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Eco-Swaraj: Radical Ecological Democracy, Alternatives to Inequity and Unsustainability


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Resistance movements and constructive alternatives to current model of 'development' and to the structures of inequality and unsustainability are providing answers to how human needs and aspirations can be met without trashing the earth and leaving half of humanity behind. A presentation on radical alternatives, at POLLEN (Political Ecology Network) conference in Oslo, on 21.6.2018.

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Eco-Swaraj: Radical Ecological Democracy, Alternatives to Inequity and Unsustainability

  1. 1. Eco-swaraj: Radical Ecological Democracy Alternatives to Unsustainability & Inequity Ashish Kothari Kalpavriksh
  2. 2. Today’s menu … • Unappetiser: violence of development / growth • Appetiser: alternatives at the grassroots • Main dish: frameworks of transformation • Coffee: some key questions to ponder over • Dessert: confluences
  3. 3. Dominant vision of ‘development’ Violence against nature, communities, and cultures … growth as cancer
  4. 4. Violence against each of us: our identity, our health, our well-being! Livelihoods to Deadlihoods Illustrator unknown
  5. 5. 42 billionaires’ wealth = 50% world population Growing inequities
  6. 6. Shrinking democracy Dilutions in public participation spaces in laws and policies (e.g. approval of development projects) Weakening local consent provisions (land acquisition, forest diversion) Attack on dissenting civil society: ‘anti- development’, ‘anti-national’, ‘terrorist’
  7. 7. Are there alternatives?
  8. 8. Alternatives to what? Structural roots of unsustainability & inequity Concentration of power Capitalism State-dominated regimes Patriarchy Caste / race / ethnicity ….
  9. 9. False, partial, or ‘post-truth’ solutions: Technofixes, market mechanisms, green growth, REDD/REDD+, CDM, geoengineering … ‘sustainable development’
  10. 10. Towards transformative, systemic alternatives
  11. 11. Resistance … … is part of the alternative satyagraha
  12. 12. Assertion of self- determination & ancient ways of life, recognition of the unrecognised Dongria Kondh indigenous people vs. Vedanta corporation & Indian state
  13. 13. India: alternative initiatives for well-being Water Crafts Shelter Food Energy Governance Livelihoods Conservation Village revitalisation Urban sustainability Learning Health Producer companies Inclusion Sexuality Gender
  14. 14. Alternatives across the world Commons Solidarity economy Degrowth Buen vivir / sumaq kawsay / kametsu asaike Ubuntu / ukama / unhu Ecofeminism Agroecology / permaculture Biocivilisation Ecosocialism Zapatista Kurdish Rojava Kyosei Country Transition Nayakrishi Agaciro GNH Agdal
  15. 15. •Reviving traditional agr diversity, community grain banks •Empowering women/dalit farmers, securing land rights •Creating consumer-producer links (Zaheerabad org. food restaurant) •Producer company / cooperative •Linking to Public Distribution System •Community media (films, radio) Deccan Development Society (Andhra Pradesh)
  16. 16. Arvari Sansad (Parliament), Rajasthan: water and food sovereignty through ecoregional governance
  17. 17. Self-rule & decentralised governance: Mendha-Lekha (Maharashtra) All decisions by consensus in gram sabha (village assembly) “Our government in Mumbai and Delhi, we are the government in our village” 2013: all private farmland converted to village commons
  18. 18. Indigenous autonomous government in Peru Wampis refuse to allow oil companies in their territory Jacob Balzani Lööv, Independent
  19. 19. Right to a Sustainable City ‘’Homes in the City’, Bhuj (Kachchh, Gujarat) •self-reliance in water (India’s lowest rainfall) •solid waste management and sanitation •re-commoning of spaces •livelihoods for the poor •self-built, dignified housing for poor (Hunnarshala, Sahjeevan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, ACT, Setu)
  20. 20. Political transformations, elsewhere ... • Indigenous peoples’ assemblies • Zapatista self-governed region: people’s assemblies, oversight councils, rotating ‘leadership’ • Kurdish Rojava autonomous region • Latin American experiments: direct and delegated democracy (e.g. Venezuela’s consejos comunales, neighbourhood assemblies “we don’t want to be government, we want to govern”) • and many more …
  21. 21. Economic transformations, elsewhere ... • Factory take-over and democratic running by workers, Argentina, Greece … • Land re-appropriation movement (MST), Brazil • Commons / solidarity initiatives, cooperatives (e.g. Barcelona’s Cooperativa Integral) • Local /social currencies (Helsinki, Bristol, Barcelona, Bekerich, Kenya) • Cuba’s urban agriculture • Transition Towns / Movement, Europe and many more…
  22. 22. Learning / education: rooted in cultures / ecologies, decolonising, encouraging creativity, inquisitiveness, combining head-heart-hand-feet … •Adharshila, Jeevanshala, SECMOL, Imli-Mahua, Marudam, Bhoomi, Beeja (India) •Multiversities / pluriversities (several countries), African Leadership Univ •Zapatista autonomous schools (Mexico) •Forest schools (Czech Republic) and many more …        Skhole = leisure!
  23. 23. Technology by/for/with/of people Technological innovations to reduce ecological impact, governed democratically (malkha cotton weaving, AP; Hunnarshala housing, Kachchh; Solar passive architecture, Ladakh)
  24. 24. Alternative Media, Communications, Arts Freedom from govt & corporate control: •Community radio (>150); FM? •Mobile-based (CGNetSwara, Chhattisgarh) •Movement newsletters, folk theatre •Film/video (Video Volunteers) •Internet (Scroll, Wire, Infochange, India Together …) •‘Social’ networks … virtual communities Pic: Puroshottam Thakur
  25. 25. Can we discern elements of holistic frameworks from these initiatives?
  26. 26. Recipe for transformational alternatives
  27. 27. Ingredient 1. A NEW POLITICS Direct democracy (local): decentralised and nested decision- making Direct democracy (state/national): referendums & deliberative processes Delegated/representative democracy, with mechanisms of accountability (right to recall, public audit, reporting back…) Ecoregional planning across states and countries … political units aligned with ecological and cultural ones? Borderless world? Conditions: Rights, Capacity, Forums, and Maturity
  28. 28. Ingredient 2 A NEW ECONOMICS: Earthshastra Open localisation: self-sufficiency/sovereignty in basic needs, larger trade built on this Production, consumption (prosumption) locally controlled Re-integrating work & leisure: livelihoods Re-commoning private & state property Demonetisation & decentralisation of currencies: Relations of caring/sharing, local exchange systems
  29. 29. Ingredient 3: A JUST SOCIETY Towards equity amongst classes castes (eradication of) genders ethnic groups species ‘able’ities Towards universal rights-based approaches, infused with responsibilities … sarvodaya
  30. 30. Ingredient 4: CULTURE AND KNOWLEDGE Respecting inclusive diversity of languages, cuisines, knowledges Decolonising the mind, epistemologies, ontologies Democratic R&D / S&T / knowledge / innovation: in public domain, participatory, transparent Media and arts commons Opportunities for spiritual / ethical growth (without falling into trap of communal religious institutions)
  32. 32. Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved areas (ICCAs)
  33. 33. Eco-swaraj: Radical ecological democracy (Radical = going to the roots, challenging the conventional) • achieving human well-being, through: – empowering all citizens & communities to participate in decision-making – ensuring socio-economic equity & justice – respecting the limits of the earth Community (at various levels) as basic unit of organisation, not state or private corporation The dish...
  34. 34. Swaraj • ‘Self-rule’ / autonomy / freedom • Individual & community freedom & well-being, with • responsibility towards others’* freedom * Others = other humans, other species, the planet (IMP: not the only Indian concept … )
  35. 35. Worldviews from elsewhere … • Indigenous peoples’ territorial struggles and notions of well-being – buen vivir: sumak kawsay (Andes), suma qamana (Bolivia), kume mongen (Chile), kamatse asaike (Peru) – ubuntu (S. Africa), umuntu (Uganda), ukama (Zimbabwe), eti uwem (W. Africa) • Degrowth, Commons, Solidarity economy, Biocivilisation, Ecosocialism, Ecofeminism …
  36. 36. • Diversity and pluralism (of ideas, knowledge, ecologies, economies, ideologies, polities, cultures…) • Self-reliance for basic needs (swavalamban) • Self-governance / autonomy (swashasan / swaraj) • Cooperation, collectivity, solidarity, commons • Rights with responsibilities of meaningful participation • Dignity & creativity of labour (shram) • Qualitative pursuit of happiness • Equity / justice / inclusion (sarvodaya) • Simplicity / sufficiency / enoughness (aparigraha) • Rights of nature / respect for all life forms • Non-violence, peace, harmony (ahimsa) • Interconnectedness / reciprocity • Fun! And the cooking base and spices? Values & principles of transformative alternatives ….
  37. 37. Issues for dialogue…. Who will catalyse the transformation: Mass movements? NGOs? Worker unions? Political parties? Would there be a state? Its form and role? What would be the nature of global governance? (Not the UN!) Would there be a private business sector? Profits, or revenues channelised back into social purposes? How to rethink academics / ‘disciplines’, epistemologies?
  38. 38. How to reach critical mass?
  39. 39. Vikalp Sangams (Alternatives Confluences): practical collaborations, democratic visioning of futures
  40. 40. Vikalp Sangams (regional) Andhra Pradesh, Oct 2014 Tamil Nadu, Feb 2015 Ladakh: July 2015 Maharashtra, October 2015 Kachchh, July 2016 W. Himalaya, Aug 2016 (thematic) Energy democracy: March 2016 Food sovereignty : 2016 & 2017 Youth: early 2017 Learning and education: 2017 Arts: 2017?
  41. 41. Visioning the future, grassroots-up
  42. 42. More collective visioning: 40 authors, 30 themes Dreaming the future, showing pathways
  43. 43. Radical alternative practices & worldviews across world 120 authors, >100 essays (due out end 2018) For more: Roundtable on Alternatives to Development 22nd June, 8.30 am
  44. 44. Time for a Global Alternatives Forum (Earth Vikalp Sangam)? Preliminary discussions at Degrowth (Malmo, Aug) and Degrowth (Mexico City, Sept)
  45. 45. UTOPIA? Galeano, quoting Fernando Birri: "Utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps, and utopia runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I never reach it. So what's the point of utopia? The point is this: it makes us continually advance.”
  46. 46. • For continuing the dialogue …