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Development, inequality and climate change


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This paper argues that, despite considerable rhetoric to the contrary, privileged populations have long undermined “development”, in several ways and scales. The degree of this erosion of development has arguably increased in recent decades, although there are countering trends, especially the spread and declining cost of communication technologies including mobile phones, the internet and more recently social media.

Aid from high to low-income countries, in an attempt to reduce international inequality, has become unfashionable, and many attempts to increase fairness have instead been denigrated, with language such as the “politics of envy”.

Arguments that it is in the rational self-interest of societies and indeed of the whole world to become more equal have also had little effect, despite phenomena such as the September 11 attacks and the rise of the Islamic State, which now attracts violent idealists from many countries. Instead, high-income populations favour attempts to suppress dissidents and practice increasingly intensive and pervasive surveillance.

Finally, this paper argues that anthropogenic climate change is a manifestation of global inequality, which, unless addressed, is likely to not only make other forms of inequality worse, but even to threaten the fabric of global civilization, in combination with other stresses that reflect aspects of “planetary overload”.


Butler C.D. (forthcoming) Revised method makes the MDG hunger reduction goal within reach Global Food Security

Butler C.D., editor. 2014, Climate Change and Global Health. CABI, Wallingford, UK

Campbell, M., Cleland, J., Ezeh, A. and Prata, N., 2007. Return of the population growth factor. Science 315, 1501-1502.

Kelley, A.C., 2001. The population debate in historical perspective : revisionism revised. In: N. Birdsall, A.C. Kelley and S.W. Sinding (eds.), Population Matters : Demographic Change, Economic Growth, and Poverty in the Developing World. Oxford University Press, Oxford ; New York, pp. 24-54.

McMichael, A.J. 1993, Planetary Overload, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK

Freire, P. 2006, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary edition, Continuum, New York, USA.

Published in: Health & Medicine
  • This slide show opens with a powerful quote, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless is to side with powerful, not to be neutral.” - - For me an especially telling slide was the one showing the amount of stunting in various parts of Africa in children under five years old – a function of poverty. Colin goes on to show how massively inequality has grown since the 1970s under ‘neo-liberalism’. The World Bank forecasts that climate change will lead to major food shortages. If we are truly human, we will care. - - But how should we act? Together we need to massively wake up, think things through, and change the system. Inspiring Transition offers tools to communicate about healthy systemic change with people in your network who may not have thought deeply about these issues ( Each of us can act as an independent thought catalyst contributing to the consciousness shift necessary to accelerate the Great Transition to a life-sustaining future. I encourage you to do so.
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Development, inequality and climate change

  1. 1. CRICOS #00212K Development, inequality & climate change Professor Colin Butler
  2. 2. CRICOS #00212K Research and education for rural development and food security to build resilient rural environments: Australian and Indian perspectives Organised by: Australia India Council, Pradan Ambedkar University Delhi, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Charles Sturt University, University of Western Sydney
  3. 3. CRICOS #00212K Outline Paulo Friere: determinants of development Inequality Climate change as a case study of global inequality What we might do
  4. 4. CRICOS #00212K The Pedagogy of the Oppressed ideas nutrition education community
  5. 5. CRICOS #00212K .. Rajesh Boudh, who converted .. to Buddhism 16 years ago .. told me, “I no longer think the way that I used to.” .. when I became a Buddhist, I realized that I was human. When I still believed in Hinduism, I didn’t know I was human. I thought I was polluted, untouchable.”
  6. 6. CRICOS #00212K
  7. 7. CRICOS #00212K Prevalence of stunting in under 5 year olds Black et al, Lancet 2008
  8. 8. CRICOS #00212K Inequality and “neoliberalism”
  9. 9. CRICOS #00212K “Washington Consensus” (neo-liberalism, Reaganomics, Modinomics) Reduce subsidies Cut marginal tax rates Deregulation – reduce protection Reduced role for the state
  10. 10. CRICOS #00212K
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  13. 13. CRICOS #00212K “trickle down” does not work
  14. 14. CRICOS #00212K
  15. 15. CRICOS #00212K Share of income received by top 1% (UNCTAD, 2012) Pearson Commission on ODA “Health for all by 2000”
  16. 16. CRICOS #00212K Ascendancy of neoliberalism Share of income received by top 1% (UNCTAD, 2012)
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  18. 18. CRICOS #00212K Inequality – essential – but thresholds exist Envy, risk of “blowback” not main problem -matters even if living standards of poor rise slightly matters if/when elites lose touch with the poor and rig society so that “public goods” erode (eg public health, development, climate system, biodiversity, eventually global law and order)
  19. 19. CRICOS #00212K Some ways the powerful “rig” (shape) the system, harming public goods* 1. Own, control, influence media* 2. Excessive influence on policy* 3. Ignore big tax evaders 4. Encourage social norms blaming poor 5. Cut foreign aid * 6. Promote loyal academics * 7. Ignore, imprison, murder dissidents* * (not just neoliberalism)
  20. 20. CRICOS #00212K Global inequality Inequality, in one boat Danger of sinking Hypocrisy, loss of connection with poor
  21. 21. CRICOS #00212K Climate change as a case study of global inequality
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  24. 24. CRICOS #00212K Australian Prime Minister John Howard (2013): quoted as "compelling" one of Mr Lawson's claims .. that unmitigated warming would leave future generations 8.4 times better off, compared with 9.4 times richer in the absence of climate change In other words – nothing to worry about
  25. 25. CRICOS #00212K Greenpeace India faces expulsion .. 30 days to show why it should not be deregistered for "anti-development" activities.
  26. 26. CRICOS #00212K
  27. 27. CRICOS #00212KPNAS - 2015
  28. 28. CRICOS #00212K Damascus, 2014. Line for food aid from UN Relief and Works Agency in a great city - large parts of which have been destroyed by civil war, along with basic food supply infrastructure
  29. 29. CRICOS #00212K What we can do 1. Data necessary – not sufficient 2. Form coalitions – among colleagues, with other disciplines and with other groups 3. Strive to challenge neoliberalism and magical thinking 4. Keep optimistic but not complacent