2000 it will be about 6,000 million, and will stabilise,we hope, at between10,000 and 12,000 million before the end of the next century. Clearly humanimpact on the planet is alreadyexcessivein termsof our effectson otherspeciesand the availability of natural resourcesand environmentalservices. Of course, this impact varies greatly with the economicstatusof different populations. Many peopleare still unawarethat from the 16th to the 20th centurythe greatest demographicexpansion was generatedby Europeans,both in Europeitself and in the countriesto which they emigrated.Shortly after the Europeanconquestof the Americas, the American population plunged. Where it once had comprised20 per cent of humanity, a century later it madeup only 3 per cent of the world's population,including the European migrants.2o A similar collapse took place in Australia and throughout Oceaniaa couple of centuriesafter 1492. Table 3.2 shows the growth of world population from 1800 to 1900. Fortunately, birth control methods beganto be usedin severalEuropeancountriesin the 19th century. It is in the 20th century, above all in the last decades,that populationgrowth has occurredin poor countries.However, the demographichistory of Europe doesnot allow it to preachto othersthe virtue of reproductivemoderation. The idea of carrying capacityhas beengiven a statistical definition in order to make it more effective. A model was proposedby Fearnsidebased on the Amazon,an interestingareato studysincepopulationdensityis low, therefore excesspopulation should not be a problem. In the colonisation process,we find an empiricalrelationship(shapedlike the letter U) between populationdensity (on the horizontal axis) and the colonists'risk of failure. When populationdensityis too low, thereis a high chanceof failure. When population density exceedsa certain value, the probability of failure is again high, and it is assumedthat population exceedscarrying capacity, even though the densities in question are, in relative terms, very 10w.21 Carrying capacityobviously also dependson the use of inputs and on the terms of tradewith other regionsthat the colonistscan command. The use of the conceptof carrying capacity to study the relationship betweendemographyand resourcesamongHomo sapienscould be rejected for severalreasons.For one, the inequality in wealth and income among membersof the human speciesleads to much greatervariation in energy and material consumptionthan in other species.Furthermore,the human speciesis often able to improve its productiontechniques.Economistswho reject the conceptof carrying capacitysometimesbasetheir argumentson an incorrectinterpretationof a thesisadvancedby EsterBoserup.22Boserup maintainedthat populationincreasecan lead to an increasein agricultural productionby shorteningrotation cycles. Conversely,the depopulationof Africa by the slave trade removedone of the key incentivesto agricultural

53

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Table 3.2 Growth and Territorial Distribution of World Population, 1800-1900 Inhabitants (in millions)

Africa North America' Latin America

Distribution

(%)

1800

1900

1800 1900

90

120

9.9

7.5

6

81

0.7

5.0

19

63

2.1

3.9

1900

Asia'

597

91

65.9

56.9

Europe (with Russia)

192

423

21.2

26.3

2

6

0.2

0.4

906

1,608

Oceania TOTAL

1

100.0 100.0

100.0

North America north of the Rio Grande.

'ExcludingAsiatic Russia. Source:A. M. Carr-Saunders,World Population(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1936).

intensification, thus helping to explain the persistenceof the shifting agriculture that was so deploredby early colonial administrators.Boserup pointed out that returns diminished for increasesin labour inputs within each cultivation system, but she showed that increasing population pressuremight lead to shifts in the cultivation system, thus increasing production.Thesenew cultivation systemsalso show diminishing returns, but the carrying capacityof a territory may increasemore than once due to improvementsin cultivation, until it reachesa systemof multiple crops on irrigated land. However, the intensification of 'modern' agriculture is not merely through the suppressionof the fallow periods; it is also an increasein external agricultural inputs, which can be described as a process of replacingrenewableenergywith non-renewableenergy.23This is technically different from Boserup's shifts, which are based on the production of renewableenergythrough agriculture. Boserup'sanalysisstopsbefore the introduction of Peruvian guano, Chilean saltpetre and the industrial productionof chemicalfertilisers, i.e. before1840. We can define Boserup's

54

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

shifts as an increase in technological efficiency, in the sense that they increasea given area'sproductionand the amountof the sun'senergythat is used advantageously.(However, these changes do not increase productivity per hour of work; this is why only population pressurecan make the itinerant agriculturalist take up the plough.) Boserup-typeshifts could also be called 'agriculturalinvolution'24,becausethey meanyou must run faster just to remain (per capita) in the sameplace. Modern agriculture usesa technologybasedon increasingthe flow of externalenergyand materialsinto the economy,and on decreasinggenetic variety. The fact that conventional economicsmeasuresthis shift as an increasein productivity is only a consequence of the low value it assignsto 'genetic erosion' and to non-renewableresources,and the absenceof an assignedvaluefor the effectsof pollution. Every yearthe equivalentof 1,500 litres of petroleum are used to feed each American.25 The shift to mechanisedchemical agriculture cannot be incorporatedinto Boserup's thesis. Perhapswe are on the threshold of anothermomentoustechnical changethroughbiotechnology,but the true costin termsof complementary inputs and ecological damage is not known. In any case, invoking Boserup's name is not relevant, as she studied agriculture in a preindustrialcontext.This meansthat objectionsto the useof carrying capacity becauseit contradictsBoserup'sthesis turn out, in fact, to be objectionsto using the concept of carrying capacity becauseit implicitly excludes externalsubsidiesto the agricultural economyin question.

The Carrying Capacityof an Open Economy If the economyreceivesa free subsidyof energyand materials,there is no

limit to its carrying capacity beyond the cost, in energy and material resources,of transportingtheseexternalsubsidies.That is to say, the idea of carrying capacitymay make senseat a global level, but it does not make senseat the regional or national level. Although it is not possiblefor every country to simultaneouslyincreaseits carrying capacitythroughthe use of resourcesfrom ecosystemsin other countries,they can all simultaneously make selectiveuse of someproductsfrom other countries,becausewhat is limited in one land may be abundantin another.The carrying capacityof the world as a whole is greaterthan the sum of the carryingcapacitiesof all its countries.26 Water is a limiting factor in Mexico but not in Canada, although the resourcesneededto build a pipeline from one to the other would be great. Tin in Bolivia exceededlocal needs,as did petroleumin Romania.Energy and materialsappearto have flowed mostly from poor countries to rich ones; the discipline of ecological history will have to investigatethis questionin more detail. The carrying capacityof an openeconomywill be different from that of

55

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

a closed one. It will probably be greater, although it may be lesser if commerceexhauststhe resourcesof the country in benefit of others. (This relates to the discussionin the previous chapter of 'ecologically unequal trade',one of the sourcesof the 'ecologicaldebt' the rich owe to the poor). If Haiti has exceededits carrying capacityand needsto import food, then Japan has most certainly exceededits carrying capacity, as it needs to import both food and petroleum, unless we believe that not only the economic value (in monetary terms) but also the 'ecological value' of Japan'sexportsequalsor exceedsthat of its imports. We do not know how to measure 'ecological value'. Energy content is not an adequate measurement.Likewise, the acceptanceof pricesas a measureof value not only disregardsthe influence of monopoly and the distribution of income, but also implicitly acceptscurrent prices as an adequatemeasureof the value of future shortageof resourcesand of currentand future harm from pollution, which is obviously not the case.OscarWilde said that a cynic is a personwho knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, a remarkparticularly relevantto ecologicaleconomics.

The Use of Fertilisers If we comparethe level of populationpressureon resourcesand the use of fertilisers in different countries,we find that there is a general tendency towards increased use of fertilisers as population increases.However, income levels are also an importantfactor. Rich countriescan afford to use an enormousquantity of fertiliser when population density is very high (leading to seriouspollution). Table 3.3 shows that no American country, exceptthe small Caribbeanislands (Barbados,etc.), has yet reachedlevels of cultivated land per capita as low as those of Japan(0.04 hectares),the Netherlands(0.06), Switzerland (0.06), or Belgium (0.08), but that some countries (especially in the Andes, Central America, and the Caribbean) may drop to thesealarming levels within 20 or 30 years if current rates of populationgrowth continue.The Latin Americancountrieswith figures for averagecultivatedland per capitabelow the world averageof 0.31 hectares are El Salvador(0.13), Haiti (0.14), Peru (0.19), Colombia (0.20), Venezuela (0.22), Costa Rica (0.23), Guatemala(0.23), the Dominican Republic (0.24), Panama (0.26), Ecuador (0.27) and Mexico (0.31). The average non-weighteduse of commercial fertilisers in these countries is only 55 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) if we include Haiti, and 60 kg/ha if we excludeHaiti, a country that should use more fertilisers but cannotafford them. As already mentioned, no Latin American country would face seriousproblemssecuringadequatefood supply if a 'high level of inputs' wasused.27 In sharpcontrast,the correspondinggroup of rich countrieswas per capita cultivation figures below the world average (former West

56

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Germany,0.12; United Kingdom, 0.13; Austria 0.20; Italy, 0.21; and Norway, 0.21) have an averagenon-weighteduse of fertilisers of 301 kg/ha. lf we now consider the Latin American countries with per capita agricultural land above the world average(Cuba, 0.32; Nicaragua,0.39; Honduras, 0.41; Chile, 0.46; Uruguay, 0.48; Bolivia, 0.53; Brazil, 0.56; Paraguay,0.59; and Argentina,1.18), the averageuseof fertilisers is only 38 kg/haincluding Cuba,and only 21 kg/haexcludingCuba.In Cubait is not a question of population pressureon resourcesbut pressurefrom sugar exportsthat use a relatively high fertiliser input. Finally, if we take the remaininghigh-incomecountrieswith more than 0.31 hectaresof cultivated land per capita (France, 0.35; Sweden, 0.36; Finland, 0.43; Denmark,0.51; Spain,0.53; United States,0.80; Canada,1.84; and Australia, 3.10), averagefertiliser use is 148 kg/ha. Low population pressureleads then to a relatively low use of fertilisers, but poverty also leads to low use of fertilisers. The use of less fertiliser contributesto the conservationof the world's resources(phosphatedeposits,or using energy to manufacturenitrogenousfertilisers) and also avoids certain types of water pollution. On the other hand,the exhaustionof the soil due to a lack of fertiliser is an exampleof environmentaldegradationcausedby poverty. However,as populationand/or productionpressureon the land increases, the responsemay be an increasein fertiliser use,providedthe countryis not too poor to afford fertilisers, but such intensificationof productionis very different from Boserup's shifts in cultivation systems, since it implies bringing outsideinputs into agriculture. All this leads to the conclusion that the idea of carrying capacity is thereforenot very meaningful unlessthe level of inputs is specified.If we introducethe condition of 'lack of degradationof the resourcebase'into the definition of 'sustainable development', then, as Nicholas GeorgescuRoegen repeatedlypointed out, the world's carrying capacitywill be the populationsustainedby an agricultural productionsystemusing only the energyof the sun.28 But orthodoxeconomicswill immediatelypoint out that this ignoresthe possibility of technologicaladvances.

Migration and Carrying Capacity Can indirect evidence,such as the presenceof emigration,tell us whether carrying capacityhasbeenexceeded?The economichistory of humanityis a history of international trade, and also of international migration. Migration is normally analysed in terms of factors of attraction or expulsion. Although there may have been migrations due to the outstrippingof carrying capacity(for example,Ireland in the middle of the 19th century),factors of attractionare generallymore important.Within the

57

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Table 3.3 Cultivated Land per Capita and Fertiliser Use Latin American countries

1 El Salvador Haiti Peru Colombia Venezuela Costa Rica Guatemala Dominican Rep. Panama Ecuador Mexico Cuba Nicaragua Honduras Chile Uruguay Bolivia Brazil Paraguay Argentina

0.13 0.14 0.19 0.20 0.22 0.23 0.23 0.24 0.26 0.27 0.31 0.32 0.39 0.41 0.46 0.48 0.53 0.56 0.59 1.18

Rich countries

1

2 114 4 22 59 63 135 46 33 42 29 64 172 47 15 30 31 2 35 5 4

japan The Netherlands Switzerland Belgium F.R. Germany United Kingdom Austria Italy Norway France Sweden Finland Denmark Spain USA Canada Australia

0.04 0.06 0.06 0.08 0.12 0.13 0.20 0.21 0.21 0.35 0.36 0.49 0.51 0.53 0.80 1.84 3.10

2 435 787 432 536 423 368 253 170 290 308 154 218 257 75 101 49 25

I. Hectaresof arable land per capita, 1985 2. Fertiliser use in kg/ha, 1983-85 Source: World Resources Institute (with IIED and UNEP), World Resources1988-1989, (WashingtonDC: WRI, 1988), Table 17.2.

frontiers of the nation-state,where there is usually freedom of movement, peopleemigratefrom their region in searchof employmentopportunities and a betterstandardof living. This was true of the South-Northmigration in the United Statesbetween1910 and 1950. The numberof international migrantswould be much greaterthan it actually is if the frontier police did not stoppeopleemigratingfrom countrieswith low per capitaconsumption of energyand materialsand trying to entercountrieswith a high per capita consumptionof energy and materials. What is truly striking, given the difference in 'temperature'between different societies, is how little migration there actually is. Migration rarely results from insufficient carrying capacity, as the

58

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

factors of attraction are usually a stronger motive. However, the lack of opportunityto emigrateincreasespopulationpressureon resources.As an example, the famine in the Sahel in the 1970s was partly causedby the interruptionof migrations.In periodsof drought,nomadicgroupsusedto be able to move south, but national frontiers now prevent their free circulation. To this must be added the extension of cash-cropping. Temporaryor permanentmigratory movementsmay increasethe Earth's carrying capacityconsiderably,althoughit may be arguedthat exportation of excesspopulation may lessen incentives to reduce birth-rates in the countriesof both origin and destination. Thus, in summary,the applicationof the notion of 'carryingcapacity'in a human context requires that the regulationsgoverning emigration and immigration, the group's standardof living, as well as the political and territorial distribution of the population be clearly statedand explained. (Ecology as a 'natural science'is not a suitable tool for explaining these factors.) In the humanspecies,the exosomaticuse of energyand materials is not determinedgenetically but rather is unlimited for each individual. Furthermore, humanity is continually transforming its technology. Although the new technologiesmean that resourcesare used faster than they can be recycledby biogeochemicalcycles, many economistscontinue to doubt that this indicatesthat we are outstrippingcarrying capacity,for there is the possibility of introducingsubstitutes. It may seema wasteof time to discussthe conceptof carrying capacity only to rejectit, but it is necessaryto clarify this point in order to studyhow poverty damages(or doesnot damage)the environment.

Is

POVERTY A CAUSE OFENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION?

The main argumentof this chapteris that wealth is a greaterthreat to the environmentthan poverty. However, it is worth studying impartially the counter-argumentthat poverty causesenvironmentaldegradation.Let us now examinea few cases,mostly taken from studiesin the Peruvianand Bolivian Andes. Although there is externalpressureon water and mining resources,the Andeanregion doesnot engagein agriculturefor export (exceptfor flowers in Ecuadorand Colombia). In the Peruvianmountains,there is population pressure on resources,as only 3 per cent of the land is suitable for cultivation, and 27 per cent for grazing. Some traditional agricultural practices have stabilised ecosystems and limited environmental deterioration;this is true for the large numberof potatovarietiescultivated,

59

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

and the communallycontrolledfallow system.Fallow periodsallow for the fixation of atmosphericnitrogen, the recoveryof the soil and the control of pests. In any case, traditional practicesalso include excessivegrazing in communalareas,even in the former large estates,becauseof internal and 29 externalpressurefrom peasants. The privatisationof communalland, not for ecologicalreasonsbut as an incentiveto production('the magic of propertywill turn sandinto gold', as Arthur Young, the 18th-centuryagronomistand traveller,oncesaid),formed part of the Europeanbourgeois revolutions. Social history refers to this eventas 'the tragedyof the enclosures'.In the Andes,on the contrary,much land remainsoutsidethe marketplace.In fact, the shareof land in private handsdeclined after the agrarianreforms. In Peru, in the caseof the large sheep ranches, neighbouring communities had for a long time been demandingthe returnof their land. To avoid overgrazing,and to protectthe (introduced) improved sheepbreeds,the agrarianreform of 1969 did not authorisethe return of this land, but insteadtransferredsomeof the profits obtainedby thesenew SAIS ('agriculturalcompaniesof benefit to society') to the communities.The social distancebetweenthe administratorsof the new SAIS and the indigenouspopulation,togetherwith other factors,led to the disappearance of most SAIS.3U Open accessto resourcesfor everyone,a free-for-all (when rules for communalmanagementfail and there is no private property either), may lead to overgrazing,the exhaustionof fishing resources,a drop in the water table due to excessiveirrigation or overexploitation of forests. In cases where cost is incurred now but the benefit will be enjoyedin the future, it may be expectedthat communalownershipwill manageresourcesbetter than private ownership,becausethe private rate of discountwill probably be higher than the communalrate of discount,i.e. the future is lessvalued under private ownership,becauseof shorter time horizons of families or firms, as comparedto communities.This considerationis relevant when studying land improvements,such as the conservationof terraces and irrigation systems. It is estimatedthat in the mountainsof Peruthereare aboutone million hectaresof terraced land in disrepair, compared with the two million hectaresof arableland in the samearea.Terraceshavealso beenabandoned in Greece,Italy and Spain,but for different reasons.In the Andes, poverty leadsto deteriorationof the land. Investmentis only significant if it covers large areas, which requires the collaboration of many peasantfamilies underthe communalsystem.To reconstructterracesystemsin the Peruvian mountains,between300 and 1,000 days' work per hectareare necessary. Other similar improvementsinclude the reconstructionof ridging (waruwaru) in the altiplanos and of small-scaleirrigation facilities. Assuming a day's work to be worth only 10 kg of cereal (or 40 kg of potatoes),and

60

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

investing 700 days labour per hectare,the annual increasein production would needto be (net of extra fertiliser costs)about700 kg of cerealor 2,800 kg of potatoesto give an annualreturn of 10 per cent. The figures available for costs and benefits of terracesin Peru are of this order. Although the peasantsmay be awareof the long-termadvantagesof improving the land, improvements cannot be undertaken without co-ordination among numerousfamilies. While communalinstitutions may help, public funds are necessaryto finance the work, which leadsto concernabout costsand thus to the assessment of land improvementprojects by meansof a costbenefit analysis.The resultsof cost-benefitanalysisfundamentallydepend on the discount rate adopted, and of course the poor cannot afford to borrow moneyat high ratesof interest.Here we seehow poverty is a direct causeof environmentaldegradation,althoughwe are left with the question of why theseindigenouspeasantsare so poor.31

The Use of Firewood and Deforestation There is a 'natural' and universalhierarchyin the use of domesticfuel. As income increases,wood and charcoalare replacedby keroseneand butane gas or LPG, in bottleswhich are in turn replacedby piped gasor electricity. Poverty sometimescausesdeforestationbecausethe poor are unable to ascendin the hierarchyof domesticfuels. Increasingincome can lead to a decreasein the energyusedfor cooking, as large quantitiesof firewood are replaced by small quantities of fossil fuel. This may also prevent the depletionof forests in arid areasand reducecompetitionbetweenforestry and agriculture. Pricing policies may accelerate this process or slow it down. Appropriate pricing policies favouring the distribution of kerosene or butanemay be the mostimportantmeasuresto take in meetingthe needsof the poor and the environment.For example,it would be scandalousif a deforestationcrisis were to occur in a dry region of a country that exports oil if this were in part becauserural families were too poor to buy kerosene or butane. Demand for fuel destroys forests near villages and towns in many countries.The loss of treesleadsto increasingerosion.Wheredried dungis usedinsteadof firewood, soil fertility is lost and harvestsare reduced.This is less commonin Latin America than in Asia or Africa, partly becausethe contribution of dung and firewood to total energy consumptionis lower, and partly becausethe depletionof foreststhat would leavethe population without firewood is not a problem in the humid tropical regions of the continent.In Latin America, one main threatto the forestsis 'colonisation': the forests are being cut down faster than they can regenerate,and the valuablewood is burnt on the spotor left to rot. Otherenemiesof the forests

61

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

are cattleranchingandlogging - evenwhenonly speciessuchas mahogany are extracted,there is indirect widespreaddevastation,prime examplesof 32 export pressureon resources. Lack of firewood is a problemin only a few partsof Latin America; arid or semi-aridregionslike the Andes, the coastalregionsof Peru, the serti5es in Brazil, and parts of CentralAmerica and the Antilles. The Peruvianand Bolivian mountainssuffer a high risk of becoming desertswith an acute shortageof firewood. In the Andes,after treeslike the Polylepis and Buddleia werewiped out, shrubslike Lepidophyllumwere cut, and later evenDistichia muscoide.The last resortwas the collection of dung for fuel. It is estimated that in Asia, the Middle East and Africa about 400 million tonnesof dung are burnt per year (eachtonne implies the loss of 50 kg of cerealyield), but there are no comparablefigures for Latin America.33 Poverty fosters the destructionof treecover,in turn affectingthe water cycle andleadingto soil erosion,while the use of dung as an alternativefuel for cooking or heating promotes the loss of soil fertility. Herdsmenand peasantsliving in the mountainsof Peruand Bolivia cannotafford keroseneor butaneand must use dung for fuel.34 In this case,the economyis closed to external energy flow due to the lack of money to pay for it. Estimatedconsumptionof firewood is between750 kg and 900 kg per person per year. Satisfying this need creates great tensions within the relatively dry and densely populatedhighland ecosystem.A reasonable estimateof firewood use in Guatemalais about one tonne per personper year, part of which comesfrom pruning the trees providing shadein the coffee plantations, while the rest comes from forestry production or deforestation.Since the energyvalue of firewood consumedper personis three times greater than the energy consumedas food, this may lead to greatpressureon resourcesin denselypopulatedareas.Like mostmediumincome regions, there was a tendency in Central America towards the replacementof firewood by keroseneor bottled gas. This was temporarily haltedby the rise in oil pricesafter 1973and 1979.In CostaRica, a rainy and mountainouscountry, cooking using hydroelectricityis commonand there is no deforestation problem caused by the collection of firewood for cooking. The causesof deforestationherehavebeenquite different'S In some countriesor regions, domesticdemandfor firewood or dung cannotbe satisfiedwithout reducing food or forage production.A higher price for firewood may increasethe territory usedto grow trees,almost in the sameway that a higher price for oil may stimulateexplorationfor new reserves.However,this territory cannotbe increasedbeyonda certainlimit. The World Bank prefers social reforestation and the use of charcoal, produced through improved methods; it also prefers to improve oven efficiency rather than the introduction of oil products.However, according to Gerald Foley/6 if firewood, charcoaland dung were replacedby oil, the

62

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

extra demandfor oil on the world marketwould be only about100 million tonnesa year, that is about two million barrels a day. The quantity of oil necessaryis much less than the energy equivalent of the firewood substituted,becausestovesthat usepetrol derivativesare far more efficient. Let us consider some more detailed recent figures. Social preferencefor butaneor keroseneas domesticfuel is undeniable,and is due to cleanliness, the saving in time and effort for the women who cook and the lower amountof domesticpollution (by carbonmonoxide,other gasesand soot) when comparedto firewood, charcoalor dung. If we supposethat annual use is only 500 kg of firewood per person, with an energy content equivalentto 0.35 tonnesof oil per tonne of firewood, and if we take into accountthe greaterefficiency of stovesthat use keroseneor gas (compared to modernfirewood stoveswith an efficiency of 15 per centor less,kerosene or gasstoveshavean efficiency of 40 to 50 per cent),we find that to replace the fuel used by the 3,000 million poor people of the world, about 200 million tonnesof oil a year would be needed.This is a large quantity, but quite feasible; it is equal to aboutfive times Spain'sannualconsumptionof oil, or a quarterof US consumption.Oil at $15 a barrel is so cheapthat it can be wastedby rich countries,but too expensiveto be usedas domesticfuel by the poor. There is then a good environmental argument against fundamentalist neo-liberal dogmas against subsidies: while oil consumptionin the rich countries should be taxed, the use of LPG or butane, or kerosenefor cooking should be subsidisedin poor countries where firewood is becomingscarce,or where dung should rather be used as fertiliser. It is emphaticallynot in the interestsof the rich countriesfor the poor countriesto attain comparablelevels of per capitaconsumption,not only in the kitchen but in all spheresof life, including private transportby car. Using presenttechnologies,this would lead to a dramatic increasein the rate of depletionof oil and gas,and would greatly increaselocal and global pollution problems.But we are discussinga different problem. The impact on world oil demandif firewood, and dung, were replacedby oil products would be small. Deforestationis not always causedby poverty or by cooking needs. Deforestationoccursfor quite different reasonsin the Amazonthan in arid regionsof Latin America. In the Amazon, one causeis the burning of trees that is part of the shifting agriculturepracticedby 'colonists'.Anothercause is the expansionof cattle ranching. Logging and mining, including oil extraction, are likely to become the main cause of deforestationin the coming decadesin many regions of Amazonia. Similarly, deforestationin the other humid tropical regions of the world has been generatedby commercialenterprises,to the detrimentof the poor. Thus

63

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

In Central America, especially in Costa Rica, Nicaragua,and Honduras,where deforestationwas very fast in the 1960s and I 970s, the main reason was land clearancefor cattle ranching... In South-EastAsia, rapid deforestationis causedby exporters of tropical hardwoods. The main beneficiaries are the large concessionaries- generally military officials and colleaguesof politicians in high governmentcircles - who corneredfelling rights as a result of political patronage. Again, the main losers are the poor, including forest dwellers (generally ethnic minorities) who were displaced and the peasants locateddownstream,whose harvestsdepend onthe hydrological'spongeeffect' of the forests ... as Barraclough and Ghimire show, accusing poor immigrants of destroying the forests is like blaming poor recruits for the suffering and destructionof war .37

However, in the arid regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America (the

sertoesin Brazil, the coast of Peru, the highlandsof the Andes or Central America), the reasonfor deforestationis the use of firewood or charcoalas fuel by the poor. Recently,the Batan Grandeforest in Lambayequeon the north coastof Peruhasbeendeclareda Reservefor the Protectionof Plants. But in Lambayeque alone, where there are 400,000 hectares of dry woodland, more than 2,000 hectaresare lost every year due to lack of employmentand poverty: the peasants'only option is to cut down the trees to producecharcoaJ.38As it happens,only a few kilometres away is the oil pipeline from the Peruvian jungle to the coast, and a few hundred kilometres further north is the Ecuadorianpipeline also transportinglarge quantities of oil from the jungle to the coast, both for export. Charcoal wOl1ld not be usedor sold if peoplecould obtain the little gas they needfor cooking at a reasonableprice.

Povertyand the Urban Environment We haveseenby examiningrural caseshow unequaldistributionof income and wealth as well as unequal accessto resourcesleads to poverty, and poverty then leads to environmentaldegradation.Now we shall see the samein an urbancontext.Environmentaldegradationleadsto disease.One of the main causesof deathin low-income countriesare diseasesof faecal origin, which cause a quarter of all deaths in children under five. 39 The quality of drainageand sewageserviceshas an inverserelation to income. Additionally, paying rents that are high in comparisonto income leads to crowding, an importantfactor in promotingthe spreadof tuberculosis.The lack of water makesthe poor even poorer, and obliges them to abusethe environment.Trachomaand scabiesresult from a lack of water for personal hygiene;cholera,diarrhoea,typhoid and hepatitisare aggravatedby a lack of water to eliminate waste.Theseare examplesof the connectionbetween poverty and environmentaldegradation,in both urban and rural contexts,

64

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

and where neither population pressure on resources nor production pressureon resourcesare direct causesof environmentaldegradation. Illnessesare not alwaysrelatedto poverty; on the contrary,thoserelated to consumptionof tobacco,alcohol and animal fats increasewith income. However,someurbanenvironmentalproblemsarecausedby poverty. Poor peoplein a city havelesswater,evenlessthan proportionalto their income: they have to pay more for water because they do not have water connections. In Lima at the beginning of the 1970s, the shanty-town inhabitantsbought water from lorries and used about 25 litres per person per day. In houseswith water connections,inhabitantsusedabout150 litres per personper day. The poor paid, in total, threetimes more for their water, that is, about 18 times more per litre. 4D This is parallel to the problem of cooking for street-dwellersin India: even if, in the cities, it is cheaperto cook using kerosenethan using firewood brought from far away, it is first necessaryto have a stove that useskerosene,and then a place to keep it. 4! People who have less water becausethey are poor suffer more from illnesses related to its low quality, and from lack of water for personal hygiene, washing of clothes, and elimination of excrement.Some public health expertsemphasisetheseenvironmentalissues,while others with a more clinical approach propose massive vaccination programmes,oral rehydration,etc.,becausethey are cheaperthan generalpreventivehygiene programmes.But both schools agree that increasing income eliminates threatsto healthby ensuringan abundantsupplyof cheapwater. Thereis a similar relation for other diseasesthat are not associatedwith lack of water. Reducingpovertymay lead to the installationof insectnetting,for example.

ECOLOGY AND I ADJUSTMENT' PROGRAMMES Alongsideprogrammesto alleviatethe effectsof stabilisationpolicies on the 'poorest of the poor' (and also alongside the suppressionof the 'IMF revolts', such as the terrible massacrein Venezuela in March 1989), programmesto avoid environmentaldamagecould also be implemented.42 This is becausethe temporary increasein poverty causedby adjustment policies may have effects on the environment,just like 'structural'poverty does. The relationshipbetween'adjustment'and ecologicaldamagearises from the need to produce a surplus in order to bring external trade paymentsinto balance,including debt and interestpayments.This surplus may be obtainedby meansof low salariesor betterterms of trade,or by an increasein technicalefficiency that doesnot increasethe flow of energyand materials in the economy. A fourth method of increasingthe size of the surplus is exploiting the environment;in other words, externalisingcosts

65

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

and undervaluingfuture needs.In order to escapefrom the poverty caused by 'adjustment' programmes,one remedy is to increase the use of renewableor non-renewableresources- as is happening,for example,in Brazil.43 This also explainsthe unrestrainedoil exportpolicies of Venezuela, Ecuadorand Mexico. When interest rates are high, there is a tendencyto discount long-term problems, e.g. environmentalones, in favour of the most pressing ones. Conversely,if long-term problems of pollution and depletion of resourcesare given a low current value, then the current exploitation of resourcesincreases.This point, relevant to the ecology of debtor countries, was pointed out long ago by the Oxford Nobel Prize chemist and ecological economist Frederick Soddy. Unlike real wealth, which is subjectto the laws of thermodynamics,debts(i.e. financial wealth, or as Soddyput it, 'virtual wealth') do not decaywith time. On the contrary, debtsincreaseat a compoundinterestrate. During the 1980s, exploitation of resourcesin low-income countries increasedin order to cover the balanceof payments,including debts,and a deterioration of the terms of trade due to increased supplies of raw materials.If Mexico had reducedoil exports,whetherindependentlyor in line with OPEC policy at the beginning of the 1980s, this might not only have contributed to the conservationof non-renewableresourcesand to reducecarbondioxide emissions(by maintaininghigheroil prices).It might also have meantgreaternet oil revenuefor Mexico. This line of argument will becomemore commonas the ideasof ecologicaleconomistsspread.In any case, if 'adjustment' programmeswere less harsh, or if they also addressedredistributionof income, their negativeeffects on the poor and the environmentwould be less. Let us supposethat the South does in fact need lessonsfrom the IMF and the World Bank on the financial stabilisation of their inflationary economies,and let us also suppose(althoughreality showsus the opposite) that the ecological dangers and social injustice inherent to adjustment programmescan be avoided. Should we also acceptthat the North is in a position to give lessons on ecological adjustment and to impose an environmental conditionality on loans? The consensusof international agencies is that the poor are enemies of the environment and this is sometimesacceptedby official circles in the South. Southerngovernments and evenleft-wing parties,whetherdue to self-interestor ignorance,accept that ecologycameto the Southnot in the form of the Chipko movement,or Chico Mendes and their countless predecessorsand contemporary counterparts,but in the form of recentintellectual influencesfrom Europe or the United States. They are not aware of the ecological content of historical and modern national and social conflicts because these movements did not express themselves in the language used by environmentalistsin the North.

66

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Ecological movementsare a thing of the North, they say in the South; the poor are a dangerto the environment,they sayin the North. Wonderful! The situationis now readyfor the imposition of ecological'adjustments'by the North, as well as financial ones. What this boils down to is the imposition of an environmentalconditionality that the South must fulfil if it is to obtain loans or accessto the marketsof the North.44 Will the South tamely acceptthis new conditionality?Will it be acceptedby countriesthat export and have exportednatural resources,including oil and gas,cheaply without any type of ecologicalprice correction?Will it be acceptedby the many countries sacrificing their ecological subsistencefarming by importing the North's agricultural surplusesbasedon processesthat are ecologicallydamaging,and productsthat may also be? The idea of environmentalconditionality might be rejectedon the basis of two different lines of reasoning.The first is rathersilly but quite common: 'The bloody gringosare meddlingin our affairs again,blocking the entry of our bananas(our tuna-fish,our tropical hardwoods,or our Amazoniangold extractedby the garimpeiros(individual prospectors)in Yanomaniterritory) ... and to cap it all they refuseto give us loans unlesswe give in to all that stupid environmental impact assessmentnonsense.'The second, more intelligent, position takes for grantedthat ecology is a strongeridea in the South than in the North. Southern goverment officials might come to believe that the greatest threat to the environment comes from the overdevelopedeconomiesof the North. Theseare the beneficiariesof unfair terms of trade which are the basis for their current levels of per capita consumptionof energy and materials, levels which are extravagantand cannot be copied. Rather than imposing a unilateral environmental conditionality on countries of the South, the North should also adjust its financial economy to its 'productive' economy, and its productive economy - which is highly polluting and contaminating- to its own environmentalspaceas well as to the global ecosystem.The questionwould then be: who is going to bell the cat of imposing ecologicaladjustmentson the North? In general,this will not take placethroughpressureon loans.For who is going to refuse financing US deficits for ecological reasons? Ecological adjustmentcould be imposed,to someextent, on the North by ecologically correctedincreasesin prices or by restrictions on trade, the responsibility of an international trade organisation controlled by a democraticand ecological United Nations - GATT was not, and the new World Trade Organizationis unlikely to be.

67

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

PROTECTIVE EXPENDITURE AND INCOME LEVELS: LEIPERT'S LAW The threadrunning through this chapteris its critique of the conventional wisdom that generalised economic growth (called 'sustainable development') is a remedy for both poverty and environmental degradation. Our criticism accepts that poverty can be a cause of environmentaldegradation,as we have seenin the previous sections,but we believe that generalisedeconomic growth may increase,rather than diminish, environmentaldegradation.It is true that wealthallows peopleto allocate more resourcesto protecting the environmentfrom the effects of this wealth. Rich countriesare cleaner,but this doesnot meanthat they are any more ecological. We shall use the term 'protection' (or defenceor mitigation) for those activities that protectthe populationor the environmentfrom the effectsof production. In 1970, William Kapp pointed out that 'the traditional measuresof growth and production in terms of GNP are becomingmore and more inadequateas measuresof growth and production, as ever greater quantities and proportions of expenditure are allocated to protecting and maintaining the fabric of our environment':5The public pursepays many of theseprotectivecosts,but not all. What is now called 'Greencapitalism' is the commercialeconomicactivity that aims to repair the ecological damages caused by other enterprises. Some chemical industriesruin the environment,and others try to restoreit, and this is all countedas production! The growing proportionof GNP dedicatedto these costsin Germanyhasbeendocumentedby ChristianLeipert. There is now a debateon whether such costs should be counted not as income in the nationalaccounts,but as intermediatecoststo be deductedfrom the added value. Some forms of waste depend on 'exosomatic'consumption',i.e. on cultural and lifestyle preferences,rather than human biology. Others (excretion, for example) dependon 'endosomatic'consumption,and are independentof income levels (although vegetariandiets produce more solid wastes).Overall, the poor produce fewer wastes.Wealth, however, produces large amounts of wastes: what we might call the effluents of affluence. Experts on health and the elimination of wastesin low-income countriesare aware that poor communitiesproduceless liquid and solid wastes than relatively richer ones, and the wastes of the poor are more suitablefor composting.As an example,in Mexico in 1985,daily production of solid domesticwasteswas about 32,600 tonnes,which only represents about 500 g per personper day, much less than in high-incomecountries.

68

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Mexican babiestend not to use disposablenappies.However, the Mexican landscapeis much dirtier than, say, the French landscape,even though Mexicans live in a larger country and produceless rubbish. It has been estimatedthat about 15,000 tonnesof this wasteis not collectedbut is just disposedof by the roadside,or down the drains, or on open land. Those who live in poor urban districts often complain about inadequatestorm drainage; however, without adequateelimination of solid wastes,storm drainageis impossiblebecausethe drains are blocked. In poor countriesit is also normal to dump solid wasteson tips or heapsthat serveas open-air incinerators.46 Poor urbanareasare noisier and more polluted than high-incomeurban areas.However, this is not due to greaterwaste productionbut to lower protective, or mitigating, expenditure.The relationship betweenpoverty and environmental degradation also holds for industrial illnesses, for example, those related to asbestos;how to diminish pollution in the industrial cities of middle-incomecountries,like Silo Paulo;haslong beena problem.47 Normally, in rural areasenvironmentalrisks relatedto pesticides and fertilisers first grow and then diminish as income increases,stricter standards are imposed for workers, and protective expenditure is undertaken.For the populationat large,however,intensiveagricultureand cattle raising in rich countriescontinuesto representa large environmental burdenthat is not corrected- for instance,nitrites in the water, or ammonia and methanefrom cattle, as in the Netherlands. As a general rule, poverty - and this meanslow public expenditure, specifically a low level of local public expenditure - prevents environmentalprotection. In a rural zone with a very low level of income, someforms of pollution do not exist. They increasevery rapidly with urban developmentand increasedincome, much more rapidly than protective costsincrease.The tendencyis reversedat high income levels.

ECOLOGY AND POSITIONAL GOODS Although, as we haveseen,therearecasesin which alleviatingpovertymay lead to reducedenvironmentaldamage,the idea that generalisedeconomic growth is 'good'for the environmentis unacceptable.Someforms of wealth can never becomeuniversal unless economic growth is uncoupledfrom pollution and resourceexhaustion.As an example,a world with a stable populationof 10 billion people and a density of cars equivalentto that in North America would have about4 billion cars,about 10 times the current number. Cars with combustion engines will not become items of mass consumption,due to their need for fossil fuels and their environmental

69

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

impact, but keroseneor butane stoves could becomemass-consumption goods. Can economicgrowth be uncoupledfrom a parallel increasein the use of energy and natural resources?The close correlationbetweenper capita income and use of commercial energy supportsthe argumentthat they cannot be separated.'8However, another school of thought identifies the largepotentialfor increasingenergyefficiency in low-incomecountriesand easternEurope, and the real increasein energy efficiency in the OECD countriesafter 1979.49 Sometimes,changesin intensity of energyuse in the economiesof specific countriesor regionsmay be deceptive,becausethey result from changes in the composition of trade in energy-intensive products. For instance,the energy used to smelt the aluminium that the Japaneseimport from Brazil (e.g. the hydroelectricityfrom Tucurui in Para, sold at about one cent per kwh) is not included in the statisticsfor Japan's energy consumption. In addition, the increasesin energy and material efficiency may stimulate further use ( as Jevonsalready noted for coal in Britain in the mid-19th century). In order to study the compatibility of economic growth and good environmentalmanagement,we can use the conceptof 'positional goods' introducedby Fred Hirsch. In his book The Social Limits to GrowthSO Hirsch tried to explain the persistenceof distributive conflicts in the high-income countries during the 1960s. As salariesincreasedtogetherwith increased productivity, the availability of mass-consumptiongoods increased. However, there was dissatisfaction,one of the causesbeing precisely the 'positional' natureof certain goods and services.According to Hirsch, the satisfaction derived from 'positional goods' diminishes if many people possessthem. Thorstein Veblen's category of conspicuousconsumption includesone type of positional good, the 'exclusive'productboughtfor its snob value. But Hirsch's conceptis much wider. Satisfactionis negatively affected by generaluse when the sum of the individual decisionsto buy thesegoodsimposessocialcosts.If everyonehasa car, or if everyonewishes to be very highly educatedin order to get a well-paid job, or if everyone wants a yacht or a house in the country, then possessionof the good changesthe social situation, due to traffic congestion,the lack of clean air, the lack of well-paid jobs, or the agglomerationof countryhousesor yachts which makespossessionof them less attractive.Hirsch paid more attention to congestionon Europeanmotorways and beachesduring the summer holidays than to an ecologicalanalysisof the economy,and for this reason he discussedsocial limits to economicgrowth rather than ecologicalones. He wrote, 'An acre of ground used for food production can, in principle, increasetwo, ten, or a thousand-foldas technologyadvances... but, on the contrary,an acreof groundusedfor the enjoymentof a single family cannot increase its initial productivity in this use'.5! Since Hirsch did not

70

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

understandthe ecologicalcostsof modernagricultureand of the economy in general,the relevanceof his idea of positionalgoodsis evengreaterthan he supposed. According to Hirsch, thereis a differencebetweena 'materialeconomy' and a 'positional economy' when 'material economy' is defined as production subject to continuous increasesin productivity per unit of labour. The British economist Roy Harrod had given this the name of 'democraticwealth' in oppositionto 'oligarchicwealth'. From the ecological point of view, however, the 'material economy' is also a 'positional economy' that imposes costs on present or future generations.This is becausethe increasedproductivity per unit of labour that has generalised 'democraticwealth' by meansof massiveconsumptionof goodshas been achieved at the cost of exhaustingresources,polluting the environment, and extinguishingbiological diversity.

Krutilla's Criterion and Inglehart's Thesis The definition of 'sustainabledevelopment'- developmentthat covers presentneedswithout prejudicingthe ability of future generationsto cover their own needs - implies a developmentmodel characterisedby the production of non-positionalgoods, perhapsa 'Fordism without Fords'. good, nor can a consumptionof Cars cannotbecomea mass-consumption 70 kg of meat per personper year becomea norm. Now that the public is awareof the threatof global warming,evenburning firewood in an isolated village in Karnatakaor in the mountainsof Guatemala,or burning coal in a powerstationin China wheremost villages do not haveelectricity, mustbe considereda 'positionalgood' imposingcosts,not only in the future but in the present. Much carbon dioxide was releasedinto the atmosphereby industrialisation, and there was much deforestation in high-income countries and their colonies, before scientistsbegan to worry about the negative effects of the enhancedgreenhouseeffect. There may be more positionalgoodsthan we think. Hirsch's ideasabout thesetwo types of goodshad beenanticipatedin discussionsof environmentalpolicy. In the 1950sand 1960s,a famousNorth Americanenvironmentaleconomist,JohnKrutilla, soughtways to preserve the landscapesthreatenedby hydroelectricdams.The landscapesdoomed on the basis of cost-benefitanalysis.Krutilla introducedan overvaluation of the recreational value of the landscapeand an undervaluation of electricity, using the interestingargumentthat electricity would be cheaper in the future due to technical progress in the form of nuclear power (electricity as 'democraticwealth'). Incomes,meanwhile,would continueto increase as would the demand for mountain landscapesdue to their contribution to the quality of life - an unconsciousecho of the Trevelyan

71

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Thesisdiscussedin the Introduction.Theselandscapeswould then acquire scarcity value, becausetheir supply could not be increasedby technical progress;we should say that this is 'oligarchic' wealth, or a 'positional' good. The increasing scarcity of the recreational or aesthetic services provided by nature in relation to manufacturedgoods justified attaching greatervalue to nature'sservicesby giving them a price greaterthan the current market value. This is not a bad idea, except that the distinction betweencommoditiesthat can be producedin abundancewithout ruining the environmentand amenitiesthat are providedby natureand which are becomingscarcerand scarcerwith respectto demandis not very convincing if we considerthe history of nuclearpower, the acid rain producedby the burningof coal for electricity, and the escalationof the greenhouseeffect. In fact, Krutilla's idea exaggeratedthe easewith which the material goodsof the human economy could be obtained without reliance on nature and anticipated Inglehart's interpretation of environmentalismas a social phenomenoncharacteristicof rich 'post-materialist'societiesmore worried aboutthe quality of life than livelihood.52

THE SOCIAL ECOLOGY OF THE POOR Thereis a point which deservesfurther analysisbeforebringing this chapter to a close. Often, poor peoplewho have little or no property of their own rely on common property resources,and there is a presumptionthat a 'tragedy of the commons' might occur. There has been considerable confusion about the impact of different forms of ownership on resource conservation:open access,communalproperty, stateproperty and private property.53 Garrett Hardin's well known article 'The Tragedy of the Commons' (1968) explained the problems of pollution and resource exhaustionas the resultsof the conflict between,on the one hand,marginal private gains that accrue exclusively to the person using a communal resource- e.g. introducingan additionalsheep- and,on the otherhand,the marginal social costsin the form of degradationof the pasture,which must be sharedby all, including also future generations.Hardin's article had great repercussions,and now global ecological problems are discussed under the title 'The Global Commons.'But the atmosphereand the oceans are not communalgoodswith managementrules establishedby legislation or ancestralcustoms:they are in fact resourceswith open accessfor all, as denonstratedby whaling until treaties regulated it, or the use of the atmosphere,the oceansand new vegetationto dump carbondioxide; a free for all, to the benefit of the rich who act as if they had propertyrights on all threesinks. In fact, fishing often demonstrates the conflict betweenthe logic

72

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

of free access and the logic of communal management,regulated by fishermen'sguilds or associations,for example.Thereare also nationaland ecologicalconflicts, suchas the onesbetweenGreatBritain and Iceland('the Cod Wars') and betweenSpain and Morocco, and Spainand Canada(over fish stocks which straddle the 200 miles limit), and we can understand efforts to impede open access.As an example,in 1947 Peru extendedits exclusive fishing rights to 200 miles through legislation passedunder the presidencyof Bustamantey Rivero. We do not meanto say that fishing is presentlywell regulated.For instance,regulationsgoverningmeshsize in nets have beencounterproductive.Nets that permit small fish within, say, the cod population to escapeare applying selectionpressurein favour of fish that are small, leadingto reductionof averagesize at breedingage.But nevertheless,openaccessis not the commons. Europeansocial history - as in the classicworks of Marc Bloch, R. H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi and others - has focused on the 'tragedy of the enclosures'ratherthanon the 'tragedyof the commons'.This is becausethe privatization of communallands in modernisingEurope, and elsewhere, left the poor without any way of making a living and turned them into a proletariat.One of the most spectacularprocessesof privatisationof land in human history has occurred over the last 30 years in the Amazon, with seriousecological consequences, partly due to the systemof subsidiesfor meat production on new pasturelandcreated by burning forests. The popularresponse,exemplifiedby the movementled by Chico Mendes,is a reaction againstthe tragedyof the enclosuresfor its social and ecological consequences. The study of water managementis particularly interesting in this context,as thereis not normally a simple 'rule of capture',exceptin the case of undergroundreserves,ie. a 'first come,first served'rule. Civil societyhas createdcomplexinstitutions to deal with the contradictionbetweenprivate gain and social costs. As mentionedearlier in the Andean context, other aspects of social and ecological reality, such as soil conservation by terracing,collective systemsof agriculturalrotation, and to someextentthe rules governinguse of grazing, show that communalmanagementcan be an excellentmeansof preservingthe environment.In southernEuropeand northern Africa, a skilful comparative analysis by John McNeill in Mountains of the Mediterranean54 showsthe influence of different factors on the management of the land. In the Rif in Morocco,populationpressureand the pressureof exportson the land is still increasing,while in other areasof the Mediterraneanthe land is now deterioratingbecauseof depopulation. Deforestationis relatively recent in many Mediterraneanareas. It was driven in the 19th centuryby threefactors: populationpressure,the outside pressureon the forest for logging or charcoal(for mines, for instance)and the evolution of the propertysystemtowardsprivatisation.

73

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Ownershipsystemshave important effects on forest managementand on the use of firewood and charcoal. A social and ecologicalhistory could be written that would comprehendrobbery and other social conflicts after the private appropriation of the forests (the sale of church land and communalland in so many countriesin the 19th century),and that would explain the role of these communally used resources in the human ecosystemsprivatised during the liberal wave at the end of the 18th and 19th centuries.55 In the ecological history of India, the communal managementof woodlands has had to resist the enroachmentof state ownership,ratherthan private ownership.Forestdegradationwas not due to abuse by the poor, but to state ownership under British colonial exploitation for short-term gain, in particular the production of railway sleepers.There has been a confrontationbetweentwo positions. On one side the colonial state and its republicansuccessor,and on the other side tribal and peasantcommunities,with their own rules governing accessto and useof the forest. This is a clear exampleof the 'environmentalismof the poor', as these communitiesuse these resourcesless intensively, because they are guidedby usevalue rather than pecuniaryvalue. Thus, Guha and Gadgil concludethere is conflict between,on one hand, state control and commercial exploitation which is anti-ecological, and, on the other, community use and the moral economy of the poor. Guha and Gadgil adopt the analytical categoriesdevelopedby E. P. Thompsonand James Scottto analysedifferent typesof social strugglesin defenceof forest rights, from the mid-19th centurydown to the celebratedChipko movementof the presentday.56 Another famous ecological-socialconflict, which has alreadylasted20 years, is taking place in India betweentraditional fishing and industrial fishing with trawlers. The tendency is toward the displacementof the traditional fishermen and the exhaustionof their resourcesdue to export pressures.The conflict was previously was over shrimp, and now is over cuttle-fish and squid. The coastof the stateof Kerala is only 600 kilometres long, but its traditional fishermenused to producea third of all the fish in India. Since the 1950sthere have beenattemptsto modernisethe methods of fishing, giving trawlersto fishing co-operatives,but in the end it hasbeen outside proprietorswho have come in with industrial methods.There are now two social sectorswith distinct perspectives:thosewho fish for their living and those who fish for their earnings.Apart from the incidents of violence between the two groups, the traditional fishermen have also gainedthe supportof the authoritiesin imposingtemporaryclosedseasons during the seasonof the monsoons(July andAugust),when severalspecies reproduce.The trawlers' nets graze the bottom of the sea and impede reproduction.While the fishermen'sunionsmay succeedin having a closed seasoncalled, the authorities - who are in fact enthusiasticabout the

74

POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

increasein exports- do not necessarilyenforceit effectively. This is a classic caseof the environmentalismof the poor.57 We have focusedmainly on rural movements,but we certainly would alsofind a similar popularecologicalawarenessin somenon-ruralcontexts. How would this ecological awarenesshave been expressed?We may interpret many social conflicts in industry and mining as ecological conflicts, for health and safety in the workplace, or against industrial diseases. We may also consider some urban struggles as ecological struggles, for example, struggles against high rents which lead to overcrowding,and in turn to tuberculosis,or strugglesfor adequatewater supplies, which reduce diarrhea and cholera. There have also been strugglesfor the protectionand enhancement of greenspacesin cities of the North andthe South.This is not to saythat thesehistoricalmovementshave utilised the terminology of scientific ecology. They have rather used their own distinctive discourse- political, popular,indigenous,or evenreligious as the casemay be.

CONCLUSION Chapters 1 and 2 suggestedthat some radical social movements that struggleagainstpoverty should also be consideredecologicalmovements. In this chapter,we have comparedthe environmentalismof the poor which insists on ecological and economic redistribution - to mainstream environmentalmanagement,which insists that economic growth is the chief remedy for both poverty and environmentaldegradation.We have consideredif poverty is the causeof environmentaldegradation,whether through deforestation, soil erosion or inadequateurban sanitation. If povertyarises,or is thoughtto arise,from unequaleconomicand ecological distribution, then we may expect that social movementsagainstthe rich will also be ecological movements.A classification of social movements basedon ecologicalcriteria, as was attemptedin the previouschapter,may then be helpful in advancingthe study of the relationshipbetweenpoverty and environmentaldegradation.The conventionalwisdom maintainsthat economicgrowth is, in general,good for the environment.The illusion of continuedeconomicgrowth is encouragedby the world's rich in order to maintain peaceamongthe poor. But the truth is that uncheckedeconomic growth leadsto the exhaustionof resourcesand to pollution, and this harms the poor. There is thus a conflict betweenthe destructionof natureto make money and the conservationof nature in order to live. Popular struggles againstthe forces of privatisation to maintain land and natural resources under communal control are well known throughout history. These

75

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

strugglesby the poor reveal an implicit ecologicalawareness.The survival of the poor is not guaranteedby the expansionof the marketsystem;on the contrary,their survival is threatenedby its expansion.In the pastand in the present,many agrarianprotests- regardlessof the way in which they have expressedtheir grievances- have had an ecological aspectbecausethey havetried to maintainenvironmentalresourcesoutsidethe marketplace.In our view, we shouldalso seeas ecological,the strugglesof indigenousand peasantgroups who organisethemselvesagainstranching interests,large hydro-electric projects, and mining, and also many urban conflicts, even when the peoplethemselves,or their leaders,do not know of or evenreject the label 'ecologist'or 'environmentalist'.Chico Mendeswas for 10 yearsa union leaderof rubber collectors,fighting againstdeforestationand cattle ranchesin Acre, in the remote westerntip of Brazil's Amazonia; he learnt that he was also an ecologistonly a coupleof yearsbeforehis death.

76

Chapter 4

Towards a Cross-Cultural Environmental Ethic The humanworld interestsme more than the world of nature;maybe it is a heresy to say such a thing in America. (CzeslawMilosz)

AMERICAN DEBATES ON ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS Discussionson environmentalethicshavereachedtheir high-watermark in the United States,whether measuredin terms of column inches of print space,enrolmentsin collegecoursesor - the surestindicator- the intensity of the debate.With the settingasideof wild areasbeingregardedas the best gaugeof an ecologicalconscience,the developmentof environmentalethics has been closely linked to the growth of the American wilderness movement. Battles over the creation, preservation and extension of wilderness areas form the backdrop against which the environmental community has examined and re-examined its ethical responsibilities towardsnature. Apart from the wildernesscrusade,three factors seemto have given a major impetus to modern debateson environmentalethics. In a famous essay first published in 1967 (and relentlessly anthologized since), the California historian Lynn White locatedthe 'historical roots of the ecologic crisis' in the Judeo-Christianbelief that manwasmeantto dominatenature. The part played by different religious traditions in annihilating (or safeguarding)the integrity of the natural world now came under close scrutiny. White's attack led many Christians to look towards reviving traditions of stewardship that had been suppressedwithin their own religion; others, abandoning Christianity altogether, enthusiastically embraced non-Western religions believed to be more in harmony with nature.!

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

A secondmajor influencehasbeena guilt complexrathermore specific to the United States.In resisting the equation of a dollar sign with their culture,Americanshavepointedincreasinglyto their remarkablesystemof national parks. JohnMuir's life-work, wrote one of his early admirersand supporters,was to help the American people throw off the 'two shackles which retard our progressas a nation - philistinism and commercialismand advancewith freedomtowardsthe love of beautyas a principle.'2Sixty years later, a new biographer of Muir suggestedthat the wilderness movementwas articulatedfrom 'a deepstratumof the national experience which was surely as American as those of Joseph Coors and Union Carbide'.3 Christian anxiety and American insecurity notwithstanding,equally significant in moulding the contemporarydebateon environmentalethics has been a factor which relates to nature rather than to culture. As comparedto tropical ecologies,temperateecosystemsareboth morebenign andmoreamenableto scientific exploitationfor utilitarian ends.For the city dweller, the temperateforest is more welcoming than the tropical forest; in this senseAldous Huxley was right - even without his poems, one can imagine Wordsworthin the Lake District, but scarcelyin northernBorneo. At the sametime, the relative simplicity of temperateecosystems,and their greater ability to recover from disturbance, have inspired radical programmesof environmentalmodification. The ecologicalenvironmentin temperateclimates,therefore,facilitates both the conquestand worship of nature.This paradoxicalsituationis reflectedin the two classicpolaritiesof environmentalethics- the oppositionof utilitarian to preservationist,and of anthropocentricto biocentricattitudestowardsnature. This triple heritage of Christianity, anti-philistinism and a benign ecologyhas given the debateon environmentalethics a distinctively North American stamp. A particular feature of this debatehas been its rather narrow focus on individual attitudestowards nature,a focus perhapsnot unrelated to what Donald Worster once called the 'Protestantroots of American environmentalism'.In the United States,environmentalismhas been overdeterminedby the Calvinist imprimatur, such that both leaders and followers (and analysts,too) have come to believe that the original sin of separationfrom nature can be redeemedonly through a wholesale personalidentificationwith it. This juxtapositionof singularMan to singular Naturegives rise to a seriesof binary oppositions,aroundwhich the history of environmentalideasis then written. Thus Donald Worster'smagisterial history of ecological ideas in the West is woven around the oppositesof arcadian and imperial atitudestowardsnature.Likewise,both RoderickNash and Stephen Fox have tried to rewrite the history of American environmentalismas a struggle between preservationistswho wish to preservenature and wild speciesfor their own sake and utilitarians who,

78

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

with the help of scienceand rational management,transform nature into useful commodities,working towards 'the greatestgood of the greatest numberfor the longesttime'. And for today'sdeepecologists,the only two admissibleattitudesare anthropocentricand biocentric respectively.In such cases,the story of environmentalethicsis reducedto a Manichean struggle betweenone set of good ideas (arcadian,preservationist,biocentric) and anotherset of evil ones(imperial, utilitarian, anthropocentric)! This chapterStries to seethe American debateon environmentalethics from within broader perspectivesthat may enrich it. To circumvent its idealist and individualist tenor, I intend to recastthe environmentaldebate as a debate about social utopias. For every theory of nature is itself embeddedin a larger theory of society. As RaymondWilliams warned us many years ago, 'if we talk only of singular Man and singular Nature, we can composea general history, but at the cost of excluding the real and altering social relations'. The 'idea of nature contains an extraordinary amountof humanhistory', and 'what is often being argued... in the idea of natureis the idea of man; the idea of man in society,indeedthe ideasof kinds of societies.'"

ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHIES OF HISTORY In the modernmarketplaceof ideas,environmentalismoccupiesthe broad spacebetweentwo sharplyopposedviews of the humanpredicament:the utopian vision of the economist, and the profoundly pessimistic or dystopianvision of the biologist. Humanbeingseverywhere,saysthe neoclassical(i. e. orthodox) economist,are irremediablyselfish, eachworking to maximise his own welfare. It is only the invisible hand of the market which, somehow,transformsa welter of competitiveindividual actionsinto the best of all possibleworlds. This buoyantview of the humanprospect rests on two complementary assumptions: an infinitely expanding technologicalfrontier (which assumesthat any resourceshortageor crisis shall be overcomeby the discoveryof new substitutes),and the rejectionof any physicallimits to economicgrowth (which assumesthat the rest of the world will come to enjoy the lifestyle characteristicof a middle- or upperclassAmerican). The economist's mystical belief in the magic of the market as an instrumentof humanwelfare is in vivid contrastto the biologist's equally mystical belief in the human propensity for collective suicide through overbreeding.Biologists also practice methodologicalindividualism, and promotewith equal passiona view of humannatureas essentiallyselfish, but in this view humanbeingslive not to maximisetheir economicwelfare

79

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

but their 'inclusive fitness', the prospectsof survival for themselvesand their closest relatives. With no market to fall back upon, and with an awarenessof ecological limits, this perspectiveon selfishnesscan only forecastdoom, as an expandinghuman population exceedsthe 'carrying capacity' of its habitat. From Malthus through Darwin to Garret Hardin, there has been a long line of doomsdayprophetswho believe that this conflict betweenindividual selfishnessand collective well-being does not admit of any rational solution. If the economistacknowledgesno naturallimits to growth, the biologist is obsessedonly with such limits. What the two have in common is their scepticismof purposiveactionfor the commongood: in the onecaseit is not neededas the marketshall take careof all our problems;in the other caseit is probablytoo late. Thesetwo traditions of social thought serve us here only as a point of departure.Our concernratheris with the vastmiddle groundthey haveleft uncolonized,into which step varieties of environmentalismwhich do not view humans as being essentially selfish. Compared to the dominant schools in economics and biology, most environmentaliststake a more subtle view of the human prospect. They acknowledgethat 'Spaceship Earth'doessetcertainlimits to economicexpansion,but arguethat it is only at certain times and in certain placesthat environmentaldegradationis of sufficient magnitudeto threatenthe future of a society. However, like neoclassicaleconomicsand Malthusianbiology, ecologicalconsciousness might also be viewed as a distinctive responseto the growth of industrial society. Within the environmental movement, there have been three generic responsesto industrialisation.The threeenvironmentalphilosophiesof our time are agrarianism, wilderness thinking, and scientific industrialism, respectively.At one level, of course,theseare simply three perspectiveson the human-naturerelationship. Scientific industrialism and wilderness thinking are the two old antagonistsparading under new names: one advocatingthe conquestof nature,the other humansubmissionto natural processes.Agrarianism is nothing but the search for a golden mean of stewardshipand sustainableuse.7 However, each of theseperspectiveson naturealso forms part of a larger philosophyof social reconstruction.They all offer distinct theoriesof history which outline where society is coming from, where it seemsto be heading, and in what direction it should go. Thesephilosophiesare all utopian, for their critique of the existing social order has as its point of referencean idealisedsocietyfree of all blemish.

Agrarianism The grain-basedcivilisations of Europeand Asia were the apogeeof human history for agrarianism. The agrarian views with disfavour both tribal

80

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

society- wherelife is believedto be nasty,brutishand short- andindustrial society, where humanshave wholly succumbedto the pursuit of wealth. His ecologicalandsocial ideal is peasantsociety,wheretechnologyis on the human scale and the bonds of community are strong. The political programme of agrarianism, therefore, is to resist the onslaught of commercialismand industrialismwhere they have not yet madeinroads, and where they have, to turn one'sback resolutelyon modernsocietyand go 'back to the land'. As a social response to industrialisation, agrarianism has usually invoked the traditions of a society staring defeat in the face. In his great book on the making of the modern world, Barington Moore, Jr., rather cynically remarked that the peasantrebellions of early modern Europe representedthe 'dying wail of a class over whom the wave of progressis about to roll'.s The memoriesof thesepeasantmovements,however,were kept alive by a galaxy of poets and writers whose moral, and indeed ecological,indictmentof industrial capitalismhasbeenbrilliantly analysed, in the English case, by Raymond Williams.9 But even as the industrial economyof the North is transformingitself into a post-industrialone, in other parts of the world agrarianismcontinuesto exercisea compelling appeal. Later in this chapter, I will refer to the heritage of the best known American agrarian,ThomasJefferson,while a later chapterin this book is devotedexclusively to the best known Indian agrarian,MahatmaGandhi. For a succinctstatementof the agrarianideal, we might turn to Gandhi's close contemporary,the poet and novelist RabindranathTagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for literature. In an arrestinganalogy,Tagore observesthat Villages are like women. In their keeping is the cradle of the race. They are nearer to nature than towns, and in closer touch with the fountain of life. They possess a natural power of healing. It is the function of the village, like that of women, to provide people with their elementary needs, with food and joy, with the simple poetry of life and with those ceremonies of beauty which the village spontaneously produces and in which she finds delight. But when constant strain is put upon her, when her resources are exceSSively explOited, she becomes dull and uncreative. From her time-honoured position of the wedded wife, she then descends to that of a maid-servant. The city, in its intense egotism and pride, remains unconscious of the hurt it inflicts on the very source of its life, health and joy.

In medieval civilisation, or what Tagore calls the 'natural state', the 'village and the town have harmoniousinteractions.From the one flow food and health and fellow being. From the other return gifts of wealth, knowledgeand energy.'But this balanceis rudely shatteredby the growth

81

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

of industrialisation.Now, 'greedhas struck at the relationshipof mutuality between town and village.' For 'modern cities feed upon the social organismthat runs throughthe village. They appropriatethe life stuff of the communityand sloughoff a huge amountof deadmatter,while making a lurid counterfeitof prosperity.' Indeed,cities today 'representenergyand materialsconcentratedfor the satisfactionof that bloatedappetitewhich is the characteristicsymptomof moderncivilisation.'lO

WildernessThinking This environmentalphilosophyis firmly implantedin Americansoil. There is a widespreadagreementwithin the wildernessmovementon the needto protect fully and if possibleexpandthe systemof national parks; there is, however,no suchconsensuson a philosophyof social reconstructionbased on the wildernessethic. One school,amongwhoseinfluential spokesmenis Roderick Nash, views nature appreciationas an indication of a culture's maturity. Here, wildernessis not counterposedto civilisation, but is in fact the surest indicator of the flowering of civilisation. In this perspective, automobiles and national parks, free-flowing rivers and power plants, universitiesand trails, can and must coexist. Of more interest to the present discussion is the radical strand in wildernessthinking, which we may call pre-agrarianism or primitivism. This believesthat an original stateof humanharmonywith natureon the North American continent was rudely shatteredby the white man: B.C. may as well stand for 'Before Columbus'.The founder of the Wilderness Society, Robert Marshall, claimed that before the arrival of Columbusthe whole continentwas a wilderness,and 'over billions of acresthe aboriginal wanderersstill spun out their peripatetic careers,the wild animals still browsedin unmolestedmeadowsand the forests still grew and moldered and grew againpreciselyas they had donefor interminablecenturies'.]]For the primitivist, the victory of agriculture signals a precipitous fall in ecologicalwisdom, as with the discovery of iron humanhistory entereda downwardspiral. Industrialismonly further accentuatesthe separationof humans from nature, a partial brake on its excessesbeing provided, belatedlyand ineffectively, by the movementto set asideareasof forest and wildernessas nationalparks. The primitivist theory of history has inspired truly radical proposalsfor example,the reductionof the humanpopulationof the world by 90 per cent to allow the recovery of wildernessareasand of speciesthreatened with extinction. In pursuanceof the principle of biocentric equality they hold dear, so-called deep ecologists,12 perhaps the leading edge of primitivism, turn their back on both agricultural and industrial society. Only hunting and gathering, they believe, can satisfy essentialhuman

82

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

needs without sacrificing the rights of non-humanspecies.A return to pagan,pre-Christianorigins is therefore a precondition for restoring the harmonyin nature.This return to origins would allow even white society to recoverits humanity.To quotethe Native Americanthinker Vine Deloria, Jr., 'the white man must drop his dollar-chasingcivilisation and return to a simple, tribal, game-hunting,berry-huntinglife if he is to survive. He must quickly adoptnot only the contemporaryIndian worldview but the ancient Indian worldview to survive.'l3 The primitivist theoryof history is in essencea theoryof de-development, a steadyfall from the naturalhigh of hunter-gatherersociety.For primitive humanswere literally rearedin the womb of nature.Exposedfrom birth to the sights, smells and soundsof the natural world, hunter-gatherers were at one with their surroundings,feeling themselvesto be the 'guestsrather than masters'of nature.This unity was disruptedby civilisation, which in the words of the California ecologistPaulShepard'increasedthe separation betweenthe individual and the natural world as it did the child from the mother... '. Significantly, agricultureratherthan industry is held to be the original culprit, fostering a duality of humansand nature in which 'wild things are enemiesof the tame; the wild other is not the context but the opponentof "my" domain'.14

Scientific Industrialism What distinguishes this philosophy is that of the three environmental philosophiesconsideredin this chapter,it alone looks ahead.Here human salvationlies in the future, not in the return to an agrarianor pre-agrarian past. The task is to tame industrialismand temperits excesses,not to turn one's back on it. As a philosophy of resourceuse - the term abhorrentto agrarianand primitivist alike - scientific industrialismseeksto replacethe anarchyof the marketwith a rationalprogrammeof statecontrol. Industrial capitalismmay be ecologically wasteful, but scientific expertise,if backed by legislationand an activist state,can assurethe sustainedyield of natural resourcesso crucial for humanwelfare. Like agrarianismand wildernessthinking, scientific industrialismtoo has a distinctive three-stageinterpretationof humanhistory. Two remarks of the 19th-century geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell pithily summarisehow the scientific conservationistviews the past, which he abhors,and the present,which he seeksto direct and control. Powell writes that In savagery,the powers of nature are feared as evil demons;in barbarism,the

powersof natureare worshippedas gods;in civilization, the powers of natureare apprenticedservants.

83

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

And again,that In savagery,the beastsare gods;in barbarism,the gods are men; in civilization, men are as gods,knowing good from evil. 1s

The victory of good over evil, men over gods, rational control over nature versusblind submissionto it, was not, however,always quick or painless. The long and sometimeslonely struggle of the scientific industrialist was well described by the pioneering German-Americanforester Bernhard Fernow.In an essayon the 'battle of the forest' (and the forester)published in 1894, Fernow starts- in an interestingtwist to primitivist narrativeswith the process of ecological succession.The process of glaciation is followed by the formation of the soil, the gradualemergenceof plantsand then trees,culminating at last in what we know as the virgin forest. This painfully slow and by no meansunidirectional processis the 'unwritten history of the battle of the forest', a 'product of long strugglesextending over centuries, nay thousandsof years'. But the hurdles of nature are nothing compared to the threats posed by humans. For pre-industrial society in general,but especially the farmers and herdsmen,take 'sides against the forest' - through 'willful or carelessdestruction' they have 'wasted the work of nature through thousandsof years by the foolish destructionof the forest cover'.They have 'accomplishedin manylocalities utter ruin. .. and turned them back into inhospitabledesertsas they first werebeforethe struggleof the forest had madethem inhabitable.'Scientific forestry inauguratesa more hopeful stage,but the habitsof many lifetimes die hard. Fernowleavesus with a picture of the foresterheroicallybattling the uneducatedcitizen, with the result very muchin the balance:'The battle of the forest in this country is now being fought by man, the unintelligent and greedy carrying on a war of extermination, the intelligent and providenttrying to defendthe forest cover.'16 The world over, scientific industrialists have seen themselves as bringing civilisation to barbarians,scienceto the superstitious,progressand well-beingto the half-starvedandhalf-clothed- all by the simple expedient of substituting,for earlier and allegedly wasteful economicmethods,the new sciencesof forestry and water management.A British colonialist with many yearsof experiencein Asia once remarkedthat Man himself modifies nature, and, before he has evolved a scientific civilisation, nearly always injuriously; and it is not simply becausethe temperatureof Northern Europe is milder than that of CentralAsia and SouthernEurope that it is greener than theseregions,but becauseit has not been so long subjectedto the corroding influencesof the presenceof barbarousand semi-civilised humanity. Under these influences India was being gradually reduced,during the decline of the [Mughal]

84

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

Empire, to the blighted condition of Central Asia, and was only saved from this impending doom by the British conquest.Similarly, were extendedirrigation and scientific forestry introducedinto Khiva, Bokharaand Samarcand, their pristine and verdurewould gradually be restoredto them;and it would at last be found that in the apparentlypurposelesssubjugationof thesecountries Russia had fulfilled her highest destiny.17

Womenin Society Although our three philosophies of history do not always address themselvesto the place of women in society, I shall end this sectionwith somespeculationson the subject.The ideal role of womenin the life of the village is vividly illustrated in the extracts from Tagore. In her 'timehonouredpositionof the weddedwife' shekeepsthe family andhousehold going, and in the communityat large womenare the symbol of continuity, the conduit by which traditions are passedon from one generationto another.From one point of view, the role of women is here stable,secure and well defined; from another point of view, severely circumscribed. Primitivists tend to believe the latter, suggestingthat it is only among hunter-gatherersthat we find a relative equality of the sexes; this is ascribed to the absenceof private property in land and to the fact that women,as the primary gatherersof food, play a far more importantrole in economiclife. Respectfor womenin primitive society,it is further argued, goeshandin handwith the 'feminine principle' in nature.Finally, scientific industrialists would argue that modern science enormously expands opportunitiesfor both menandwomen.Only in modernsocietyare women not barred from professionalcareers,while city life frees them from the petty tyranniesand superstitionsof the village.

ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHIES IN Two CULTURES Thus far, I have sketched the broad outlines of three environmental philosophiesof history (a graphicsummaryis also providedin Figure 4.1). How are these contending philosophies articulated in practice? I now examinetheir articulation in two different contexts,India and the United States.Not only are thesethe two culturesI know best,but they also make a fascinating study in contrast. They are both large and complex democracies,but with strikingly different religious traditionsand economic systems.One is the most powerful country in the industrial world, now moving towardsa post-industrialeconomyand 'post-material'society; the

85

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Figure 4.1 Environmental Philosophies: A Graphic Summary AGRARIANISM Environmentaland social 'goodness' StageI

StageIII

StageIII

Rise a n d m a t u r i t y of agarian civilization

Agentsof Evil Key phrases Policy

Time The Machine,materialisticphilosophy Technology'on the humanscale',back to the land Go back to Stage11

PRIMITIVISM Environmentaland social 'goodness'

Stager

StageIII

StageIII

National Park Movement

Agentsof Evil Key phrases Policy

Time The plough that laceratesMother Earth' the white man Pristine /pnmordial/virgin/unspoiltnature, the equahtyof sewsand of all species Go to back to StageI (eliminate 90% of the human popUlation if necessary?)

SCIENTIFIC INDUSTRIALISM Environmentaland ~ocial Stage'goodnes!>' III StageI

StageIII

StageIII

T h e halting p r o g r e s s of science and scientists

Time Agentsof Evil Key phrases Policy

Illiterate, presclenhhchumans(espeCiallypeasants) EffiCiency, sustamedyield, science,expertise Leave it to the experts

86

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

other is a populousand largely agricultural country seekingdesperatelyto industrialiseas rapidly as possible. What standsout, in any such comparison,is that while the dominant environmentalphilosophyin India is agrarianism,in the United Statesit is wildernessthinking. As Chapter1 documents,the Indian environmental movement bases itself on the traditions of an agrarian culture while invoking a more recent history of peasantmovements against British colonialism, led by Mahatma Gandhi. Four decades after Indian Independence,agrarianismis enjoying a remarkablerevival, as economic planning for industrialisation has devastatedthe country's natural endowmentwithout making a significant dent in the problem of poverty. The rhetoric of the environmental movement is greatly influenced by Gandhi'santi-industrial philosophy, and its more vocal sectionscall for a return to the Mahatma'svision of a village-centredeconomicorder. Of course,agrarianismhas also been a powerful current in American cultural andpolitical history. Its mostfamousstatement,ThomasJefferson's Noteson Virginia, is, like MahatmaGandhi'spamphletHind Swaraj (Indian home rule), in the main a manifestofor social reconstructionbasedon the susbsistencefarm. There are, however, two important ways in which American agrarianismdiffers from its Indian counterpart.While Gandhi, and Gandhism,invokes the spirit of communitybelievedto be intrinsic to traditional peasantculture, the yeomanfarmer of Jefferson'simaginationis a figure of sturdy independence.In the Jeffersonian vision private proprietorshipof land is a sine qua non of the individualist spirit, which is in turn the bedrock of democracy.And while Gandhian agrarianismis acutelyawareof ecologicallimits (aselaboratedin Chapter8), the American version has as its premise the ecological abundanceof a sparselysettled continent. Their occupationof a seeminglyendlesscontinentwas,indeed,a source of great comfort to early American agrarians like Jefferson and St. Crevecouer.In Europe,limitations of spacemay have forced the working poor to acceptthe miseriesof city life, but on the new continent,virgin land, the preconditionfor a society of independentyeomanfarmers, 'had been given to Americans in extreme, almost unbelievable abundance'.!SThis optimism was shared by the most famous of Jefferson's 20th-century followers, the co-signatoriesof the Nashville manifestoI'll Take My Stand. The most eloquent of these Southern agrarians, the poet John Crowe Ransom,claimedthat the unemploymentproblemof the 1930swas a direct consequenceof industrialisation and the shift of population from the country to the city. Advocating the return of the unemployedto the land, Ransomobserved:'So far as America is concerned,there always was land enough for [the farmer] to till; there was no such problem as overpopulation'- and evenas he wrote, 'the land is still with us, as patient

87

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

and nearly as capableas ever'.19 In our own time, therehavebeensomeinterestingattemptsto recastthe Jeffersonianideal along ecological lines, for exampleby Wendell Berry.2o This is, however, a marginal strand in the American environmental movement, whose core is undoubtedly the wilderness ethic.21 In fact, wildernesslovers are in the main quite hostile to agriculture. Evidently, going back to nature does not imply going back to the land. That sage amongcontemporaryecologists,RaymondDasmann,once confessedthat for manyyearshe hadbeeninterestedonly in the 'extremesof land use,the city and the wilderness'. The country in between - farm, rangeland, pasture,shrubjungle - had beento him 'just spaceto be passedthroughas quickly as possible'.22 What Dasmannignored his compatriotshave more actively deplored over the years.One recallsJohnMuir's characterizationof sheepas 'hoofed locusts'23 and this prejudice against farming and farm animals is very widespread indeed. Coming from the cities, lovers of the wilderness condescendto the farmer and 'take for grantedthe dependence of both city and country on the agricultural base'.24 Some wilderness thinkers, themselvesurbaneand cosmopolitan,deplore the farmer for his uncouth ways, like the early editor of Harper's Magazinewho wrote that 'if a man perspireslargely in a cornfield on a dusty day, and washeshastily in a horsetrough,and eatsin shirt-sleevesthat date their cleanlinessthree days back, and loves fat pork and cabbageneat, he will not prove the Arcadian companionat dinner'.25 Others fear the farmer for his impact on 'virgin' nature. Muir, for instance,wrote of a farmer he knew that he had a call to plow, and woe to the daisy sod or ozaleathicket that falls underthe savage redemptionof his keen steel shares.Not contentwith the so-calledsubjugationof every terrestrial bog, rock, and moorland,he would fain discoversome method of reclamationapplicable to the oceansand the sky, that in due calendartime they might be boughtto bud and blossomas the rose ...Wildnesscharmsnot my friend ... and whatsoevermay be the characterof his heaven,his earth seemsonly a chaos of agricultural possibilities calling for grubbing-hoesand manners...26

Nor is this hostility restricted to the American farmer and shepherd. Touring Africa in 1957, one prominentmemberof the Sierra Club strongly attackedthe Masai for grazingcattle in African wildlife sancturies.He held the Masai to be illustrative of a larger trend,wherein 'increasingpopulation and increasingland use',ratherthan industrial exploitation,constitutedthe main threat to the world's wildernessareas.The Masai and 'their herdsof economicallyworthlesscattle', he said, 'have alreadyovergrazedand laid wastetoo much of the 23,000 squaremiles of Tanganyikathey control, and as they move into the Serengeti,they bring the desertwith them, and the

88

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

wildernessand wildlife mustbow beforetheir herds?Even more plaintive are the wilderness biologists working in the tropics, one of whom complained:'Wherewill be taxonomistsand evolutionistswhen cows and corn dominatethis earth?'28 Here again, India provides an illuminating contrast. While it has an even greater diversity of ecological regimes than the United States,the movementfor the protectionof wild areashas not enjoyed much popular sanction.Supportfor the national park movementin India comesmainly from internationalconservationorganisations,and from a classof big game hunters turned preservationists(who include many former Maharajahs). Furthermore,the designationof parks and sanctuarieshas been heavily biased towards the preservationof large mammalssuch as the tiger, the rhinocerosand the elephant- that is, what the biologistMichael Souleterms 'metacharismaticmegavertebrates'. The establishmentof huge sanctuaries for their protectionhasled to the uprootingof villages situatedwithin their boundaries,while the protectedspeciesthemselvesare often a threatto the lives and livelihood of human communitiesliving adjacentto wilderness areas.The managementof national parks is, therefore, a subject of quite some controversy,though it is fair to say that within the environmental movement,the burdenof opinion is rangedagainstwildlife managementas it is presentlypracticed- for its neglectof the interestsof peasantsand tribals.29 We have therefore a curious symmetry: the dominant environmental tradition in the United States,wildernessthinking, is hostile to agriculture, whereasthe dominant tradition in India, agrarianism,is not favourably disposedto lovers of the wild. What then of the third of our philosophies, scientific industrialism? This is an environmentaltradition that is truly transcultural,moving itself with effortless easeacrossthe world. In India and the United States, as indeed in China and Brazil, Germany or Indonesia,forestry experts and irrigation engineersuphold an identical vision of large-scale, centralised and expert-controlled resource management. 30 Associatedwith the stateand with statepower, scientific industrialism has come to be the common enemy of the popular environmental movementin the North and in the South. In the United States,free-flowing rivers and natural forests are cherished by environmentalistsfor their beauty and ecological value, but coveted by resourcemanagersfor the millions of cubic feet or kilowatt-hoursthey might yield. This is the classic dilemma,preservationismversusutilitarianism, that underliesa good part of American environmentalhistory and environmentalconflict. In India, however, conflicts over water and forests more sharply highlight the question of alternative uses - subsistenceversus commerce,local versus national, peasantsversus industry. Thus large dams and eucalyptus

89

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

plantations,to cite but two examplesof scientific conservationat work, are criticised both for their diversionof resourcesfrom centreto peripheryand for the trail of environmentaldestructionthey leave in their wake. Theseconflicts arevividly representedin the symbolsand slogansof the environmentalmovement.A focal point of the American movementhas been the struggle - over men, minds and materials - betweenscientific industrialism and wilderness thinking, while in India scientific industrialism opposes agrarianism. Not surprisingly, scientific conservationistsloom large in the demonology of environmentalists everywhere.If the great icon of the American environmentalismis John Muir, himself a product of the 'university of the wilderness',its demonis indisputably Gifford Pinchot, the founder of the United States Forest Service. Likewise, Indian environmentalistslike to contrast Mahatma Gandhi, the prophet of a village-centredeconomic order, and Jawaharlal Nehru, the long-serving Prime Minister who initiated and guided the programmes of industrial development that have devastated the countrysideand the humancommunitieswho live there. All social movementsneedtheir symbolsof good and evit their icons and their demons.Theserepresentations of JohnMuir and Gifford Pinchot, MahatmaGandhi and JawaharlalNehru, are indicative only of the ferocity of the debatebetweenthe three great environmentalphilosophiesof our time. It is ironic that scattered throughout Muir's writings are warm references to Pinchot's programmes for the takeover and rational managementof the American forests.After having read and heard a great deal about the Muir-Pinchot divide, I visited the Muir woods outsideSan Francisco,to find a splendid redwood named- the Gifford Pinchot Tree! And Nehruwas,after alt a closeassociateandpolitical colleagueof Gandhi over many decades- indeed,his chosenpolitical heir, the man to whom the Mahatmaleft India 'in safe hands'.

SOCIAL ECOLOGY OR ECOLOGICAL SOCIALISM? The three environmentalvisions outlined in this chapterare all utopias in the quite specific sensethat none can be realised in full. The claims of scientific industrialism notwithstanding,there are ecological limits to the global spreadof the consumersociety; despitethe deepecologist'sdeepest yearnings, a return to our hunter-gathererorigins is quite out of the question;and in much of the Third World, the world of stablesubsistence farming so beloved of the agrarians is rapidly giving way to a more thrusting,individualistic and market-orientedway of life. Perhapsthe debatebetweenproponentsof thesethreephilosophieshas

90

TOWARDS A CROSS-CULTURAL ENVIRONMENTAL ETHIC

in fact run its course.I like to believe that we are on the thresholdof a new phasein the developmentof environmentalethics, with a fresh synthesis coming to take the place of these three contending philosophies. This synthesiswould take from primitivism the idea of diversity, from peasant cultures the ideal of sustainability, and from modern society in general, rather than from scientific conservationin particular, the value of equity. One of the remarkableturn aboutsin our time hasbeenthe retreatfrom the monoculturalview of societyand nature- the remakingof the world in the image of Europe- and for this new appreciationof diversity, biological as well as cultural, we have largely to thank wilderness thinking and the anthropologistsand activists working in defence of indigenous people. Likewise, the ideal of sustainabilityprovidesa powerful antidoteto another core ideal of industrial society- that of economicgrowth and consumption without limit - and it is quite easy to trace this idea to peasantcultures, which usedland and naturewisely, well, and with a view to the long term. Finally, while scientific industrialismmay haveendedup as a movementof experts, it was fired, in the first instance,by a passionfor equality and democracy,by the urge to bend science,and nature, to make the fruits of 31 economicgrowth widely accessible. In the modern world, and nowhere else, have challenges to principles of social hierarchy gained moral currency. In pre-moderntimes, uprisings of peasants,slaves,women and workers had always to contendwith a dominantideology - monarchism, absolutism,theocracy,patriarchy,or caste- that legitimated,justified and strictly enforcedinequalitiesof race and sex, caste,classand religion. Only since the French Revolution have social movementsbeen able to draw sustenancefrom the wider acceptabilityof equity as a value. Diversity, sustainabilityand equity: theseare the building blocks of the environmentalethic in the making. We could call this emergingphilosophy social ecology, as does the anachistand life-long environmentalistMurray Bookchin, thoughsomewould preferto call it ecologicalsocialism.Evenmore than a name - and despite my jesting about the iconography and demonologyof environmentalism- this philosophyneedsa patronsaint,or preferably,saints.Three likely candidates,from three different parts of the world, are duly celebratedin Part 2 of this book.

91

Chapter 5 Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique Even God darenot appearto the poor man exceptin the form of bread. (MahatmaGandhi)

INTRODUCTION The respectedradical journalistKirkpatrick Salehascelebrated'the passion of a new and growing movementthat has becomedisenchantedwith the environmentalestablishmentandhasin recentyearsmounteda seriousand sweepingattackon it - style, substance,systems,sensibilitiesand all.'! The vision of thosewhom Salecalls the 'New Ecologists'- and what I refer to in this chapteras deepecology- is a compellingone. Decrying the narrowly economicgoalsof mainstreamenvironmentalism,this new movementaims at nothing less than a philosophical and cultural revolution in human attitudestowardsnature.In contrastto the conventionallobbying efforts of environmentalprofessionalsbasedin Washington,it proposesa militant defenceof 'Mother Earth', an unflinching oppositionto humanattackson undisturbedwilderness.With their goals ranging from the spiritual to the political, the adherentsof deep ecology span a wide spectrum of the Americanenvironmentalmovement.As Salecorrectly notes,this emerging strandhas in a matter of a few yearsmadeits presencefelt in a numberof fields: from academicphilosophy,as in the journal EnvironmentalEthics, to popularenvironmentalism,for example,the group Earth First!. In this chapterI developa critique of deepecologyfrom the perspective of a sympathetic outsider. My treatment of deep ecology is primarily historical and sociologicalin nature,ratherthan philosophical.Specifically, I examinethe cultural rootednessof a philosophythat likes to presentitself

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

in universalisticterms.I maketwo main arguments:first, that deepecology is uniquelyAmerican,and despitesuperficialsimilarities in rhetoricalstyle, the social and political goals of radical environmentalismin other cultural contexts(e.g. Germanyand India) are quite different; second,that the social consequences of putting deep ecology into practice on a worldwide basis (what its practitionersare aiming for) are very grave indeed.

THE TENETS OF DEEP ECOLOGY While I am awarethat the term deep ecologywas coinedby the Norwegian philosopherArne Naess,this chapter refers specifically to the American variant.2 Adherentsof the deepecologicalperspectivein the United States, while arguing intensely among themselves over its political and philosophical implications, share some fundamental premises about human-natureinteractions.As I seeit, the defining characteristicsof deep ecologyare fourfold. First, deepecologyarguesthat the environmentalmovementmust shift from an anthropocentricto a biocentric perspective.In many respects,an acceptanceof the primacy of this distinction constitutesthe litmus test of deep ecology. A considerableeffort is expendedby deep ecologists in showing that the dominant motif in Western philosophy has been anthropocentric(i.e. the belief that man and his works are the centreof the universe), and converselyin identifying those lonely thinkers (Leopold, Thoreau,Muir, Aldous Huxley, Santayana,etc.) who, in assigningman a more humble place in the natural order, anticipated deep ecological thinking. In the political realm, meanwhile, establishment environmentalism(shallow ecology) is chided for castingits argumentsin human-centredterms. Preservingnature, the deep ecologistssay, has an intrinsic worth quite apart from any benefits preservationmay convey to future human generations.The anthropocentric/biocentricdistinction is acceptedas axiomaticby deepecologists,it structurestheir discourse,and much of the presentdiscussionremainsmired within it. The second characteristic of deep ecology is its focus on the preservationof unspoilt wilderness- and the restorationof degradedareas to a more pristine condition - to the relative, and sometimesabsolute, neglect of other issueson the environmentalagenda.I later identify the cultural roots and portentous consequencesof this obsessionwith wilderness. For the moment, let me indicate three distinct sourcesfrom which it springs. Historically, it represents a playing out of the preservationist(read radical) and utilitarian (read reformist) dichotomy that hasplaguedAmericanenvironmentalismsincethe turn of the century.

93

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Morally, it is an imperative that follows from the biocentric perspective; other speciesof plantsand animals,and natureitself, havean intrinsic right to exist. And finally, the preservationof wildernessalso turns on a scientific argument,namely the value of biological diversity in stabilisingecological regimesand in retaining a gene pool for future generations.Truly radical policy proposalshave beenput forward by deepecologistson the basisof thesearguments.The influential poet Gary Snyder,for example,would like to seea 90 per cent reductionin humanpopulationsto allow a restoration of pristine environments,while othershave arguedforcefully that a large portion of the globemustbe immediatelycordonedoff from humanbeings.3 Third, thereis a widespreadinvocation ofEasternspiritual traditionsas forerunnersof deep ecology. Deep ecology, it is suggested,was practiced both by major religious traditions and at a more popular level by 'primal' peoples in non-Western settings. This complementsthe search for an authentic lineage in Western thought. At one level, the task is to recover thosedissentingvoices within the Judeo--Christiantradition; at another,to suggest that religious traditions in other cultures are, in contrast, dominantlyif not exclusively'biocentric'in their orientation.This coupling of (ancient) Easternand (modern) ecological wisdom seeminglyhelps to consolidate the claim that deep ecology is a philosophy of universal significance. Fourth, deep ecologists,whatevertheir internal differences,sharethe belief that they are the 'leading edge'of the environmentalmovement.As the polarity of the shallow/deep and anthropocentric/biocentric distinctionsmakesclear, they seethemselvesas the spiritual, philosophical and political vanguardof American and world environmentalism.

TOWARDS A CRITIQUE Although I analyseeach of these tenetsindependently,it is important to recognise,as deepecologistsare fond of remarking in referenceto nature, the interconnectedness and unity of theseindividual themes.

Shift to a BiocenticPerspective Insofar as it hasbegunto act as a checkon man'sarroganceand ecological hubris, the transition from an anthropocentric (human-centred)to a biocentric (humansas only one element in the ecosystem)view in both religious and scientific traditions is only to be welcomed.4 What is unacceptableare the radical conclusions drawn by deep ecology, in particular, that intervention in nature should be guided primarily by the

94

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

needto preservebiotic integrity rather than by the needsof humans.The latter for deep ecologists is anthropocentric,the former biocentric. This dichotomyis, however,of very little use in understandingthe dynamicsof environmental degradation. The two fundamental ecological problems facing the globe are (1) overconsumptionby the industrialisedworld and by urbanelites in the Third World and (2) growing militarisation, both in a short-termsense(i.e., ongoingregionalwars) and in a long-termsense(i.e. the arms race and the prospectof nuclear annihilation). Neither of these problems has any tangible connection to the anthropocentric/biocentric distinction. Indeed,the agentsof theseprocesseswould barelycomprehend this philosophical dichotomy. The proximate causesof the ecologically wasteful characteristicsof industrial society and of militarisation are far more mundane:at an aggregatelevel, the dialectic of economicandpolitical structures,and at a microlevel, the lifestyle choices of individuals. These causescannot be reduced, whatever the level of analysis, to a deeper anthropocentricattitude toward nature; on the contrary, by constituting a grave threatto humansurvival, the ecologicaldegradationthey causedoes not evenservethe bestinterestsof humanbeings.If my identification of the major dangersto the integrity of the natural world is correct, invoking the bogeyof anthropocentricismis at bestirrelevantand at worst a dangerous obfuscation.

Focus on the Preservationof Wilderness If the above dichotomy is irrelevant, the emphasis on wilderness is positively harmful when applied to the Third World. If in the United States the preservationist/utilitariandivision is seen as mirroring the conflict between the 'people' and the 'interests',in countries such as India the situation is very nearly the reverse. BecauseIndia is a long-settled and densely populated country in which agrarian populationshave a finely balancedrelationshipwith nature,the settingasideof wildernessareashas resulted in a direct transfer of resourcesfrom the poor to the rich. Thus ProjectTiger, a network of parks hailed by the internationalcommunity as an outstandingsuccess,puts the interestsof the tiger aheadof thoseof poor peasantsliving in and aroundthe reserve.The designationof tiger reserves was made possibleonly by the physical displacementof existing villages and their inhabitants;their managementrequiresthe continuing exclusion of peasantsand livestock. The initial impetusfor settingup parksfor tigers and other mammalssuch as the rhinocerosand elephantcame from two social groups: (1) a class of ex-huntersturned conservationistsbelonging mostly to the declining Indian feudal elite, and (2), representativesof international agencies,such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the InternationalUnion for the Conservationof Natureand Natural Resources

95

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

(IUCN), seekingto transplantthe Americansystemof national parks on to Indian soil. In no casehavethe needsof the local populationbeentakeninto account, and as in many parts of Africa, the designatedwildlands are managedprimarily for the benefit of rich tourists. Until very recently, wildlands preservationhas been identified with environmentalismby the state and the conservationelite; in consequence,environmentalproblems that impinge far more directly on the lives of the poor (e.g. fuel, fodder, water shortages,soil erosion, and air and water pollution) have not been 5 adequatelyaddressed. Deep ecology provides, perhaps unwittingly, a justification for the continuationof suchnarrow and inequitableconservationpracticesundera newly acquired radical guise. Increasingly,the international conservation elite is using the philosophical, moral and scientific argumentsused by deepecologistsin advancingtheir wildernesscrusade.A striking but by no means atypical example is the recent plea by a prominent American biologist for the takeover of large portions of the globe by him and his scientific colleagues.Writing in a prestigiousscientific forum, the Annual Reviewof Ecology and Systematics,Daniel Janzenarguesthat only biologists have the competenceto decidehow the tropical landscapeshouldbe used. of the naturalworld', biologistsare 'in chargeof the As 'the representatives future of tropical ecology',and only they havethe expertiseand mandateto 'determine whether the tropical agroscapeis to be populated only by humans,their mutualists,commensals,andparasites,or whetherit will also contain some islands of the greater nature - the nature that spawned humans,yet has beenvanquishedby them.' Janzenexhortshis colleagues to advancetheir territorial claims on the tropical world more forcefully, warning that the very existenceof theseareasis at stake:'if biologistswant a tropics in which to biologise, they are going to have to buy it with care, energy,effort, strategy,tactics,time, and cash'." This frankly imperialist manifestohighlights the multiple dangersof the preoccupationwith wilderness preservationthat is characteristicof deep ecology. As I have suggested,it seriously compoundsthe neglectby the American movementof far more pressingenvironmentalproblemsin the Third World. But perhapsmore importantly, and in a more insidious fashion, it also providesan impetusto the imperialist yearningof Western biologistsand their financial sponsors,organisationssuchas the WWF and IUCN. The wholesaletransferof a movementculturally rootedin American conservationhistory can only result in the social uprooting of human populationsin other partsof the globe.

EasternSpiritual Traditions I come now to the persistent invocation of Eastern philosophies as

96

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

antecedentin time but convergentin their structure with deep ecology. Complex and internally differentiated religious traditions - Hinduism, Buddhismmand Taoism- are lumpedtogetheras holding a view of nature believedto be quintessentiallybiocentric. Individual philosopherssuch as the TaoistLao Tzu are identified asbeing forerunnersof deepecology.Even an intenselypolitical, pragmatic,and Christian-influencedthinker such as Gandhi has beenaccordeda wholly undeservedplace in the pantheonof deepecology.Thus the Zen teacherRobertAitken Roshi makesthe strange claim that Gandhi'sthoughtwas not human-centredand that he practiced an embryonic form of deep ecology which is 'traditionally Easternand is found with differing emphasisin Hinduism, Taoismand in Theravadaand MahayanaBuddhism'?Moving away from the realm of high philosophy and scriptural religion, deep ecologistsmake the further claim that at the level of material and spiritual practice 'primal' peoples subordinated themselvesto the integrity of the biotic universethey inhabited. I have indicatedthat this appropriationof Easterntraditions is in part dictatedby the need to constructan authenticlineageand in part a desire to present deep ecology as a universalistic philosophy. Indeed, in his substantialyet quixotic biographyof JohnMuir, Michael Cohengoesso far as to suggestthat Muir was the 'Taoist of the [American] West'.8 This readingof Easterntraditionsis selectiveand doesnot botherto differentiate betweenalternative (and changing) religious and cultural traditions; as it stands,it does considerableviolence to the historical record. Throughout most recordedhistory the characteristicform of humanactivity in the 'East' has been a finely tuned but none the less conscious and dynamic manipulationof nature.Although mysticssuchas Lao Tzu did reflect on the spiritual essenceof humanrelationswith nature,it mustbe recognisedthat suchasceticsand their reflectionswere supportedby a societyof cultivators whoserelationshipwith naturewas a far moreactiveone. Many agricultural communities do have a sophisticated knowledge of the natural environmentthat may equal (and sometimessurpass)codified 'scientific' knowledge,yet the elaborationof such traditional ecologicalknowledgein both material and spiritual contexts - can hardly be said to rest on a mystical affinity with nature of a deep ecological kind. Nor is such knowledge infallible; as the archaeologicalrecords powerfully suggest, modernWesternman hasno monopolyon ecologicaldisasters. In a brilliant article, the ChicagohistorianRonald Inden points out that this romantic and essentiallypositive view of the Eastis a mirror image of the scientific and essentially pejorative view normally held by Western scholarsof the Orient. In either case,the Eastconstitutesthe Other, a body wholly separateand alien from the West; it is defined by a uniquely spiritual and non-rational'essence',even if this essenceis valorised quite differently by the two schools.Easternman exhibits a spiritual dependence

97

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

with respectto nature - on the one hand, this is symptomaticof his prescientific and backward self, on the other, of his ecological wisdom and deep ecological consciousness.Both views are monolithic, simplistic, and havethe characteristiceffect - intendedin one case,perhapsunintendedin the other - of denying agencyand reasonto the East and making it the privileged orbit of Westernthinkers. The two apparently opposed perspectiveshave then a common underlying structure of discoursein which the East merely serves as a vehicle for Westernprojections.Varying imagesof the Eastare raw material for political and cultural battlesbeingplayedout in the West; they tell us far more aboutthe Westerncommentatorand his desiresthan aboutthe 'East'. Inden'sremarksapply not merely to Westernscholarshipon India, but to Orientalistconstructions ofChina and Japanas well: Although these two views appear to be strongly opposed, they often combine together: Both have a similar interest in sustaining the Otherness of India. The holders of the dominant view, best exemplified in the past in imperial administrative discourse (and today probably by that of 'development economics'), would place a traditional, superstition-ridden India in a position of perpetual tutelage to a modern, rational West. The adherents of the romantic view, best exemplified academically in the discourses of Christian liberalism and analytiC psychology, concede the realm of the public and impersonal to the positivist. Taking their succour not from governments and big business, but from a plethora of religious foundations and self-help institutes, and from allies in the 'conciousness industry,' not to mention the important industry of tourism, the romantics insist that India embodies a private realm of the imagination and the religious which modern, western man lacks but needs. They, therefore, like the positivists, but for just the opposite reason, have a vested interest in seeing that the Orientalist view of India as 'spiritual,' 'mysterious' and 'exotic' is perpetuated:

The Radicalismof Deep Ecology How radical, finally, are the deep ecologists?Notwithstandingtheir selfimage and strident rhetoric (in which the label 'shallow ecology' has an opprobrium similar to that reserved for 'social democratic' by Marxist-Leninists), even within the American context their radicalism is limited and it manifestsitself quite differently elsewhere. To my mind, deepecology is best viewed as a radical trend within the wilderness preservation movement. Although advancing philosophical rather than aestheticargumentsand encouragingpolitical militancy rather than negotiation,its practical emphasis- that is, preservationof unspoilt nature- is virtually identical. For the mainstreammovement,the function of wildernessis to provide a temporaryantidoteto moderncivilisation. As

98

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

a special institution within an industrialised society, the national park 'provides an opportunity for respite, contrast, contemplation, and affirmation of valuesfor thosewho live most of their lives in the workaday world'.lO Indeed, the rapid increasein visits to the national parks in postwar Americais a direct consequence of economicexpansion.The emergence of a popular interestin wildernesssites, the historian SamuelHays points out, was 'not a throwback to the primitive, but an integral part of the modern standardof living as people sought to add new "amenity" and "aesthetic"goals and desiresto their earlier preoccupationwith necessities and conveniences'.1l Here, the enjoyment of nature is an integral part of the consumer society.The private automobile,and the life style it hasspawned,is in many respectsthe ultimate ecological villain, and an untouchedwildernessthe prototype of ecological harmony; yet, for most Americans it is perfectly consistentto drive a thousandmiles to spenda holiday in a nationalpark. Americanspossessa vast, beautiful and sparselypopulatedcontinentand are also able to draw on the naturalresourcesof large portionsof the globe by virtue of their economic and political dominance. In consequence, America can simultaneouslyenjoy the material benefits of an expanding economy and the aestheticbenefits of unspoilt nature. The two poles of 'wilderness'and 'civilisation' mutually coexist in an internally coherent whole, and philosophersof both poles are assigneda prominentplace in this culture. Paradoxicallyas it may seem,it is no accidentthat Star Wars technology and deep ecology both find their fullest expressionin that leadingsectorof Westerncivilisation, California. Deep ecology runs parallel to the consumersociety without seriously questioning its ecological and socio-political basis. In its celebration of American wilderness,it also displays an uncomfortableconvergencewith the prevailing climate of nationalism in the American wilderness movement. For spokesmensuch as the historian Roderick Nash, the national park systemis America's distinctive cultural contribution to the world, reflective not merelyof its economicbut also of its philosophicaland ecologicalmaturity. In what Henry Luce called the American century, the 'American invention of national parks' must be exported worldwide. Betraying an economic determinism that would make even a Marxist shudder,Nashbelievesthat environmentalpreservationis a 'full stomach' phenomenonthat is confinedto the rich, urban,and sophisticated.Nonethe less, he hopes that 'the less developed nations may eventually evolve economicallyand intellectually to the point where nature preservationis more than a business'Y The error which Nashmakes,and which deepecologyin somerespects encourages,is to equateenvironmentalprotection with the protection of wilderness.This is a distinctively American notion, borne out of a unique

99

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

social and environmental history. The archetypal concerns of radical environmentalistsin other cultural contextsare in fact quite different. The German Greens, for example, have elaborateda devastatingcritique of industrial societywhich turns on the acceptanceof environmentallimits to growth. Pointing to the intimate links between industrialisation, militarisation and conquest,the Greensarguethat economicgrowth in the West has historically restedon the economicand ecologicalexploitationof the Third World. Rudolf Bahro is characteristicallyblunt: The working class here [in the West] is the richest lower class in the world. And if I look at the problem from the point of view of the whole of humanity, not just from that of Europe,then I must say that the metropolitan working class is the worst exploiting class in history ...What made poverty bearablein eighteenth-or nineteenth-centuryEuropewas the prospectof escapingit through exploitation of the periphery.But this is no longer a possibility, and continuedindustrialism in the Third World will mean poverty for whole generationsand hungerfor millions. 13

Here the roots of global ecologicalproblemslie in the disproportionate shareof resourcesconsumedby the industrialisedcountriesas a whole and the urban elite in the Third World. Since it is impossibleto reproducean industrial monocultureworldwide, the ecological movementin the West mustbeginby cleaningup its own act. The Greensadvocatethe creationof a 'no-growth'economy,to be achievedby scalingdown current,and clearly unsustainable,consumptionlevels.!4 This radical shift in consumptionand productionpatternsrequiresthe creationof alternateeconomicandpolitical structures- smallerin scaleand more amenableto socialparticipation- but it rests equally on a shift in cultural values. The expansionistcharacterof modernWesternman will haveto give way to an ethic of renunciationand self-limitation, in which spiritual and communalvaluesplay an increasing role in sustainingsociallife. This revolutionin cultural values,however,has as its point of departurean understandingof environmentalprocessesquite different from deepecology. Many elementsof the Green programmefind a strong resonancein countries such as India, where a history of Western colonialism and industrial developmenthas benefited only a tiny elite while exacting tremendoussocialand environmentalcosts.The ecologicalbattlespresently being fought in India have as their epicentre the conflict over nature between the subsistenceand largely rural sector and the vastly more powerful commercial-industrialsector. Perhaps the most celebrated of thesebattlesconcernsthe Chipko movement,a peasantmovementagainst deforestationin the Himalayan foothills. Chipko is only one of several movements that have sharply questioned the non-sustainabledemand beingplacedon the land and vegetativebaseby urbancentresand industry.

100

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

Theseinclude oppositionto large damsby displacedpeasants,the conflict between small-scale-artisanfishing and large-scale trawler fishing for export, the countrywidemovementsagainstcommercialforest operations, and oppositionto industrialpollution amongdownstreamagriculturaland fishing communities.IS Two features distinguish these environmentalmovementsfrom their Western counterparts.First, for the sections of society most critically affected by environmental degradation - poor and landless peasants, women, and tribals - it is a questionof sheersurvival, not enhancingthe quality of life. Second,and as a consequence, the environmentalsolutions they articulatestronglyinvolve questionsof equity as well as economicand political redistribution. Highlighting these differences, a leading Indian environmentaliststressedthat 'environmentalprotection per se is of least concernto most of thesegroups.Their main concernis aboutthe useof the environmentand who shouldbenefitfrom it.'16 The Indian movementsseek to wrest control of natureaway from the stateand the industrial sectorand placeit in the handsof rural communitieswho live within that environment but are increasinglydeniedaccessto it. Thesecommunitieshave far more basicneeds,their demandson the environmentarefar lessintense,and they can draw on a reservoir of co-operative social institutions and local ecologicalknowledgein managingthe 'commons'- forests,grasslandsand the waters- on a sustainablebasis.If colonial and capitalistexpansionhas both accentuatedsocial inequalities and signaled a precipitous fall in ecologicalwisdom, an alternativeecologymust rest on an alternatesociety and polity as well. This brief overview of Germanand Indian environmentalismhas some major implications for deep ecology. Both German and Indian environmental traditions allow for a greater integration of ecological concernswith livelihood and work. They also place a greateremphasison equity and social justice- both within individual countriesand on a global scale - on the grounds that in the absence of social regeneration environmentalregenerationhas very little chanceof succeeding.Finally, and perhapsmost significantly, they have escapedthe preoccupationwith wilderness preservation so characteristic of American cultural and environmentalhistory.17

A HOMILY In 1958, the economistJ.K. Galbraith referred to overconsumptionas the unasked question of the American conservationmovement. There is a markedselectivity,he wrote, 'in the conservationist'sapproachto materials consumption.If we are concernedabout our great appetitefor materials,it

101

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

is plausibleto seekto increasethe supply, to decreasewaste,to makebetter use of the stocks available, and to develop substitutes.But what of the appetite itself? Surely this is the ultimate source of the problem. If it continuesits geometriccourse,will it not one day haveto be restrained?Yet in the literatureof the resourceproblemthis is the forbiddenquestion.Over it hangsa nearly total silence."8 The consumereconomyand society have expandedtremendouslyin the four decadessince Galbraith wrote thesewords, yet his criticisms are nearlyas valid today. I say 'nearly',for thereare somehopeful signs.Within the environmentalmovement several dispersedgroups are working to develop ecologically benign technologiesand to encourageless wasteful lifestyles. Moreover, outside the self-defined boundaries of American environmentalism,opposition to the permanentwar economy is being carried on by a peace movement that has a distinguishedhistory and impeccablemoral and political credentials. It is preciselythese- to my mind, most hopeful - componentsof the Americansocial scenethat are missing from deepecology. In their widely read book, Bill Devall and George Sessions make no mention of militarisation or the movementsfor peace,while activists whose practical focus is on developing ecologically responsiblelife styles (e.g., Wendell Berry) are deridedas 'falling short of deepecologicalawareness'.19 A truly radical ecologyin the Americancontextought to work towardsa synthesis 20 of the appropriatetechnology,alternativelifestyles,and peacemovements. By making the (largely spurious) anthropocentric/biocentricdistinction centralto the debate,deepecologistsmay haveappropriatedthe moral high ground, but they are at the same time doing a serious disservice to 21 American and global environmentalism.

POSTSCRIPT: DEEP ECOLOGY REVISITED The precedingpagesfirst appearedas an article in Environmental Ethics, volume 11, number I, 1989. They were written at the end of an extended period of residencein the United States,after severalyears of researchon the origins of Indian environmentalism.That backgroundmight explainthe puzzlementand angerwhich, in hindsight, appearto mark the chapter.To my surprise,the article evokeda variety of responses, both pro andcon. The veteranVermont radical Murray Bookchin, himself engagedin a polemic with American deep ecologists, offered a short (three-line) letter of congratulation.A longer (30-page) responsecame from the Norwegian philosopherArne Naess,the originator of the term 'deepecology'. Naess felt bound to assumeresponsibility for the ideas I had challenged,even

102

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

though I had distinguished between his emphasesand those of his American interpreters. Other correspondents,less known but no less engaged,wrote to praise and to condemn.22 Over the years, the essayhas appearedin some half dozenanthologies,as a voice of the 'Third World', the token and disloyal opposition to the reigning orthodoxies of environmentalethics.23 The article having acquireda life of its own, I felt it prudentto include it herewithout any changes.This postscriptallows me to look at the issues anew, to expand and strengthenmy case with the aid of a few freshly arrived examples. Woodrow Wilson once remarkedthat the United Stateswas the only idealistic nation in the world. It is indeedthis idealismwhich explainsthe zest, the zeal, the almost unstoppableforce with which Americans have sought to impose their vision of the good life on the rest of the world. Americaneconomistsurge on other nationstheir brandof energy-intensive, capital-intensive, market-oriented brand of development. American spiritualists,savingsouls,guidepagansto oneor otherof their eccentrically fanatical cults, from SouthernBaptism to Moral Rearmament.American advertisersexport the ethic of disposablecontainers- of all sizes, from coffee cups to automobiles- and SantaBarbara. Of course,other peoplehave had to pay for the fruits of this idealism. The consequences of the forward march of American missionariesinclude the underminingof political independence,the erosionof culturesand the growth of an ethic of sheer greed. In a dozen parts of the world, those fighting for political, economic or cultural autonomy have collectively raised the question whether the American way of life is not, in fact, the Indian (or Brazilian, or Somalian)way of death. One kind of US missionary,however,has attractedvirtually no critical attention.This is the man who is worried that the rest of the world thinks his country has a dollar sign for a heart. The clothes he wears are also colouredgreen,but it is the greenof the virgin forest. A deeply committed lover of the wild, in his country he has helpedput in place a magnificient systemof national parks. But he also has money, and will travel. He now wishes to convert other cultures to his gospel, to export the American invention of nationalparks worldwide. The essayto which these paragraphsare a coda was one of the first attackson an imperialism previously reckonedto be largely benign. After all, we are not talking hereof the Marines,with their awesomefirepower, or evenof the World Bank, with its moneypowerand the ability to manipulate developing country governments.These are men - and, more rarely, women- who come preachingthe equality of all species,who worship all that is good and beautiful in nature.What could be wrong with them?

103

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

I had suggestedin my essaythat the noble, apparentlydisinterested motives of conservationbiologists and deep ecologistsfuelled a territorial ambition - the physical control of wildernessin parts of the world other thantheir own - that led inevitably to the displacementandharshtreatment of the human communitieswho dwelt in these forests. Consider in this contexta recentassessment of global conservationby Michael Soule,which complains that the language of policy documents has 'become more humanisticin valuesandmoreeconomicin substance,andcorrespondingly lessnaturalisticand ecocentric'.Souleseemsworried that in theory (though certainly not in practice!) some national governmentsand international conservationorganizations(ICOs) now pay more attentionto the rights of humancommunities.Proof of this shift is the fact that 'the top and middle managementof most ICOs are economists,lawyers and development specialists,not biologists'.This is a sectarianplaint, a tradeunion approach to the problem spurred by an alleged 'takeover of the international conservationmovementby social scientists,particularly economists'.24 Soule'swork, with its talk of conspiraciesand takeoverbids, manifests the paranoiaof a community of scientistswhich has a huge influence on conservation policy but yet wants to be the sole dictator. A scholar acclaimedby his peersas the'deanof tropical ecologists'hasexpressedthis ambition more nakedly than most. I have already quoted from a paper publishedby Daniel Janzenin the Annual Reviewof Ecologyand Systematics, which urgeshis fellow biologiststo raisecashso as to buy spaceand species to study. Let me now quote from a report he wrote on a new National Park in Costa Rica, whose tone and thrust perfectly complementsthe other, ostensibly'scientific' essay.'We have the seedand the biological expertise: we lack control of the terrain', wrote Janzenin 1986. This situationhe was able to remedyfor himself, by raising enoughmoneyto purchasethe forest areaneededto createthe GuanacasteNational Park. One can only marvel at Janzen'sconviction that he and his fellow biologists know all, and that the inhabitantsof the forest know nothing. He justifies the taking over of the forest and the dispossessionof the forest farmer by claiming that 'Today virtually all of the present-dayoccupantsof the western Mesoamerican pastures,fields and degradedforests are deaf, blind and mute to the fragmentsof the rich biological and cultural heritagethat still occupiesthe shelvesof the unusedand unappreciatedlibrary in which they reside'.25 This is an ecologically updatedversion of the White Man's Burden, where the biologist, rather than the civil servantor military official, knows that it is in the native'strue interest to abandonhis home and hearthand leave the field and forest clear for the new rulers of his domain. In Costa Rica we only haveJanzen'sword for it, but elsewherewe are betterplaced to challenge the conservationist'spoint of view. A remarkablebook on African conservation has laid bare the imperialism, unconscious and

104

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

explicit, of Western wilderness lovers and biologists working on that lucklesscontinent.I cannothere summarisethe massivedocumentationof RaymondBonner'sAt the Hand of Man, but will simply quote someof his conclusions: Above all, Africans [have been] ignored, overwhelmed, manipulated and outmaneuvered- by a conservationcrusadeled, orchestratedand dominatedby white Westerners. Livingstone,Stanleyand other explorersand missionarieshad cometo Africa in the nineteenth century to promote the three Cs - Christianity, commerce and civilization. Now a fourth was added: conservation.These modern secular missionarieswere convinced that without the white man's guidance,the Africans would go astray. [The criticisms] of egocentricityand neo-colonialism... could be levelled fairly at most conservationorganizationsworking in the Third World. As many Africans see it, white people are making rules to protect animals that white people want to see in parks that white people visit. Why should Africans supporttheseprograms?...TheWorld Wildlife Fund professedto care about what the Africans wanted, but then tried to manipulate them into doing what the Westernerswanted:and thoseAfricans who couldn't be brought into line were ignored. Africans do not usethe parks and they do not receiveany significant benefitsfrom them. Yet they are paying the costs. There are indirect economic costs governmentrevenuesthat go to parks instead of schools.And there are direct personalcosts [i. e., of the ban on hunting and fuel-collecting,or of displacement].'·

Bonner'sbook focuses on the elephant,one of the half dozen or so animals that have come to acquire 'totemic' status among Western wildernesslovers. Animal totemsexistedin most pre-modernsocieties,but as the NorwegianscholarArne Kalland pointsout, in the pastthe injunction not to kill the totemicspeciesappliedonly to membersof the group. Hindus do not ask others to worship the cow, but thosewho love and cherishthe elephant,seal,whale or tiger try to imposea worldwide ban on its killing. No one, they say, anywhere,anytime, shall be allowed to touch the animal they hold sacred even if - as with the elephantand several speciesof whale - scientific evidencehasestablishedthat small-scalehuntingwill not endangerits viable populationsand will, in fact, savehumanlives put at risk by the expansion,after total protection,of the Lebensraumof the totemic animal. The new totemistsalso insist that their speciesis the 'true, rightful

105

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

inhabitant' of the ocean or forest, and ask that human beings who have lived in the same terrain, and with the animals, for millennia be sent 27 elsewhere. To turn, last of all, to an ongoingcontroversyin my own bailiwick. The NagarholeNational Park in southernKarnatakahasan estimated40 tigers, the speciestoward whose protection enormousamounts of Indian and foreign moneyand attentionhasbeendirected.But Nagarholeis also home to about 6,000 tribals, who have been in the area longer than anyonecan remember, perhaps as long as the tigers themselves.The state Forest Departmentwant to expel the tribals, claiming they destroythe forest and kill wild game. The tribals answer that their demands are modest, consisting in the main of fuelwood, fruit, honey and the odd quail or partridge. They do not own guns, although coffee planters living on the edgeof the forest do; maybeit is the planterswho poachbig game?In any case, they ask the officials, if the forest is only for tigers, why have you invited India's biggesthotel chain to build a hotel inside it while you plan to throw us out? Into this controversy jumps a 'green missionary' passing through Karnataka. Dr John G. Robinson works for the Wildlife Conservation Societyin New York, for whom he oversees160 projectsin 44 countries.He conductsa whistle-stoptour of Nagarhole,andbeforehe flies off to the next project on his list, hurriedly calls a press conferencein the state capital, Bangalore.Throwing the tribals out of the park, he says,is the only means to savethe wilderness.This is not a one-off casebut a sacredprinciple, for in Robinson'sopinion 'relocating tribal or traditional people who live in these protected areas is the single most important step towards conservation'. Tribals, he explains, 'compulsively hunt for food', and competewith tigers for prey. Deprived of food, tigers cannotsurvive, and 'their extinction meansthat the balanceof the ecosystemis upsetand this has a snowballingeffect'.2s One doesnot know how many tribals Robinsonmet - none,is the likely answer. Yet the Nagarhole case is hardly typical. All over India, the managementof parks has sharplypositedthe interestsof poor tribals who have traditionally lived there againstthoseof wildernesslovers and urban pleasureseekerswho wish to keepparks'free of humaninterference'- that is, free of other humans.Theseconflicts are being played out in the Rajaji sanctuaryin Uttar Pradesh,in Simlipal in Orissa, in Kanha in Madhya 29 Pradesh,and in Melghat in Maharashtra. Everywhere,Indian wildlifers have ganged up behind the Forest Departmentto evict the tribals and rehabilitatethem far outsidethe forests.In this they havedrawn sustenance from American biologists and conservation organisations,who have thrown the prestige of science and the power of the dollar behind the crusadeto kick the original ownersof the forest out of their home.

106

RADICAL AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM

Speciousnonsenseabout the equal rights of all speciescannothide the plain fact that green imperialists are possibly as dangerousand certainly more hypocritical than their economic or religious counterparts.For the American advertiser and banker hopes for a world in which everyone, regardlessof colour, will be in an economicsensean American- driving a car, drinking Pepsi, owning a fridge and a washing machine. The missionary,having discoveredJesusChrist, wants pagansalso to sharein the discovery.The conservationistwants to 'protectthe tiger (or whale) for posterity',yet expectsother peopleto make the sacrifice. Moreover, the processesunleashedby green imperialism are very nearly irreversible. For the consumertitillated into eating Kentucky Fried Chickencan always say 'onceis enough'.The Hindu convertedto Baptism can decidelater on to revert to his original faith. But the poor tribat thrown out of his homeby the propagandaof the conservationist,is condemnedto the life of an ecological refugeein a slum, a fate, for theseforest people, which is next only to death. The illustrations offered above throw serious doubt on Arne Naess' claim that the deepecology movementis 'from the point of view of many peopleall over the world, the most preciousgift from the North American continentin our time'.30 For deepecology'ssignal contribution hasbeento invest with privilege, above all other varieties and concerns of environmentalism,the protectionof wild speciesand wild habitats,and to provide high-sounding, self-congratulatorybut none the less dubious moral claims for doing so. Treating'biocentricequality' as a moral absolute, tigers, elephants, whales etc. will need more space to flourish and reproduce,while humans- poor humans- will be expectedto make way for them. The authorsof this book by no meanswish to seea world completely dominatedby 'humanbeings,their mutualists,commensalsand parasites'. We havetime for the tiger and the rainforest,and also wish to protectthose islands of naturenot yet fully conqueredby us. Our plea rather is to put wildernessprotection- and its radical edge,deepecology- in its place, to recognise it as a distinctively North Atlantic brand of environmentalism, whose export and expansionmust be done with caution, care, and above all, with humility. For in the poor and heavily populatedcountriesof the South,protectedareascannotbe managedwith gunsand guardsbut must, rather, take full cognisanceof the rights of the people who lived in, and oftentimescaredfor, the forest before it becamea National Park or a World HeritageSite.31 Putting deepecologyin its placeis to recognisethat trendsit deridesas 'shallow' ecology might in fact be varieties of environmentalismthat are more apposite,more representative,and more popular in the countriesof the South. When Arne Naess says that 'conservation biology is the

107

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

spearheadof scientifically based environmentalism'32we wonder why 'agroecology', 'pollution abatementtechnology' or 'renewable energy studies' cannot become the 'spearhead of scientifically based environmentalism'. For to the Costa Rican peasant or Ecuadorian fisherman, the Indonesiantribal or slum dweller in Bombay, wilderness preservationcan hardly be more 'deep' than pollution control, energy conservation,ecologicalurbanplanningor sustainableagriculture.

108

Chapter 6 The Merchandising of Biodiversityl Many indigenousgroupsare suspiciousof corporatebioprospectingactivities. In a statementread to the Plenary of the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting last November [1995] in Jakarta,the Indigenous Peoples'Biodiversity Network stated:'What you call bioprospectingwe call biopiracy...'2

INTRODUCTION In manypoor countriesof the South,a positiveenvironmentalgoodhasbeen providedby poor people,in the form of agriculturalgeneticresources.Here the poor do not only sell cheap, they have given away such genetic resourcesgratis. In situ agricultural biodiversity, which is not yet properly investigated and recorded, will lose its potential for coevolution as traditional agroecology disppears. The International Convention on Biodiversity, establishedin Rio de Janeiroin June 1992 but not yet ratified by the US Congress,abolished the idea of genetic resourcesbeing the common patrimony of humankind. The Convention gives countries sovereignty over them, and leaves questions of ownership to national legislation. Who are now the ownersof agricultural geneticresources,and also of wild genetic resources?Such questionsare not theoretical.A few yearsago, the UruguayRound of GATT negotiationstried to imposeupon India the acceptanceof intellectual property rights to commercial agricultural seeds.The North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) may yet be the final blow to traditional agriculturein southernMexico, despite neo-zapatista resistanceby indigenous peasantsin Chiapas and other provinces. These two events raise general questions about the conservationof wild and agriculturaldiversity. This chapterfocusesmainly on agriculturalbiodiversity and considersproposalsfor implementationof FAO-sponsoredFarmers'Rights as well as other recentproposals. At present,the International Undertaking on Farmers'Rights of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Convention on Biodiversity signed in Rio will probably produce a very 3 small internationalfund for in situ conservationof plant geneticresources. However, the main reason for in situ conservationis its potential for coevolutionof plant geneticresources.This will not be fulfilled by a limited programmeof eco-farming,the setting up of in situ ethnobotanicalstations or museumsin a few chosenregions of the world to complementex situ conservationprogrammes.This late in history, it might be appropriatefor Europe,but not for the Southof the planet.CurrentFAO proposals,instead of beingbasedon a generaldefenceof agroecology,boil down to a policy of a few reservesof traditional farmers,inappropriatelyapplying the theoryof optimal portfolio of assets to the conservation and coevolution of agricultural biodiversity. Thus in SouthernMexico agroecologicalmaize growing will disappear,submergedby the inflow of maizefrom the United Sates-producedwith Mexican genetic resources,and cheap Mexican oil. Perhapssomemoneywill be available,underthe Fund for Farmers'Rights, for the preservationof a few samples of milpa agriculture around San Cristobalde las Casas,for the ecotouriststo see.4 It would be a pity if all the struggle for agricultural biodiversity and Farmers'Rights would yield at the end only a small fund managedby the World Bank and the CGIAR (the consultative body which managesa chain of international agronomic research institutes), consisting of a few traditional farming in situ conservationareasin the world. There is a clear parallel here with debates on the protectionof wild biodiversity: needwe just a sampleof habitats,or shouldwe keepas much territory as possibleunderprotection?But thereis also a clear difference: the conservationof wild biodiversity (cf. Chapter5) sometimesentersinto conflict with the immediateinterestsof local groups of poor people, while providing incentives for the conservation of agricultural biodiversity could help some hundredsof million of people who are amongthe poorestof the world. Since time immemorialindigenousgroupshavebeenaccumulatingan enormous body of knowledge about biological diversity, and peasant farmers have been selecting and improving seeds. However, this knowledge of natural biological diversity and the conservation of agriculturaldiversity in situ haverarely beenvaluedin economicterms.The fact that genetic resourceshave not been appropriatedand treated as merchandiseis, accordingto some,the reasonfor the'geneticerosion'that is taking place, since things without an owner or a price are treated as worthless.It is now being proposedthat accessto naturalgeneticresources should have an economicprice (as in the controversialagreementbetween Merck and INBio of CostaRica, discussedlater in this chapter),and that the conservationwork of farmersshould also be rewardedin monetaryterms. This chapter considersindicators of 'genetic erosion', and asks the following questions: Should biological diversity be defended through

no

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

ecologically extendedmarkets in which new property rights to genetic resourcesare sold? Or through broad ecological movementsthat seek to impose the maintenanceof biological diversity a priori, and only then to calculateeconomiccosts?Who would pay thesecosts?There is a growing popularecologicalmovementto defendagriculturalbiodiversity that aims to act not through the market, where the poor are weak and future generationsare not represented,but instead through political and social movementsfavouring ecologicalagriculture.

GENETIC EROSION The generalopinion regardingmodern agriculture,which is basedon the improvement of varieties through non-traditional techniques,increased production per hectare,and high fossil fuel energy input, has gradually changed over the last 30 years. There undoubtedly had been previous critical judgements,but the milestonesin this discussionhavebeen: • RachelCarson'sbook attackingchemicalpesticides(1962).5 • D. Pimentel'sstudies of energy flow in agriculture (1973) and similar studiesby G. Leach (1975) and other authors,suchas Naredoand Campos in 1980, who actedon a suggestionfrom Howard Odum and showedthat modernagriculturewas inferior in termsof energeticefficiency." • Negative assessments of the 'greenrevolution' of the 1960sand 1970s, which was based on the introduction of new wheat and rice varieties, leadingto a drasticbiological simplification of agricultureand forming part of an agricultural productionsystemwhich requiresmore chemicalinputs and more energyinput from fossil fuels. I have specifically studied the history of the debateabout agricultureas a system for converting energy/ but it would also be useful to undertake investigation into the debate about agricultural diversity since Vavilov's times or before.8 Vavilov was the geneticistfrom Leningrad(St. Petersburg) who in the 1920sidentified the so-calledcentresof diversity of agricultural plants in the various regions of the world where the initial 'agricultural revolutions'took place. But when was the first time that the loss of genetic resources was discussed? Knowledge, like ignorance, is socially constructed. What are the reasonsfor the successof modernagriculturein the North and in a few areasof the South?High-yielding varieties- more accurately termedhigh-responsevarieties- needgreaterexternalagricultural inputs, but direct more energy from photosynthesisinto producing the rice or

111

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

wheat grain; they do this by reducing the height of the plant. This may representan overall gain for the farmer if lower straw productionis not an importanteconomicloss. The defendersof ecologicalagricultureoften refer to the imposition of high-responsevarietiesby governmentbodies,and it is true that stateextensionserviceshave often beenmere appendagesof the commercial interests of companieslinked to the inappropriately named 'green revolution'. However, the truth is that the spread of modern agriculture,of which the greenrevolution is only a single episode,hasbeen largely spontaneous.In North American or European agricultural economics,it is difficult to find any attemptat the economicvaluationof, or the constructionof indexes for, the loss of agricultural biodiversity. The introduction of new varietieshas beenconsideredan undeniabletechnical progress,greater production more than compensatingfor the monetary costsof greateragrochemicalinput. Recentcriticism is basedon ecological economics. A study by Renee Vellve shows that in Europe, modern agriculture also leads to biological impoverishmentby replacingdiversity with uniformity and security with vulnerability. In order to escapethe contradictionbetweenapparentincreasesin agricultural productivity and destructionof the geneticresourcebase,what actionshouldbe takento save genetic resources?Theseresourcesare falling to an increasingextent into the handsof multinational industrial companies,and the efforts of public institutions to store them ex situ in gene-banksrun into many problems. Fortunatelya third party hasbeeninvolved, not only in the countriesof the South,which have the greatestbiological diversity, but also in Europe.The most important tasks of conservationhave been carried out, whether by farmers,individuals, or local groups,as a popular,ecologicalinitiative that is as yet inadequatelyfinancedand without social recognition. Although round figures are often used (FAO has assertedthat 75 per cent of plant geneticresourceshavedisappearedover the pastdecades),lOit is difficult to constructindicators of genetic erosion. Often the namesof varieties used in traditional agriculturehave not been recorded,and the extentof farmers'reutilisation of seedsis unknown.Thereforeit is not easy to ascertainthe numberof varietieswhich occupya given shareof crop in a given territory. Moreover, the genetic distancebetweenvarieties is not indicatedby their commercialor ethnic names,and this is preciselywhat would be of interest. But despitethe lack of accurateindicators,the alarm over geneticerosionhas grown. What are the reasonsfor geneticerosionin agriculture?Is the extension of the marketthe main culprit? Or, on the contrary,would the extensionof the market be a solution? Some will argue that an ecologically extended market can incorporateecological costs into its prices. Some will suggest that conflicts can be solved by ensuring that the products of ecological agriculture obtain higher prices in a different, specialisedmarket. Others,

112

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

like myself, arguethat the importantquestionratheris: which social agents can best express the conflict between ecological reasoningand marketbased reasoning? Or, put more simply, the movement for ecological agriculturecan perhapsbecomea political ideology capableof mobilising peasantsconvinced of their ancient technical superiority over modern agriculture in terms of sustainability and their skill in using biological resources- soil, water, and solar energy.

PEASANT STRUGGLES TO CONTROL SEEDS Biological diversity was one of the most important questionsat the Earth Summitin Rio in 1992,but only now are peoplein poor countriesbecoming aware of its value. Some of these countries include Vavilov's centresof origin for agricultural diversity. In these countries there are still poor farmers who are experts in the traditional selectionand improvementof plants, and who practise agriculture with few external inputs, using hundredsof local varieties.ll The threatto this agricultural diversity comes, above all, from the extension of the market and the fact that decisions relating to productionare taken to a greaterand greaterextenton the basis of priorities indicatedby prices. If profit in the market increaseswith the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and the so-called high-yield varieties, then the varieties that have beenimproved by traditional methodshave no future. However, a new consensusis arising in the South. The commercialfirms that sell improvedseedscanprotecttheir intellectualpropertyrights not by patentsystemsbut by the internationalUPOV12 system,which nevertheless lets farmersproduceand exchangeoutsidethe marketplaceseedsobtained from commercialvarieties. Thereforethe so-called'Farmers'Rights',which value the work by traditional farmers in the creation and conservationof agricultural geneticresources,should be recognisedand possibly paid for. How many traditional agriculturalists,with their complex agroecosystems of still unknown genetic wealth, should be preservedand adequately compensated?One billion, including their families? Half a billion? After opening up the Pandora'sbox of agricultural biodiversity, pro-peasant groups are not to be intellectually and politically pacified by an internationalfund of US$50million or $100 million per year (about10 cents per farmer's family member), which has been estimated as the cost of actually implementingFarmers'Rights. It is not only the current implementationwhich is under discussion. There are also historical aspects to Farmers' Rights, connected to the increasingdiscussionof the ecologicaldebtthe North owesto the South.Let

113

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

US imaginethe caseof a group of humans,say an indigenousgroup, which is outsidethe generalisedmarketsystemandwhich hasancientandproven healing methods,part of their vast repertory of botanical and zoological medicinalknowledge.This knowledgeis not built up in a single generation, nor is it static. There is always experimentationand improvement.13Let us now supposethat this knowledgeis transferredto an outsidegroup along with the relevantmaterialswithout anythingbeing given in exchange.This could occurby meansof scientific research,missionariesof anotherreligion, or by simplepolitical and economicexploitation,whetherpublic or private. This outside group translatesand absorbs this knowledge into its own culture and manipulatesthe materialsso that it can apply them in its own system of medicine. Furthermore,through direct political imposition or generalisedincorporation intothe market, the group responsiblefor this exploitation ensuresthat the indigenousgroup pays hard cash for the reelaboratedmaterialsand medicinalknowledge,with the result that they are effectively bannedfrom using and spreadingtheir own ancientand proven curative methods.This is exactly what has beenhappeningin the medical and pharmaceuticalindustries.We could acceptthe superiority of modem medicine and at the same time accept the description above, and understandthat somethingsimilar has been taking place in the case of agricultural seeds,due in part to the GATT negotiations,which include Trade-relatedIntellectual Property(TRIP). In India, the KamatakaRajya Raitha Sangha,a peasantorganisation,in co-operationwith the Third World Network, organisedin 1993 and 1994 a variety of massactions againsttransnationalseedcompanies.The actions were in protestagainstthe possibility that the Indian state,as a consequence of the GATT negotiations,might establishpowerful systemsof intellectual property rights to 'improved' seeds.In that case, the farmers would no longerbe able to producetheseseedsand tradethemamongthemselves.As it is, they have never received anything in exchangefor their work in conservingand improving their own seedsover many generations.One action was the destructionof Cargill Seeds'installationsin Sirivara, Bellary District, Kamataka.Therewas also strongoppositionto W. R. Grace& Co.'s project to set up an installation to manufacturebiological pesticidesbased on the seedsof the Neemtree (Azadirachtaindica), long usedby peasantsas insecticides.The questionhere is, who doesbiological diversity belong to, who doesindigenousagriculturalknowledgebelongto? Can it be acquired without paymentby the North and then returnedin the form of patented seedsand pesticides?Even if a pesticidewith the propertiesof the neem seedis chemicallysynthesised,making it unnecessary to gatherthe seedsin India, hasthis traditional Indian knowledgeno value at all? With respectto agricultural seedsin general,and neem seedsin particular, the discussion aboutbiological diversity (which until a few yearsago was limited to a few

114

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

expertswho sympathisedwith the Third World or the activists of a few NGOs such as CLADES or GRAIN)l4 has becomea matter of interest to newspapersand the causeof widespreadsocial concern.IS In India there are tens of thousandsof varietiesof rice, many in danger of being lost. Some varieties were collected without payment by gene banks, in particular the Philippine International Rice ResearchInstitute (IRRI, part of the CGIAR), where the rice varieties used in the green revolution originated. These plant collections are now at risk of being patentedfor the benefit of internationalseedcompanies,like othersheld at CIAT in Colombia,CIP in Peru, and CIMMYT in Mexico (eachpart of the CGIAR). The emerging ecological movement supporting agricultural diversity thus raisestwo issues.16 The first is Farmers'Rights to the genetic resourcesthat they haveconservedand improvedin situ. The secondis that of favourable,if not free, accessto the varieties that have beenconserved and improved ex situ, basedon the reasoningthat the precursorgenetic materialsoriginatedwithin traditional agricultureand were neverpaid for. At the same time the governmentsof the South are waking up. The precursorgenetic resourceswere, until recently, 'world heritage'but now severalstatesare moving quickly to declarethemstatepropertyon the basis of their interpretationof the Rio de JaneiroBiodiversity Convention.But it is doubtful whether ownership by the state will actually favour poor farmersor indigenouscommunities.

AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY AS'CULTIVATED NATURAL CAPITAL'? Poor people's ethnobotanicalknowledge of diversity has been praised within a general argumentin support of ecological agriculture basedon continually developingindigenousand peasantknowledgeYThe question now is whether genetic resourcesin general - wild resources,improved traditional varieties, modern varieties, and genetically engineered varieties- shouldbe commercialisedor whetherthey shouldcontinueto be 'world heritage'. So far, the genetic resourcesproduced by traditional selection and improvementof plants and then collected from cultivation have not beenpaid for, whereasthe companiesthat sell modernimproved seedsinsist on being paid. Likewise, the productsof genetic engineering will not only be sold but will also enjoy a monopolyas a result of the patent system. The Biodiversity Convention signed in Rio recognisesthat it is peasantsand indigenous peoples who have used and conservedthese genetic resourcessince time immemorial, but the Convention does not ensuretheir ownershipand managementrights to theseresources.It also

115

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

fails to include in its ambit a critical section of the planet's biological diversity: the part held by national and international gene banks. This omission resulted from pressure exerted by the United States at the preparatory meeting in Nairobi on 22 May 1992. The inclusion of germplasmheld by genebankswithin the scopeof the biological diversity treaty would haveforced the signatoryindustrialisedcountriesto sharethe profits madefrom theseseedsor germplasmwith the poor countries,thus 18 challengingthe commercialinterestsof the big seedcompanies. Modern, so-calledimproved varietiescannotfunction without a continuoussupply of new genetic resourcesto confront new pests and new environmental conditions. But modern agricultural varieties are more profitable in a monetarysense.Thus, the increasein productionfor the marketspoils the very condition necessaryfor this production,agriculturalbiodiversity, and a new ecological movement arises to fight the degradation of the environment. Among economists open to ecological matters, the value of wild biological diversity has been considered in the following terms. Its conservationhas an immediateuse as a genetic resourcefor chemicaland pharmaceuticalindustriesas well as seedcompanies.It also has a possible future use called an 'option value'. Finally, it has an 'existencevalue', exemplified by the membershipfees that membersof Greenpeacepay to save the whales. They do this not so that people can kill the whales to extractthe oil and flesh, nor to conservea stock for future exploitation,but to protectan endangeredspecieswith a right to survive. Somefervent neoliberals proposethat the way to savethe whalesis to bring them into the market by way of well-defined property rights; thus, if the membersof Greenpeaceand the World Wildlife Fund paid more (to the world organisationowning the whales,or to their private owners) than Japanese or Norwegianfishermenwere willing to pay, they would savethe whales through the functioning of the market. In the same way, entomological of insectspecies. societieswould have to pay to preventthe disappearance However, in the marketplacehe who pays the piper calls the tune, and future generationsare not presentto bid, nor, of course,are the threatened speciesor varietiesin question. The main aim of organisationslike the World Wildlife Fund (now renamedthe Worldwide Fund For Nature) has been to conservenatural biological diversity; this has also receivedmore attentionthan agricultural or agroforestrydiversity in the strategyof the InternationalUnion for the Conservation of Nature.19 But there is a complementaryrelationship between wild and agricultural biological diversity. Agricultural genetic resourcescould be called 'cultivated natural capital'. They cannotbe fully substituted by the capital goods, including 'improved' seeds, used in modernagriculture.This cultivated natural capital mustbe complemented

116

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

by natural capital, the wild relatives of cultivated plants.2o Nevertheless,I am not in favour of using the concept of 'natural capital'. Among the naturalresourcesof orthodoxeconomicsthereare resourcesthat are neither merchandisenor produced like merchandise- the genetic resourcesof traditional agriculture, or wild biological diversity - while others are not producedas merchandisebut are sold or rented as merchandise,such as land. Giving the namenaturalcapital to all naturalresourcesmay betraythe intention to considerthem all as merchandise. The market, or surrogatemarkets, cannot give convincing values to future events,which are uncertainand irreversible.Sometimesit is argued that a negative externality has a value equal to the cost of repairing the damage.For example,the price of chemicalpollution, to which the market doesnot assignvalue, would be the cost of restoringthe contaminatedsite to its former condition. Naturally, if we try to value the loss of biological diversity using this criterion we come up againstthe problem that the loss is irreversible. The criterion could be modified as follows: the price of biological diversity is what it would costto maintainit, not only in termsof the costs actually incurred, but also in paymentfor tasks that until now havebeenunpaid,and in terms of opportunity costsand benefits- that is to say, the cost of a lower level of agriculturalproduction,or the cost of not destroyingthe rainforest,which will at the sametime havebeneficialeffects on the climate. First we make the decisionto conservebiological diversity, and then we calculatehow much it costs. This is not the sameas creating legal rights to biological diversity and then organisinga market in these rights, and it is not the same as a cost-benefitanalysis in present-value terms of the conservationof biodiversity.

'FARMERS'RIGHTS' Nowadays, pride is growing in traditional ecological agriculture, an excellent example of a 'clean' technology, at a time when there is much discussionof technologytransfer.This pride is accompaniedby awareness of the fact that little was paid for traditionally improved varieties. (A minimal price was paid in the peasant markets where the seed was collected for the ex situ gene banks, and nothing at all was paid for the collection of geneticmaterialundercultivation). Nor was anythingpaid for the medicinalplantsdiscoveredand caredfor by indigenouscultures,later used and developedby pharmaceuticalcompaniesthat chargeprices, or even royalties, for medicinesprotectedby trademarksand patents.Unlike medicines, modern improved commercial seeds have as yet not been patented,and protectionagainsttheir duplicationhasbeenachievedby the

117

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

uPovsystem,or by the saleof hybrid seedsthat do not breedtrue. But the new legal framework demandedby the biotechnologyindustry will allow the patentingof life-forms, including agricultural geneticresources.This is the reasonwhy GATT is imposing the internationalrecognitionof patents (or their equivalents)on 'new' geneticresourcesin the sameway that it has always tried to enforcethe recognitionof patentson medicines. Activists in favour of ecologicalagricultureare againstthe patentingof life forms, as are many ecologistswho are afraid that the developmentof biotechnology,with all its promisesand threats,will be subjectonly to the logic of the marketplace. Specifically, those in favour of ecological agriculture believe that the CGIAR's agricultural researchcentresshould not patent their genetic resources.In general they are againstintellectual propertyrights, becausethey do not believeit to be the way to defendand reward agricultural diversity. They do not even agreewith the paymentof 'Farmers'Rights' (recognisedby the FAO, but without practical effects), a paymentthat would not buy the right to exclusiveuseof geneticresources. Farmers'Rights are not the equivalentof intellectual property rights, but rather more like fees for professionalservices.Another analogy: patents, copyrights, trademarksand intellectual property rights in generalare the monopoly of their creatorsand inventors as a stimulus to their creativity and as a reward for the time and moneyinvested.Howeverthere are other ways of rewarding inventions, such as prizes and honours.2! Farmers' Rights belong in this category and should serve to give the necessary incentive to ensure the conservation and development of agricultural diversity. Rather than paying royalties for traditional seeds,it would be betterto considerall geneticresourcesas 'world heritage'.At the sametime social and legal obstaclesshould be introduced to dangerousor absurd applications of biotechnology (like increasing resistance of plants to pesticides instead of to pests). Economic compensationshould be establishedby meansof product prices (or income transfers) for ecological agriculturalists using clean technologiesand few inputs, to give them incentivesto maintain and developdiversity. Should genetic resourcesbecomemerchandiseso that an ecologically extendedmarketplacewill conservethem? However, future generations cannot participate in this market. In addition, market values dependto someextenton the current distribution of power and income. Who would receivetheseFarmers'Rights if they were sold in the market?The farmers' organisations?The individual farmers?The governments?What price will be put on them?The truth is that peasantsand indigenousgroupswould sell their hypothetical Farmers' Rights cheap, not because they have (until now?) attributed a low value to their work and agricultural knowledge, nor becausethey attributelittle value now to the benefitsof biological diversity for future generations,but basically becausethey are poor. If the poor sell 118

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

cheap,thenthereis no reasonto trust that pricesin an ecologicallyextended market will be an effective instrumentof environmentalpolicy. There is a needfor environmentalpolicies basedon popularsocial movements,going beyondan ecologicallyextendedmarket.

THE INBIO-MERCK DEAL An exampleof the poor selling cheapis the agreementthat INBio (Instituto Nacionalde Biodiversidad,National Biological Diversity Institute) of Costa Rica and the pharmaceuticalcompanyMerck reachedin 1991.22 What is being sold is not agriculturalgeneticresources,but wild ones;however,the case is relevant to my argument. What INBio is selling is a service, the collection and preparation of a large number of samples of biological diversity, samplesof the plants, insects and micro-organismsto which INBio has accessin the conservationareasof Costa Rica. INBio, a private organisationwith close links to the state,has free accessto theseresources and only paysthe costof collectionby 'parataxonomists' (who possesstheir own knowledge, which they sell cheap), and the cost of preparing the samples.INBio doesnot pay the direct costs of establishingand guarding the natural parks, nor the cost of maintaining thesewildlife reserves.The World ResourcesInstitute typically praisedthis 'recentagreementbetween a major pharmaceuticalcompany and Costa Rica which deservesto be widely copied'.23However, the agreementcaused uneasinessin Latin America, among other reasonsbecauseCosta Rica sharesmany of these genetic resourceswith neighbouringcountries.The agreementimplies the recognition of rights to genetic resources('wild' ones, in this case),but it doesnot guaranteethat traditional wisdom and conservationof biological diversity, as such,can competewith other forms of land use that are more profitable in the marketplace.Under the termsof the agreement,Merck pay just over US$ 1 million dollars over two years for rights to chemical screeningof a large numberof samplespreparedby INBio from a large area of Costa Rica that is protected.In addition, Merck will pay royalties on profits from any commercialproducts.Without further costly conservation measuresto complementthe local population'sinterest in conservation, such as legal regulationand supervisionof the sites paid for by the Costa Rican authoritiesor other bodies,the limited monetaryincentiveprovided by Merck would be insufficient to prevent deforestation and genetic erosion. Merck is a commercial company, with a relatively short-term outlook, extendingat most to a few decades.Besides,it is to be expected that Costa Rica will sell cheaply. Why has Costa Rica, the classic banana republic, sold bananascheapto United Fruit, StandardFruit, or Del Monte?

119

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Becauseit wantedto? Of coursenot! If CostaRica cannotget a good price for bananas,how can it get a good price for biological diversity? An analogy: workers in poor countrieshave always had a right to their own health. Nevertheless,once they are dispossessedof their lands and livelihoods, they are forced to sell their labour and their health cheaply,if not gladly, in order to get somesort of employmentin minesor plantations, including banana plantations. The poor sell cheap. But future human generations,and other species,cannotevencome to the market.

THE DEFENCE OF AGROECOLOGY OUTSIDE THE MARKET The environmentaleffectsof modernagriculture-lossof geneticresources, destructionof non-renewableenergy from fossil fuels - make it doubtful that it is really more productivethanits predecessor(s). Increasesin outputs (per hectareor per hour of work) are measuredby subtractingthe inputs from what is produced,and then dividing the result by the quantity of the input whose productivity we are measuring.But the prices of production and inputs are inadequately measuredbecause they do not include externalitiesand do not include the destructionof the conditionsnecessary for agriculturalproduction. At this point, there are two possiblepaths.The first, which is easierto follow to begin with but which may soon become extremely narrow, attemptsto reconcile pecuniary reasoningwith ecological reasoning.For example,by meansof a GreenLabel, the productsof ecologicalagriculture may obtain higher prices, so long as there is a demand for these differentiatedproducts.Victor Toledo hasexpressedthis idea as follows: Ecological agriculture does not aim for a romantic (and unviable) return to preindustrial forms of production.What it seeks is to set in motion a strategy to modernisefarming on the basis of an adequatemanagementof nature and the recognition (rather than destruction) of the rural heritage ... What is most surprising (and encouraging)is that this proposal,which has not formed part of either official policies or the debateamonglocal experts,is taking place as a result of commercialtransactions,the result of connectingthe growing demandfor new organic productsin the first world with the ecologically orientatedproduction of traditional Mexican communities. There is the case of some indigenous organisationsin Oaxacaand Chiapasthat have startedto supply organic coffee to the demandingmarkets in Germany,Italy, Denmark,Holland and other industrial countries.This is becausetheir traditional systems(shade-growncoffee, in mixed farming systemsthat do not use agrochemicals)managedto survive the policy of

120

THE MERCHANDISING OF BIODIVERSITY

modernization.A further example is the consortium of more than a dozen Chinantecacommunitieswho have managedto cultivate vanilla ... or the producers (and exporters)of sesame....14

In fact, Greenconsumersin Frankfurt and Amsterdamboughtorganic coffee producedby the Sandinistasin Nicaragua,and there are worthy efforts to organisealternativechannelsof internationaltrade in supportof self-managinggroupspractisingecologicalagriculture.Would it be possible to commercialise,at higherprices,Andeanecologicalquinuain Berlin or San Francisco?One would hope it can be done,but one may doubt, as would Victor Toledo, whether differentiating products in specialisedexpensive markets is really the most effective method of defending ecological agriculture. Furthermore,in caseslike vanilla production, competition is alreadypresentedby the new biotechnologyindustries. A problem arises when ecological agriculture cannot competein the wider marketwith the productsof modernagriculture.When an insoluble conflict arisesbetweenecologyand the market,as generallyhappenswhen ecologicalagricultureand modernagricultureclash, then a secondoption appears. Which social agents will make an ecological economy their political cause? Peasantsin the South, who still practice ecological agriculture,seemto be the obviouscandidatefor this. Traditional peasants,if they have rights to the land, also have accessto the sun'senergyand to at least the rainwater that falls on their land, and control a 'fourth resource',the seedsfrom their harvest.Unlike peasants, modernfarmers dependon externalenergyfrom fossil fuels, contaminate more, and have lost control over this fourth resource. (This is the terminology usedby Henk Hobbelink, the founder of GRAIN.) This raises the following paradox:in rich countriesthe generalisationof the marketled to large but overlooked losses of genetic resourceswhich are not yet mentioned in textbooks on agricultural history, but perhaps in poor countries the extension of the market will ensure adequatepricing of genetic resourcesand thus prevent genetic erosion. For example, the developmentof hybrid maize 50 years ago and its disseminationin the United States has led to biological impoverishment and requires a continuousinput - either free or badly paid - of geneticmaterialfrom areas wherethesenew, uniform F-l hybrid varietiesare still not cultivated.There hasbeenno researchinto free pollination varieties,which with time would havepermittedyields as high as thoseof hybrid maizein the United States, with the seedcontrolled by the farmer rather than by the seedcompany.25 The economicsof technologicalchangetook as one of its classicexamples the rate of return on the researchand developmentof hybrid maize,carried out in the United States50 years ago.26 The complementaryinputs for this monoculturewere simply accountedfor on the basisof their marketprice,

121

VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

without any accountingfor externalitiesfrom the agrochemicalsor fossil fuels used, from increased soil erosion, or from the loss of biological diversity. The developmentof hybrid maizeand later high-yield varietiesof wheat and rice, really instigated the current processof genetic erosion within an agricultural system based on mechanisationand in-field monoculture. The ideology of peasantresistancehas been called 'agrarismo'(as in Mexico) or narodnism(as in easternEuropefrom 1870 onwards),or 'propeasantpopulism'.Mari