DeGrowth & Conservation:
Lessons from Pre-Industrial Societies
Debal Deb
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies
Kolkata, Ind...
Humans began migrating across the Beringia land bridge
ca. 12500 YBP.
Humans did not manufacture advanced
spearheads until...
Ancient Hunters experienced
incidents of RESOURCE CRUNCH
resulting from
imprudent resource use modes
until ca. 8,000 YBP
E...
Pre­Industrial Societies 
* Remember Consequences of 
Their Resource Use Modes
* Learn from Past Mistakes
* Design Cultura...
• Hunting Ethics
e.g. Specific Life History Stages
• Closed Seasons (for hunting/fishing)
• Ritual Domestication
• Cultura...
The Indigenous Worldview
recognizes (in symbolic and
metaphoric terms)
* the Intrinsic Value of Many
Species, regardless o...
Totem and Tabu
Sacred Species
Sacred Habitats –
as Groves, Ponds, Rivers, Hills and Landscapes
were Once Widespread on All Inhabited Continents
Vestiges...
Sacred Habitat - An Element of the Cultural Landscape
Ventilago sp, A Rare Liana in a Sacred Grove, W. Bengal
Casearia varica, a Rare Tree from a Sacred Grove in Bengal
Turtles in Baneswar Sacred Pond, Cooch Behar
Sacred Heronry
When “scientific” forestry takes over...
Industrial Societies Have
No Community Memory.
Therefore, They Allow No Restraint
A Centralized Information Industry 
enta...
Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, Study
Says
National Geographic News
May 15, 2003
Only 10 percent of all large ...
Community Memory is Essential
to ensure
(a) Restraint over Resource Use
(b) Intergenerational Equity
Hence, the Community ...
Eppur si Muove…
Despite the Advent of Modernity,
• Communities continue to exist
• Customary management systems
• persist
...
Biophilia in Practice
Rescuing a Bat
Recognition of Intrinsic Value of Nature
Conservation for Future Generations
Hunting Ethics Seasonal Restrictions
Sacred S...
Recognition of Intrinsic Value of Nature
Obviates
DISCOUNTING of Natural Resources
in all Pre-Industrial Societies
Discoun...
If we take a discount rate of five
percent, then the cost to society of a
$100,000,000 cleanup in 250 years'
time (at toda...
Zero Rate ofZero Rate of
Interest /DiscountingInterest /Discounting
Entails ConservationEntails Conservation
Price = Rent ...
‘What matters is not how much they have
but how much more they have than others’
– Barry Schwartz 1986. The Battle for Hum...
Signs of Prosperity?
Bhopal:
Genocide
for
Development
Global Carbon dioxide Levels (800 - 2000AD)
Another Form of Civilization: 
Existing and ALIVE !
A Civilization in which
• The individual’s right to deprive others
of ...
100
80
60
40
20
0
▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬
Time →
De-growth
phase
No-growth phase
Tenets of Eco-Socialist Society
1. Zero Rates of Profit and Interest
Natural objects will be conserved for future
generati...
Tenets of Eco-Socialist Society
3. Cooperative individualism
Encourage rational cooperation among
individuals to align wit...
Civic
Democracy
Communitarian
Ethos
Biophilia &
Ecocentric Ethos
Eco-Socialist
Ethics
“The defects of formal parliamentary democracy
result from the delegation of power. To make
democracy effective, power mus...
Villagers United to Protect their Sacred Groves
Power to the Community
Lessons from Pre-Industrial Societies
Lessons from Pre-Industrial Societies
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Lessons from Pre-Industrial Societies

  1. 1. DeGrowth & Conservation: Lessons from Pre-Industrial Societies Debal Deb Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies Kolkata, India www.cintdis.org
  2. 2. Humans began migrating across the Beringia land bridge ca. 12500 YBP. Humans did not manufacture advanced spearheads until 13000 YBP. Cave bear and Woolly mammoth declined 14800 YBP. Bison populations crashed 37000 YBP. “It's unlikely that a few thousand humans running around thecontinent with pointed sticks in hand could eliminate more than 130 big mammals in less than 400 years.”
  3. 3. Ancient Hunters experienced incidents of RESOURCE CRUNCH resulting from imprudent resource use modes until ca. 8,000 YBP Ever Since 8000 YBP,  No Extinction Event Recorded  Until the Advent of Modernity.
  4. 4. Pre­Industrial Societies  * Remember Consequences of  Their Resource Use Modes * Learn from Past Mistakes * Design Cultural Restraints on    Individuals Community Memory is contained in Folk tales, Mythologies, Proverbs, Omens & Auguries in Pre-Industrial Cultures.
  5. 5. • Hunting Ethics e.g. Specific Life History Stages • Closed Seasons (for hunting/fishing) • Ritual Domestication • Cultural Restraints on Harvest e.g. Customary Quotas of Harvest Customary Protection of Useful Species
  6. 6. The Indigenous Worldview recognizes (in symbolic and metaphoric terms) * the Intrinsic Value of Many Species, regardless of Their “Utility” * the Future Potnetial Value of Many Species that are Currently of “No Use”
  7. 7. Totem and Tabu
  8. 8. Sacred Species
  9. 9. Sacred Habitats – as Groves, Ponds, Rivers, Hills and Landscapes were Once Widespread on All Inhabited Continents Vestiges of Sacred Groves – in Europe Sacred Groves and Landscapes – in Asia, Africa, North America and South America Sacred Landscapes – in Australia.
  10. 10. Sacred Habitat - An Element of the Cultural Landscape
  11. 11. Ventilago sp, A Rare Liana in a Sacred Grove, W. Bengal
  12. 12. Casearia varica, a Rare Tree from a Sacred Grove in Bengal
  13. 13. Turtles in Baneswar Sacred Pond, Cooch Behar
  14. 14. Sacred Heronry
  15. 15. When “scientific” forestry takes over...
  16. 16. Industrial Societies Have No Community Memory. Therefore, They Allow No Restraint A Centralized Information Industry  entails:  * Generation of Selective Information * Selective Information Dissemination * Selective Public Attention to Events
  17. 17. Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, Study Says National Geographic News May 15, 2003 Only 10 percent of all large fish—both open ocean species including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder—are left in the sea, according to research published in today's issue of the scientific journal Nature. "From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left," said lead author Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada. "Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10 percent—not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles.” Ref: R. A. Myers & B. Worm 2003. “Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish” Nature 423: 280-3. “Rational” Harvest for Individual Profit Leads to Exhaustion
  18. 18. Community Memory is Essential to ensure (a) Restraint over Resource Use (b) Intergenerational Equity Hence, the Community is Anathema to (a) Private Profit (b) Industrial Growth
  19. 19. Eppur si Muove… Despite the Advent of Modernity, • Communities continue to exist • Customary management systems • persist • Biophilia remains alive …. in remote villages of South Asia
  20. 20. Biophilia in Practice
  21. 21. Rescuing a Bat
  22. 22. Recognition of Intrinsic Value of Nature Conservation for Future Generations Hunting Ethics Seasonal Restrictions Sacred Species Sacred Groves Myths & Totems Omens & Auguries
  23. 23. Recognition of Intrinsic Value of Nature Obviates DISCOUNTING of Natural Resources in all Pre-Industrial Societies Discounting is a Tool of Neo-Classical Economics to Boost Growth of Capital
  24. 24. If we take a discount rate of five percent, then the cost to society of a $100,000,000 cleanup in 250 years' time (at today's value) is just $270. At an eight percent discount rate, the cost drops to just nine cents! Through discounting, then, future environmental problems of immense size can be made simply to fade away. – Mario Petrucci 2002. “Sustainability – long view or long word?” Social Justice 29: 106. The Spurious Arithmetic of Discounting
  25. 25. Zero Rate ofZero Rate of Interest /DiscountingInterest /Discounting Entails ConservationEntails Conservation Price = Rent ÷ Interest rate With interest rate → 0, price → ∞  Nobody can buy [the right to destory] any ecosystem.
  26. 26. ‘What matters is not how much they have but how much more they have than others’ – Barry Schwartz 1986. The Battle for Human Nature. Norton. New York, p. 165. * The difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ is never transcended. * The perception of want is governed by the desire to attain material well-being relative to all others. * The horizon of want perpetually recedes with techno-industrial progress. The Red Queen Race for Happines
  27. 27. Signs of Prosperity?
  28. 28. Bhopal: Genocide for Development
  29. 29. Global Carbon dioxide Levels (800 - 2000AD)
  30. 30. Another Form of Civilization:  Existing and ALIVE ! A Civilization in which • The individual’s right to deprive others of Nature’s services is abrogated; • The intergenerational right of all community members is upheld; • Natural “resources” cannot be price- tagged; • “Enoughness” prevails over “Moreness”.
  31. 31. 100 80 60 40 20 0 ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ Time → De-growth phase No-growth phase
  32. 32. Tenets of Eco-Socialist Society 1. Zero Rates of Profit and Interest Natural objects will be conserved for future generations; will preclude accumulation and wealth inequity. 2. Civic democracy Participation of all members of society; accountability for all actions that affects the rights of community; access to information and choice for all; consideration of rights of all members, including future generations.
  33. 33. Tenets of Eco-Socialist Society 3. Cooperative individualism Encourage rational cooperation among individuals to align with civic democracy; foster growth of personal knowledge, enhance individual creativity and facilitate dialogue between the individual and the community. 4. Inclusive Freedom Truncate certain exclusive individual freedoms and ensure inclusive freedom of the whole community and intergenerational social and environmental justice.
  34. 34. Civic Democracy Communitarian Ethos Biophilia & Ecocentric Ethos Eco-Socialist Ethics
  35. 35. “The defects of formal parliamentary democracy result from the delegation of power. To make democracy effective, power must always be vested in the people, and there must be ways and means for the people to wield the sovereign power effectively, not periodically, but from day to day. “Economic democracy is no more possible in the absence of political democracy than the latter is in the absence of the former.” M N Roy (1954)
  36. 36. Villagers United to Protect their Sacred Groves
  37. 37. Power to the Community

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