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Radical Ecological Democracy
Learnings from India Towards a
Sustainable and Equitable World
Ashish Kothari
Kalpavriksh
India’s Impressive Growth
• One of world’s biggest economies, rapid growth,
affluent middle class, 600 million mobile phones …
but…
…a flawed vision of ‘development’
Violence against nature, people,
and cultures
Economic Globalisation
• Post-1991 global integration, privatisation,
liberalisation … acceleration of impacts
Destruction of India’s environment
– >5.5 million ha. forest diverted in last 60 years
– 70% waterbodies polluted or drained out
– Some of the world’s most polluted cities and coasts
– Nearly 10% wildlife threatened with extinction
– Dispossession of ecosystem-dependent
communities
Self-devouring growth
World Bank (2013): Cost of
environmental damage = 5.7%
points economic growth
(impacts taken into account)
•urban & indoor air pollution
•inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene
•agricultural damage by soil salinity, water-logging and soil erosion
•pasture degradation
•deforestation
Continuing and new poverty &
unemployment
• ‘Jobless growth’ in organised sector:
– 26.7 million in 1991
– 30 million in 2012
• % below poverty line: 38 to 70%
• World’s largest number of malnourished
and undernourished women/children
• 60 million people displaced by
‘development’ projects
Where is all the money going?
1% richest own almost 50% wealth!!!!
Increasing conflicts
State vs.
democracy
• Increasing
attempt to
silence civil
society &
peoples’
movements,
e.g. Greenpeace
India, INSAF,
Sabrang
India the new Coloniser
(joining China, Japan…)
Indian companies have taken up >500,000 ha.
in Ethiopia & Tanzania for floriculture,
sugarcane, palm oil, etc
Gandhi:
‘if India is to take Britain’s path of
‘development’, it will strip the
world bare like locusts’
Towards transformational
alternatives
Resistance …
… is part of
the
transformation
India: alternative initiatives for well-being
Water
Crafts
Shelter
Food
Energy
Governance
Livelihoods
Conservation
Village
revitalisation
Urban sustainability
Learning
Health
Producer
companies
Recipe for transformational alternatives:
Ingredient 1. A NEW POLITICS
Swaraj
“Our government in Mumbai
and Delhi, we are the
government in our village”
Towards tribal self-rule:
Mendha-Lekha (Maharashtra)
Informed decisions
through monitoring, and
regular study circles
(abhyas gat)
All decisions in gram
sabha (village assembly);
no activity even by
government officials
without sabha consent

Mendha-Lekha: economic revival based on
reclaimed governance of 1800 ha forest
Vivek Gour-Broome
Earnings from sustainable NTFP use
(over Rs. 10 million) … used for full
employment, energy & water security,
training as ‘barefoot’ engineers and
researchers
2013: all agricultural land donated to
village, collective ownership

Participatory urban governance
Participatory budgeting, Pune /
Bangalore
Decentralised decision-making on civic
facilities, Bhuj



Arvari Sansad (Parliament),
Rajasthan: water and food
security through
landscape governance

Ingredient 1. A NEW POLITICS
Direct democracy: power emanating from grassroot rural and
urban communities
Embedded democracy, ensuring accountability of
representatives / delegates at larger levels through right to
recall, citizens’ charters, public hearings, social audits, right to
participation
Ecoregional decision-making … political boundaries aligned with
ecological and cultural ones … demise of the nation-state?
Ingredient 2.
A NEW ECONOMICS
Earthshastra: An economy of
permanence*
* JC Kumarappa
Village reconstruction:
outmigration is not inevitable
Ralegan Siddhi and Hivare Bazaar
(Maharashtra), Kuthambakkam (TN)


Khamir/Kasab, Kachchh, India:
secure livelihoods for
craftspersons through producer
companies / cooperatives

Jharcraft
(Jharkhand)
Employment for 300,000 families…
reviving crafts, upgrading skills

Dignified livelihoods for urban poor
Kagaj Kach Patra Kashtakari
Panchayat
&
Swach
(Pune)
Ingredient 2. A NEW ECONOMICS
Mindful of ecological / planetary limits
Localisation: self-sufficiency/sovereignty in basic needs
Community (not capitalist or state) control of production &
consumption (prosumption)
Demonetisation: Relations of caring & sharing, local exchange
systems/currencies, restructuring the market (haat)
Well-being indicators as alternatives to GDP: basic needs,
happiness, social relations
Ingredient 3. A JUST SOCIETY
When people go hungry, it is
not food but justice that is in
short supply
•Organic, biodiverse farming, community grain banks
•Empowering women/dalit farmers, securing land rights
•Creating consumer-producer links
•Linking to Public Distribution System

Conservation, equity, & livelihoods
Deccan Development Society
Towards equitable cities
Bhuj (Kachchh, west India):
• decentralised control by the poor: water, housing,
sanitation
• information-based empowerment for participation
in city planning
(Hunnarshala, Sahjeevan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, ACT, Setu)

Ingredient 3. A JUST SOCIETY
Towards equity amongst
classes
castes
women and men
ethnic groups
abled and ‘disabled’
city and village
humans and rest of nature
Ingredient 4. WAYS OF
KNOWING
Diverse
knowledges,
diverse
cultures
Learning & Education: away from mass production of
clones, towards ecologically & culturally rooted experience
Mix of traditional and modern, oral and written, local and
global, experiential and theoretical …
•Pachashala, Andhra Pradesh
•Adharshila, Madhya Pradesh
•Jeevanshala, Narmada
•Adivasi Academy, Gujarat
•Beeja Vidyapeeth, Uttarakhand
•Bhoomi College, Karnataka
Technological innovations: pro-poor, pro-environment,
democratically controlled, knowledge-plurality
malkha cotton weaving, Andhra Pradesh (Dastkar Andhra)
affordable ecofriendly housing, Kachchh (Hunnarshala)
decentralised energy, Ladakh, Bihar (Greenpeace India)
Ingredient 4. WAYS OF KNOWING
Relinking with rest of nature
Diverse knowledge systems
Knowledge as the commons: no IPRs!
Democratising R&D and technological development
Opportunities for spiritual/ethical growth
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…
Hey, don’t forget the spices!
Values & principles….
• Diversity and pluralism (of ideas, knowledge, ecologies,
economies, polities, cultures…)
• Self-reliance for basics (swadeshi)
• Cooperation, solidarity, the ‘commons’
• Rights with responsibilities
• Dignity of labour & respect of subsistence
• Qualitative pursuit of happiness
• Equity & social justice
• Simplicity, ‘enoughness’ (aparigraha)
• Respect for all life forms
(add your own spices…)
Pathways….
• Mass resistance
• Stretching limits of system (the state responds!)
• Empowering political carriers of new visions ….
movements, students, unions, etc
• Citizens’ networking, joint actions, collective
visioning: Alternatives confluences (Vikalp Sangam)
Vikalp Sangams (Alternatives Confluences)
Timbaktu, Andhra Pradesh, Oct 2014
Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Feb 2015
Ladakh, J&K, July 2015
Wardha, Maharashtra, October 2015
www.alternativesindia.org
Mutual learning with others ….
• Latin American experiments: direct and delegated
democracy, worker-led production, community health, land re-
appropriation movements
• Europe’s degrowth movement
• Cuba’s urban agriculture, public R&D
• Indigenous peoples’ territorial struggles and notions
of well-being (buen vivir, sumak kawsay, ubuntu …)
• Many others….
An end to globalisation? No!
• Global flow of ideas, cultures, materials
based on principles of Radical Ecological
Democracy
NO IMPOSITION OF ONE MODEL ACROSS
WORLD!
Issues for dialogue….
Would there be a state? What would be its form and role?
Would there be a private business sector? Profits?
What would be the nature of globalisation and global
governance?
Who will catalyse the transformation: Civil society? Workers?
Political parties?
• http://radicalecologicaldemocracy.wordpress.com
• www.alternativesindia.org
For more information….
Email: chikikothari@gmail.com

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Radical Ecological Democracy (presentation for ICTA/AUB Barcelona, May 2015)

  • 1. Radical Ecological Democracy Learnings from India Towards a Sustainable and Equitable World Ashish Kothari Kalpavriksh
  • 2. India’s Impressive Growth • One of world’s biggest economies, rapid growth, affluent middle class, 600 million mobile phones … but…
  • 3. …a flawed vision of ‘development’ Violence against nature, people, and cultures
  • 4. Economic Globalisation • Post-1991 global integration, privatisation, liberalisation … acceleration of impacts
  • 5. Destruction of India’s environment – >5.5 million ha. forest diverted in last 60 years – 70% waterbodies polluted or drained out – Some of the world’s most polluted cities and coasts – Nearly 10% wildlife threatened with extinction – Dispossession of ecosystem-dependent communities
  • 6. Self-devouring growth World Bank (2013): Cost of environmental damage = 5.7% points economic growth (impacts taken into account) •urban & indoor air pollution •inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene •agricultural damage by soil salinity, water-logging and soil erosion •pasture degradation •deforestation
  • 7. Continuing and new poverty & unemployment • ‘Jobless growth’ in organised sector: – 26.7 million in 1991 – 30 million in 2012 • % below poverty line: 38 to 70% • World’s largest number of malnourished and undernourished women/children • 60 million people displaced by ‘development’ projects
  • 8. Where is all the money going? 1% richest own almost 50% wealth!!!!
  • 10. State vs. democracy • Increasing attempt to silence civil society & peoples’ movements, e.g. Greenpeace India, INSAF, Sabrang
  • 11. India the new Coloniser (joining China, Japan…) Indian companies have taken up >500,000 ha. in Ethiopia & Tanzania for floriculture, sugarcane, palm oil, etc Gandhi: ‘if India is to take Britain’s path of ‘development’, it will strip the world bare like locusts’
  • 13. Resistance … … is part of the transformation
  • 14. India: alternative initiatives for well-being Water Crafts Shelter Food Energy Governance Livelihoods Conservation Village revitalisation Urban sustainability Learning Health Producer companies
  • 15. Recipe for transformational alternatives: Ingredient 1. A NEW POLITICS Swaraj “Our government in Mumbai and Delhi, we are the government in our village”
  • 16. Towards tribal self-rule: Mendha-Lekha (Maharashtra) Informed decisions through monitoring, and regular study circles (abhyas gat) All decisions in gram sabha (village assembly); no activity even by government officials without sabha consent 
  • 17. Mendha-Lekha: economic revival based on reclaimed governance of 1800 ha forest Vivek Gour-Broome Earnings from sustainable NTFP use (over Rs. 10 million) … used for full employment, energy & water security, training as ‘barefoot’ engineers and researchers 2013: all agricultural land donated to village, collective ownership 
  • 18. Participatory urban governance Participatory budgeting, Pune / Bangalore Decentralised decision-making on civic facilities, Bhuj   
  • 19. Arvari Sansad (Parliament), Rajasthan: water and food security through landscape governance 
  • 20. Ingredient 1. A NEW POLITICS Direct democracy: power emanating from grassroot rural and urban communities Embedded democracy, ensuring accountability of representatives / delegates at larger levels through right to recall, citizens’ charters, public hearings, social audits, right to participation Ecoregional decision-making … political boundaries aligned with ecological and cultural ones … demise of the nation-state?
  • 21. Ingredient 2. A NEW ECONOMICS Earthshastra: An economy of permanence* * JC Kumarappa
  • 22. Village reconstruction: outmigration is not inevitable Ralegan Siddhi and Hivare Bazaar (Maharashtra), Kuthambakkam (TN)  
  • 23. Khamir/Kasab, Kachchh, India: secure livelihoods for craftspersons through producer companies / cooperatives 
  • 24. Jharcraft (Jharkhand) Employment for 300,000 families… reviving crafts, upgrading skills 
  • 25. Dignified livelihoods for urban poor Kagaj Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat & Swach (Pune)
  • 26. Ingredient 2. A NEW ECONOMICS Mindful of ecological / planetary limits Localisation: self-sufficiency/sovereignty in basic needs Community (not capitalist or state) control of production & consumption (prosumption) Demonetisation: Relations of caring & sharing, local exchange systems/currencies, restructuring the market (haat) Well-being indicators as alternatives to GDP: basic needs, happiness, social relations
  • 27. Ingredient 3. A JUST SOCIETY When people go hungry, it is not food but justice that is in short supply
  • 28. •Organic, biodiverse farming, community grain banks •Empowering women/dalit farmers, securing land rights •Creating consumer-producer links •Linking to Public Distribution System  Conservation, equity, & livelihoods Deccan Development Society
  • 29. Towards equitable cities Bhuj (Kachchh, west India): • decentralised control by the poor: water, housing, sanitation • information-based empowerment for participation in city planning (Hunnarshala, Sahjeevan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, ACT, Setu) 
  • 30. Ingredient 3. A JUST SOCIETY Towards equity amongst classes castes women and men ethnic groups abled and ‘disabled’ city and village humans and rest of nature
  • 31. Ingredient 4. WAYS OF KNOWING Diverse knowledges, diverse cultures
  • 32. Learning & Education: away from mass production of clones, towards ecologically & culturally rooted experience Mix of traditional and modern, oral and written, local and global, experiential and theoretical … •Pachashala, Andhra Pradesh •Adharshila, Madhya Pradesh •Jeevanshala, Narmada •Adivasi Academy, Gujarat •Beeja Vidyapeeth, Uttarakhand •Bhoomi College, Karnataka
  • 33. Technological innovations: pro-poor, pro-environment, democratically controlled, knowledge-plurality malkha cotton weaving, Andhra Pradesh (Dastkar Andhra) affordable ecofriendly housing, Kachchh (Hunnarshala) decentralised energy, Ladakh, Bihar (Greenpeace India)
  • 34. Ingredient 4. WAYS OF KNOWING Relinking with rest of nature Diverse knowledge systems Knowledge as the commons: no IPRs! Democratising R&D and technological development Opportunities for spiritual/ethical growth
  • 35. 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…
  • 36. Hey, don’t forget the spices! Values & principles…. • Diversity and pluralism (of ideas, knowledge, ecologies, economies, polities, cultures…) • Self-reliance for basics (swadeshi) • Cooperation, solidarity, the ‘commons’ • Rights with responsibilities • Dignity of labour & respect of subsistence • Qualitative pursuit of happiness • Equity & social justice • Simplicity, ‘enoughness’ (aparigraha) • Respect for all life forms (add your own spices…)
  • 37. Pathways…. • Mass resistance • Stretching limits of system (the state responds!) • Empowering political carriers of new visions …. movements, students, unions, etc • Citizens’ networking, joint actions, collective visioning: Alternatives confluences (Vikalp Sangam)
  • 38. Vikalp Sangams (Alternatives Confluences) Timbaktu, Andhra Pradesh, Oct 2014 Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Feb 2015 Ladakh, J&K, July 2015 Wardha, Maharashtra, October 2015
  • 40. Mutual learning with others …. • Latin American experiments: direct and delegated democracy, worker-led production, community health, land re- appropriation movements • Europe’s degrowth movement • Cuba’s urban agriculture, public R&D • Indigenous peoples’ territorial struggles and notions of well-being (buen vivir, sumak kawsay, ubuntu …) • Many others….
  • 41. An end to globalisation? No! • Global flow of ideas, cultures, materials based on principles of Radical Ecological Democracy NO IMPOSITION OF ONE MODEL ACROSS WORLD!
  • 42. Issues for dialogue…. Would there be a state? What would be its form and role? Would there be a private business sector? Profits? What would be the nature of globalisation and global governance? Who will catalyse the transformation: Civil society? Workers? Political parties?