CHAPTER 3 ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETYLook around you. What do you see? If map these resource flows and you willyou are in a classroom, you may see soon see how complex suchstudents in uniform, sitting on chairs relationships are!with books open on their desk. There In this chapter, we will study socialare school bags with lunch and pencil relationships with the environment asboxes. Ceiling fans might be whirring they have changed over time and asoverhead. Have you ever thought they vary from place to place. It isabout where these things — school important to analyse and interpretclothes, furniture, bags, electricity, such variations in a systematic way.come from? If you trace their origins, There are many urgent environmentalyou will find that the source of each problems that demand our attention.material object lies in nature. Every To address these crises effectively, weday, we use objects whose production need a sociological framework fordraws upon natural resources from understanding why they occur andaround the world. The chair in your how they might be prevented orclassroom may be made from wood resolved.with iron nails, glue and varnish. Its All societies have an ecologicaljourney from a tree in a forest or basis. The term ecology denotes theplantation to you depends on web of physical and biological systemselectricity, diesel, facilities for trade, and processes of which humans areand telecommunications. Along the one element. Mountains and rivers,way, it has passed through the hands plains and oceans, and the flora andof loggers, carpenters, supervisors and fauna that they support, are a part ofmanagers, transporters, traders and ecology. The ecology of a place is alsothose in charge of buying school affected by the interaction between itsfur niture. These producers and geography and hydrology. Fordistributors, and the inputs that they example, the plant and animal lifeprovide into chair manufacturing, in unique to a desert is adapted to itstur n use a variety of goods and scarce rainfall, rocky or sandy soils,services derived from nature. Try and and extreme temperatures. Similar
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 51ecological factors limit and shape how Alongside biophysical propertieshuman beings can live in any and processes that may have beenparticular place. transformed by human action — for Over time, however, ecology has example, the flow of a river and thebeen modified by human action. species composition of a forest, thereWhat appears to be a natural feature are other ecological elements aroundof the environment — aridity or flood- us that are more obviously human-proneness, for example, is often made. An agricultural farm with itsproduced by human intervention. soil and water conservation works, itsDeforestation in the upper catchment cultivated plants and domesticatedof a river may make the river more animals, its inputs of syntheticflood-prone. Climate change brought fertilisers and pesticides, is clearly aabout by global warming is another human transformation of nature. Theinstance of the widespread impact of built environment of a city, made fromhuman activity on nature. Over time, concrete, cement, brick, stone, glassit is often difficult to separate and and tar, uses natural resources but isdistinguish between the natural and very much a human artefact.human factors in ecological change. Social environments emerge from the interaction between biophysical Activity 1 ecology and human interventions. This is a two-way process. Just as Did you know that the Ridge forest in nature shapes society, society shapes Delhi is not the natural vegetation of nature. For instance, the fertile soil of this region but was planted by the the Indo-Gangetic floodplain enables British around 1915? Its dominant tree species is Prosopis juliflora intensive agriculture. Its high (vilayati kikar or vilayati babul) which productivity allows dense population was introduced into India from South settlements and generates enough America and which has become surpluses to support other, non- naturalised all over north India. agricultural activities, giving rise to Did you know that the chaurs, complex hierarchical societies and the wide grassy meadows of Corbett states. In contrast, the desert of National Park in Uttaranchal which Rajasthan can only support offer excellent views of wildlife, were pastoralists who move from place to once agricultural fields? Villages in the area were relocated in order to place in order to keep their livestock create what now appears to be a supplied with fodder. These are pristine wilderness. instances of ecology shaping the forms Can you think of other examples of human life and culture. On the where what seems to be ‘natural’ is other hand, the social organisation of actually modified by cultural capitalism has shaped nature across interventions? the world. The private automobile is one instance of a capitalist commodity
52 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY A dam A small damthat has transfor med lives and are just a few of the environmentallandscapes. Air pollution and effects of cars. Human interventionscongestion in cities, regional conflicts increasingly have the power to alterand wars over oil, and global warming environments, often permanently.
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 53 The ecological ef fects of the women are likely to experience Industrial Revolution in Britain were resource scarcity more acutely felt all over the world. Large areas because gathering fuel and fetching of southern North America and the water are generally women’s tasks but Caribbean were converted to they do not control these resources. plantations to meet the demand for Social organisation influences how cotton in the mills of Lancashire. different social groups relate to their Young West Africans were forcibly environment. transported to America to work as slave labour on the plantations. The Different relationships between depopulation of West Africa caused environment and society also reflect its agricultural economy to decline, different social values and norms, as with fields reverting to fallow well as knowledge systems. The wastelands. In Britain, smoke from values underlying capitalism have the coal-burning mills fouled the air. supported the commodification of Displaced farmers and labourers nature, turning it into objects that can from the countryside came to the be bought and sold for profit. For cities for work and lived in wretched instance, the multiple cultural conditions. The ecological footprints of the cotton industry could be found meanings of a river — its ecological, all over urban and rural utilitarian, spiritual, and aesthetic environments. significance, are stripped down to a single set of calculations about profit The interaction between and loss from the sale of water for anenvironment and society is shaped by entrepreneure. Socialist values ofsocial organisation. Property equality and justice have led to therelations determine how and by whom seizure of lands from large landlordsnatural resources can be used. For and their redistribution amonginstance, if forests are owned by the landless peasants in a number ofgovernment, it will have the power to countries. Religious values have leddecide whether it should lease them some social groups to protect andto timber companies or allow villagers conserve sacred groves and speciesto collect forest produce. Private and others to believe that they haveownership of land and water sources divine sanction to change thewill affect whether others can have environment to suit their needs.access to these resources and on what Ther e ar e many di f f e re n tterms and conditions. Ownership and perspectives on the environmentcontrol over resources is also related and its relationship to society. Theseto the division of labour in the dif ferences include the ‘nature-production pr ocess. Landless nurtur e’ debate and whetherlabourers and women will have a individual characteristics are innatedifferent relationship with natural or are influenced by environmentalresources than men. In rural India, factors. For instance, are people poor
54 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYbecause they are innately less facilitate the management of naturaltalented or hard-working or because resources for colonial purposes.they are born into a situation of Environmental management is,disadvantage and lack of however, a very difficult task. Notopportunity? Theories and data enough is known about biophysicalabout environment and society are processes to predict and control them.influenced by the social conditions In addition, human relations with theunder which they emerge. Thus the environment have become increasinglynotions that women are intrinsically complex. With the spread of indu-less able than men, and Blacks strialisation, resource extraction hasnaturally less able than Whites, were expanded and accelerated, affectingchallenged as ideas of equality ecosystems in unprecedented ways.became more widespread during the Complex industrial technologies and18 th century’s social and political modes of organisation requirerevolutions. Colonialism generated a sophisticated management systemsgreat deal of knowledge about which are often fragile and vulnerableenvir onment and society, often to error. We live in risk societies usingsystematically compiling it in order technologies and products that we doto make resources available to the not fully grasp. The occurrence ofimperial powers. Geology, geography, nuclear disasters like Chernobyl,botany, zoology, for estry and industrial accidents like Bhopal, andhydraulic engineering were among Mad Cow disease in Europe shows thethe many disciplines that wer e dangers inherent in industrialcreated and institutionalised to environments. Bhopal Industrial Disaster: Who was to Blame? On the night of 3 December 1984, a deadly gas spread through Bhopal, killing about 4,000 people and leaving another 200,000 permanently disabled. The gas was later identified as methyl isocyanate (MIC), accidentally released by a Union Carbide pesticide factory in the city. In its State of India’s Environment: The Second Citizens’ Report, the Centre for Science and Environment analysed the reasons behind the disaster: ‘Union Carbide’s coming to Bhopal in 1977 was welcomed by all, because it meant jobs and money for Bhopal, and saving in foreign exchange for the country, with the rising demand for pesticides after the Green Revolution. The MIC plant was troublesome from the start and there were several leakages, including one that caused the death of a plant operator, until the big disaster. However, the government steadfastly ignored warnings, notably from the head of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation who issued notice to Union Carbide to move out of Bhopal in 1975. The officer was transferred and the company donated Rs 25,000 to the Corporation for a park.
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 55 The warnings kept coming. In May 1982, three experts from the Union Carbide Corporation, USA, surveyed safety measures and pointed out alarming lapses. These fears were reported in a local weekly Rapat, in what was to be a series of prophetic articles in 1982. At the same time, the factory’s employees union also wrote to Central ministers and the chief minister warning them of the situation. The state Labour Minister reassured legislators at several times that the factory was safe. Only a few weeks before the gas leak, the factory had been granted an environmental clearance certificate by the state pollution control board. The Central government rivalled its state counterpart in casualness. It ignored the plant’s safety record in granting it permission and ignored Department of Environment guidelines on the siting of hazardous plants. Why the guidelines and warnings were ignored is clear. The company employs the relatives of powerful politicians and bureaucrats. Its legal adviser is an important political leader and its public relations officer is the nephew of a former minister. The company’s posh guesthouse was always at the disposal of politicians. The chief minister’s wife had reportedly received lavish hospitality from the company during visits to the USA, and the company had donated Rs 1.5 lakh to a welfare organisation in the chief minister’s home town. Union Carbide Corporation also played its full part in the run-up to the tragedy. The Bhopal plant was under-designed and lacked several safety features. It did not have a computerised early warning system, a standard device in the company’s factories in the US. The company had not worked out emergency evacuation procedures with the local community. The plant was not being maintained and operated at the requisite level of efficiency. Morale was low because sales were dropping and the plant was running at a third of its capacity. Staff strength had been reduced and many engineers and operators had left, making it impossible for the existing staff to monitor all the tasks. Many instruments were out of order. Discussion: Which social institutions and organisations play a role in industrial accidents like the Bhopal disaster? What steps can be taken to prevent such disasters?MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS AND RISKS environmental problems. While fossil fuels and specially petroleum hog theAlthough the relative importance or headlines, the depletion andurgency of different environmental destruction of water and land ishazards may vary from country to probably even more rapid. The rapidcountry and context to context, the decline in groundwater levels is anfollowing are globally recognized as the acute problem all over India, especiallymain ones: in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Aquifers which haveA. Resource Depletion accumulated water over hundreds andUsing up non-renewable natural thousands of years are being emptiedresources is one of the most serious in matter of a few decades to meet the
56 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYgrowing demands of intensive the other major resource facing rapidagriculture, industry and urban depletion, largely due to the expansioncentres. Rivers have also been of areas under agriculture. Thoughdammed and diverted, causing various parts of the globe, includingirreversible damage to the ecology of some parts of India, appear to havewater basins. Many water bodies in seen some re-forestation or increase inurban areas have been filled up and vegetative cover in recent decades, thebuilt upon, destroying the natural overall trend is towards the loss ofdrainage of the landscape. Like biodiversity. The shrinking of thesegroundwater, topsoil too is created habitats has endangered many species,over thousands of years. This several of them unique to India. Youagricultural resource, too, is being may have read of the recent crisis whendestroyed due to poor environmental it was discovered that the tigermanagement leading to erosion, population had fallen sharply despitewater-logging and salinisation. The strict laws and large sanctuaries.production of bricks for buildinghouses is another reason for the loss B. Pollutionof topsoil. Air pollution is considered to be a major Biodiversity habitats such as environmental problem in urban andforests, grasslands and wetlands are rural areas, causing respiratory and Deforestation
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 57other problems which result in serious Health Organisation has estimatedillness and death. The sources of air that almost 600,000 people died duepollution include emissions from to (cumulative) indoor pollution relatedindustries and vehicles, as well as the causes in India in 1998, almostburning of wood and coal for domestic 500,000 of them in rural areas.use. We have all heard of pollution (Giddens 2004: 614, Table 19.1, takenfrom vehicles and factories, and seen from the Human Development Report,pictures of smoking chimneys and 1998 of the United Nationsexhaust pipes in cars. But we often Development Programme, whichdon’t realise that indoor pollution from quotes the World Health Organisationcooking fires is also a serious source statistics.) Industrial Pollutionof risk. This is particularly true of Water pollution is also a veryrural homes where wood fires using serious issue affecting surface as wellgreen or poorly burning wood, badly as groundwater. Major sources includedesigned fireplaces (chulhas), and poor not only domestic sewage and factoryventilation combine to put village effluents but also the runoff fromwomen at serious risk because they far ms where large amounts ofdo the cooking. In fact, the World synthetic fertilisers and pesticides are
58 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Spraying pesticide in a brinjal fieldused. The pollution of rivers and water low-lying coastal areas, and morebodies is a particularly important important, affecting the ecologicalproblem. balance. Global warming is also likely Cities also suf fer from noise to result in greater fluctuations andpollution, which has been the subject uncertainty in climates across theof court orders in many cities. Sources world. China and India areinclude amplified loud speakers used increasingly significant contributors toat religious and cultural events, world carbon and green house gaspolitical campaigns, vehicle horns and emissions.traffic, and construction work. D. Genetically Modified OrganismsC. Global Warming New techniques of gene-splicing allowThe release of particular gases (carbon scientists to import genes from onedioxide, methane and others) creates species into another, introducing newa ‘greenhouse’ effect by trapping the characteristics. For instance, genessun’s heat and not allowing it to from Bacillus thuringiensis have beendissipate. This has caused a small but intr oduced into cotton species,significant rise in global temperatures. making it resistant to the bollworm,The resulting climate change is a major pest. Genetic modificationprojected to melt polar ice-fields and may also be done to shorten growingraise the sea level, thus submerging time, increase size and the shelf-life
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 59of crops. However, little is known farmers seem to mock them. Certainabout the long term effects of genetic environmental concerns sometimesmodification on those who eat these appear to be universal concerns, notfoods or on ecological systems. particular to specific social groups.Agricultural companies can also use For instance, reducing air pollution orgenetic modification to create sterile protecting biodiversity seem to be inseeds, preventing farmers from re- the public interest. A sociologicalusing them, and guaranteeing that analysis shows, however, that howseeds remain their profit-yielding public priorities are set and how theypr operty, forcing far mers to be are pursued may not be universallydependent on them. beneficial. Securing the public interest may actually serve theE. Natural and Man-made Environmental interests of particular politically and Disasters economically powerful groups, or hurtThis is a self-explanatory category. the interests of the poor and politicallyThe Bhopal disaster of 1984 when a weak. As the debates over large damstoxic gas leak from the Union Carbide and around protected areas show, thefactory there killed about 4000 people, environment as a public interest is aand the tsunami of 2004 are the most hotly contested arena.recent examples of man-made and The school of social ecologynatural environmental disasters. points out that social relations, in particular the organisation of propertyWHY ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS ARE ALSO and production, shape environmentalSOCIAL PROBLEMS perceptions and practices. DifferentHow environmental problems affect social groups stand in dif ferentdifferent groups is a function of social relationships to the environment andinequality. Social status and power approach it dif ferently. A Forestdetermine the extent to which people Department geared to maximisingcan insulate themselves from revenues fr om supplying largeenvironmental crises or overcome it. volumes of bamboo to the paperIn some cases, their ‘solutions’ may industry will view and use a forest veryactually worsen envir onmental dif ferently from an artisan whodisparities. In Kutch, Gujarat, where harvests bamboo to make baskets.water is scarce, richer farmers have Their varied interests and ideologiesinvested in deep bore tubewells to tap generate environmental conflicts. Ingroundwater to irrigate their fields and this sense, environmental crises havegrow cash crops. When the rains fail, their roots in social inequality.the earthen wells of the poorer Addressing environmental problemsvillagers run dry and they do not even requires changing environment-have water to drink. At such times, society relations, and this in turnthe moist green fields of the rich requires efforts to change relations
60 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYbetween different social groups — men charges alone. Welcome to the Funand women, urban and rural people, and Food Village Water andlandlords and labourers. Changed Amusement Park in Bazargaon gramsocial relations will give rise to panchayat of Nagpur (Rural) district.different knowledge systems and A portrait of Mahatma Gandhi greetsmodes of managing the environment. visitors in the office of the huge complex. And you’re assured daily What literally defines social ecology disco, ice skating, ice sliding and “a as “social” is its recognition of the well stocked bar with cocktails.” The often overlooked fact that nearly all 40-acre park itself offers 18 kinds of our present ecological problems arise water slides and games. Also services from deep-seated social problems. Conversely, present ecological for events ranging from conferences to problems cannot be clearly kitty parties. understood, much less resolved, The village of Bazargaon without resolutely dealing with (population 3,000) itself faces a huge problems within society. To make this water crisis. “Having to make many point more concrete: economic, daily trips for water, women walk up ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, to 15 km in a day to fetch it,” says among many others, lie at the core of sarpanch Yamunabai Uikey. “This the most serious ecological whole village has just one sarkari dislocations we face today — apart, well. Sometimes, we have got water to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes. once in four or five days. Sometimes, Murray Bookchin, political once in ten days.” Bazargaon falls in philosopher and founder of the a region declared as scarcity-hit in Institute for Social Ecology 2004. It had never faced that fate before. The village also had its share Two examples of environment- of six-hour — and worse — powersociety conflicts are given below: cuts till about May. These hit every aspect of daily life, including health,No Rain, but Snow and Water Parks and devastated children appearing for exams. The summer heat,Water -starved Vidharbha has a touching 47, made things worse. Allgrowing number of water parks and these iron laws of rural life do notamusement centres. apply within Fun and Food Village.Even when it’s 47 degrees in the rest This private oasis has more waterof the region, it’s cool here. A little than Bazargaon can dream of. Andaway from us is a patch that clocks in never a moment’s break in powerat minus 13 degrees. This is “India’s supply. “We pay on average,” says Mrfirst Snowdome” — in bur ning Singh, General Manager of the Park,Vidharbha. Keeping its ice rink firm “about Rs 400,000 a month incosts Rs 4,000 a day in electricity electricity bills.”
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 61 The Park’s monthly power bill has covered the region for years. Shrialone almost equals the yearly revenue Singh insists the Fun and Food Villageof Yamunabhai’s gram panchayat. conserves water. “We use sophisticatedIronically, the village’s power crisis filter plants to reuse the same water.”eased slightly because of the Park. But evaporation levels are very high inBoth share the same sub-station. The this heat. And water is not just usedpark’s peak period begins with May. for sports. All the parks use massiveAnd so things have been a little better amounts of it for maintaining theirsince then. The Park’s contribution to gardens, on sanitation and for theirthe gram panchayat’s revenue is clientele. ”It is a huge waste of waterRs.50,000 a year. About half what Fun and money,” says Vinayak Gaikwad inand Food Village collects at the gate Buldhana. He is a farmer and a Kisanin a day from its 700 daily visitors. Sabha leader in the district. That inBarely a dozen of the Park’s 110 the process, public resources are soworkers are locals from Bazargaon. often used to boost private profit, Water -starved Vidharbha has a angers Mr. Gaikwad. “They shouldgrowing number of such water parks instead be meeting people’s basic waterand amusement centres. In Shegaon, needs.” Back in Bazargaon, sarpanchBuldhana, a religious trust runs a Yamunabai Uikey isn’t impressedgiant “Meditation Centre and either. Not by the Fun and Food Village.Entertainment Park.” Ef forts to Nor by other industries that have takenmaintain a 30-acre ‘artificial lake’ a lot but given very little. “What is therewithin it ran dry this summer. But not in all this for us,” she wants to know.before untold amounts of water were To get a standard government waterwasted in the attempt. Here the entry project for her village, the panchayattickets are called “donations.” In has to bear 10 per cent of its cost.Yavatmal, a private company runs a That’s around Rs.4.5 lakh. “How canpublic lake as a tourist joint. Amravati we afford the Rs.45,000? What is ourhas two or more such spots (dry just condition?” So it’s simply been handednow). And there are others in and over to a contractor. This could see thearound Nagpur. project built. But it will mean more This, in a region where villages have costs in the long run and less controlsometimes got water once in 15 days. for a village of so many poor andAnd where an ongoing farm crisis has landless people. In the Park, Gandhi’sseen the largest number of farmers’ portrait still smiles out of the office assuicides in Maharashtra. “No major we leave. Seemingly at the ‘Snowdome’project for either drinking water or across the parking lot. An odd fate forirrigation has been completed in the man who said: “Live simply, thatVidharbha in decades,” says Nagpur- others might simply live.”based journalist Jaideep Hardikar. He (P. Sainath in The Hindu, June 22, 2005.)
62 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY ‘God forbid that India should ever have to drill deeper, and pests have take to industrialism in the manner become resistant to many pesticides, of the West. The economic requiring far mers to spray new imperialism of a single tiny island pesticides, more frequently. Farmers kingdom (England) is today keeping in need of credit to purchase these the world in chains. If an entire inputs end up approaching private nation of 300 million took to similar moneylenders and traders who economic exploitation, it would strip charge them high rates of interest. If the world bare like locusts.’ — Mahatma Gandhi the crop fails, the farmer can’t repay the money. Not only can they not feed As a consequence of developments their families, they cannot fulfil familylike the water park described above, obligations like arranging children’ssmall farmers in areas of dryland marriages. Faced with financial andagriculture now find life increasingly social ruin, many far mers haveimpossible. Over the last six years, nowhere to turn. Suicide seems toreports indicate that thousands of be the only way out to them.far mers in Andhra Pradesh, Discussion: Is water scarcity naturalKarnataka and Maharashtra have or human-made? What social factorskilled themselves, often by drinking shape how water is allocated amongpesticide. What drives farmers, people different users? How do differentwho stoically deal with the patterns of water-use affect differentuncertainties inherent in agriculture, social groups?to this extreme step? The investigationof journalist P. Sainath shows that Activity 2farmers’ recent distress is due to a Find out how much water yourfusion of environmental and economic household uses in a day. Try and findfactors. Agrarian conditions have out how much water is used bybecome more volatile as farmers are comparable households belonging toexposed to the fluctuations of the different income groups. How muchworld market and as government time and money do dif fer entsupport for small farmers declines due households spend on getting water?to liberalisation policies. Cotton Within the household, whose job isfarmers grow a high-risk, high-return it to collect water? How much watercrop. Cotton needs some irrigation. does the government provide toIt is also very susceptible to pest different classes of people?infestation. Cotton growers thus needcapital to invest in irrigation and pest The Urban Environment: A Tale ofcontrol. Both of these inputs have Two Citiesbecome more expensive over theyears: high levels of extraction have Here is a typical conflict over the urbandepleted water reserves so farmers environment. On the morning of
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 6330 January 1995, Delhi was waking affluent residents of the area who paidup to another chilly winter day. to have a wall constructed between theImagine the well-to-do colony of Ashok dirty, unsightly jhuggis and their ownVihar in north Delhi, posh houses homes. The wall was soon breached,shrouded in grey mist, early risers to allow the traffic of domestic workerssetting off on morning walks, some who lived in the jhuggis but workedwith their pet dogs — Pomeranians to clean the homes and cars of theand Alsatians, straining at the leash. rich, and to of fer access to theAs one of these morning walkers delinquent defecators.entered the neighbourhood ‘park’, the Dilip’s death was thus theonly open area in the locality, he saw culmination of a long-standing battlea young man, poorly clad, walking over a contested space that, to one setaway with an empty bottle in hand. of residents, embodied their sense ofOutraged, he caught hold of the man gracious urban living, a place of treesand called out to his neighbours. and grass devoted to leisure andSomeone phoned the police. A group recreation, and that to another set ofof enraged house-owners and two residents, was the only available spacepolice constables descended on the that could be used as a toilet. If heyouth and, within minutes, beat him had known this history of simmeringto death. conflict, Dilip would probably have The young man was eighteen year- been more wary and would have runold Dilip, a visitor to Delhi, who had away when challenged, and perhaps hecome to watch the Republic Day would still be alive. The violence didparade in the capital. He was staying not end there. When a group of peoplewith his uncle in a jhuggi (shanty from the jhuggis gathered to protesthouse) along the railway tracks against this killing, the police openedbordering Ashok Vihar. His uncle fire and killed four more people.worked as a labourer in the Wazirpur As cities grow, the conflict overindustrial estate nearby. Like all other urban space is becoming more acute.planned industrial areas in Delhi, While migrants come to the city inWazirpur too has no provision for search of work, they cannot affordworkers’ housing. The jhuggi cluster scarce legal housing and are forced towith more than 10,000 households settle on public lands. This land isshared three public toilets, each one now in great demand to buildwith eight latrines, effectively one toilet infrastructure for affluent residentsbetween more than 2000 persons. For and visitors — malls and multiplexes,most residents, then, any large open hotels and tourist sites. As a result,space, under cover of dark, became a poor workers and their families areplace to defecate. Their use of the being evicted to the outskirts of the‘park’ brought the industrial workers city and their homes demolished.and their families up against the more Besides land, air and water have also
64 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYbecome highly contested resources in factors affect people’s access to waterthe urban environment. and sanitation? (Taken from: Amita Baviskar in‘Between Violence and Desire: Space,Power and Identity in the Making of Activity 3Metropolitan Delhi’ in International Imagine that you were a fifteen year-Social Science Journal. 175: 89-98. old girl or boy living in a slum. What2003) would your family do and how wouldDiscussion: Why do the urban poor you live? Write a short essayoften live in slums? Which social describing a day in your life.groups control landed property andhousing in the city? What social GLOSSARY Hydrology: The science of water and its flows; or the broad structure of water resources in a country or region. Deforestation: The loss of forest area due to cutting down of trees and/or taking over of the land for other purposes, usually cultivation. Green House: A covered structure for protecting plants from extremes of climate, usually from excessive cold; a green house (also called a hot house) maintains a warmer temperature inside compared to the outside temperature. Emissions: Waste gases given off by a human-initiated process, usually in the context of industries or vehicles. Effluents: Waste materials in fluid form produced from industrial processes. Aquifers: Natural underground formations in the geology of a region where water gets stored. Monoculture: When the plant life in a locality or region is reduced to a single variety. EXERCISES 1. Describe in your own words what you understand by the term ‘ecology’. 2. Why is ecology not limited only to the forces of nature? 3. Describe the two-way process by which ‘social environments’ emerge.
ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY 65 4. Why and how does social organisation shape the relationship between the environment and society 5. Why is environmental management a complex and huge task for society? 6. What are some of the important forms of pollution-related environmental hazards? 7. What are the major environmental issues associated with resource depletion? 8. Explain why environmental problems are simultaneously social problems. 9. What is meant by social ecology? 10. Describe some environment related conflicts that you know of or have read about. (Other than the examples in the text.) REFERENCES Centre for Science and Environment. 1982. The State of India’s Environment: The Citizens’ Report. CSE, New Delhi. DAVIS, MIKE. 2004. ‘Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Proletariat’ in New Left Review, 26: 5-34. DAVIS, MIKE. 2004. ‘The Political Ecology of Famine: The Origins of the Third World’ in Richard Peet and Michael Watts (eds) Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements. Routledge, (second edition), London. GADGIL, MADHAV and RAMACHANDRA GUHA. 1995. Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India. Penguin, New Delhi. GUHA, RAMACHANDRA. 1997. ‘The Environmentalism of the Poor’ in Ramachandra Guha and J. Martinez-Alier. Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South. Oxford University Press, Delhi. POLLAN, MICHAEL. 2001. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Random House, New York.