EcoUniv environmental book exhibitions

In August and Septemeber, EcoUniv held two book exhibitions of environmental books: one at an apartment complex and another at the monthly Organic Market in Panchavati, Pashan in Pune.

We were able to share thoughts with citizens about environmental challenges, the environmental movement, prominent environmental thinkers, and of course, the books and their messages.

Book lovers were intrigued by books like:

  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • GMO Myths and Truths, by Claire Robinson, John Fagan, and Michael Antoniou
  • Pregnant with Poison, by Bharat Mansata
  • The Sustainable Lifestyle of the Warlis, by Earthcare
  • Alternative Water Management by Prakash Gole
  • निसर्गायण, वेगळ्या विकासाचे वाटाडे – दिलीप कुलकर्णी

If you’d like to order these and other such environmental and sustainability books, get in touch with us at connect AT ecouniv.in

 

 

‘GDP = Development’: Debunking the myth

by Aniket Motale

Many of us have watched and was impressed by the TED talk of Bhutanese PM on how the country is now ‘Carbon Negative’. It is indeed an adorable step from a tiny little Himalayan country to refuse to go along with the conventional GDP-based idea of development and to develop her own, more-holistic measure – Gross National Happiness. It’s worth pondering upon – what is their motivation to refuse the idea of GDP & embracing GNH. Once we are clear about the vision of  righteous development, our ideas, our understanding of sustainable living on a individual, social and national level is likely to change.

GDP was developed as a war time measure. In the 1930’s, American and British economists developed GDP as a tool to help determine the depth of the Great Depression, and it served the purpose very well. It helped govt to take informed decisions. During World War 2, it was re-purposed to help the Allied powers to out-produce the Axis powers in terms of weapon and armament production. And it served the purpose this time as well. Soon, it became popular in the western world and spread as a measure of development in all First World countries. Today, unfortunately, the idea of GDP has been equated to the development without qualification.

Many new age economists have realised the limitations of GDP as a measure of development, including a few Nobel Laureates like Joseph Stiglitz and Amratya Sen. Some other prominent names who have criticized GDP  includes Herman Daily (Former World Bank economist),  E.F. Schumacher (Author of Small is Beautiful and pioneer alternative economist) , Robert F. Kennedy, former US politician who criticised GDP saying – “It measures everything, except that which makes life worthwhile”. Let’s take a closer look at the arguments against GDP.

*The GDP-based growth model does not differentiate between good and bad economic activity. E.g. GDP can grow even because of increase in road accidents or increase in wars or increase in number of cancer patients. There should not be a second opinion on this, as this cannot be called ‘Development’ by any standard. And these are just a few examples, there could be an exhaustive list of such ‘bad’ or destructive activities which grows GDP. Such growth is termed as ‘Undifferentiated growth’.

*GDP essentially is a materialistic development measure. It considers only the material aspect of human existence. As human beings, we have other dimensions of existence as well, like our intellect, our emotions, our psyche, our spirit/consciousness, our society, our nature. Real development is to evolve and progress on the health, intellectual, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social level and to expand our consciousness. Our purpose is to find our unique gift and give it an outlet through creative expression, to make all existence thrive. Materialistic well being is just a tool to achieve this. But, the GDP growth model makes materialistic well being the sole purpose of human life. It aspires us towards unlimited maximisation of material consumption and possessions & takes us in opposite direction of real development.

*The GDP paradigm expects unlimited, perpetual material growth, and that too, keeping the material economy linear. But we live on a finite planet. In reality, Nature is all about cycles, so a linear economy with infinite growth is practically impossible on a finite planet. We should not be surprised if the present system collapses in future. As the economist Kenneth Boulding said, “Any one who thinks infinite economic growth is possible on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist”. Fortunately, many are realizing this flawed fundamental assumption that the economy can grow infinitely. And some are also considering and talking about a ‘Circular Economy’ these days.

* Environmental & social costs are systematically and conveniently ignored from economic calculations. Conventional economists have a beautiful word to explain this – ‘externalities’! When an automobile manufacturer does not consider the cost of clean air his products are polluting, it’s an externality. When a plastic bag manufacturer does not consider cost of degradation, cost of land-water-air pollution, cost of loss of non-human life, its an externality. When a chemical fertiliser/pesticide manufacturer does not consider the cost of loss of long term soil fertility, loss of human health, loss of lives of non human-beings, its an externality. So on, if we consider all those environmental and social costs , the balance sheets of companies of every industry will show a loss.

* GDP based growth is a cancerous growth. Thinking in terms of systems, if we consider the human being as a basic unit of ‘Earth as one system’ – the hierarchy of systems would look like this: Earth => Countries (or Geographical units) => Societies/human communities => Human. In nature, every sub-system works for the advancement and evolution of its supersystem. Meaning, if any system grows or develops, the supersystem also grows. E.g. if a plant grows, the forest expands. If the development is abnormal, it’s then a cancerous growth and no more a symbiosis, it either kills the supersystem or the supersystem kills it. In the GDP growth model, since environmental and social costs are externalised, human individuals actually prosper at the cost of society and environment. e.g. Doctors, pharma companies earn more if more people are sick, if there is more pollution of water or air. It’s the same with the planet, our industries keep growing while the planet itself is dying.

* There are no subtractions of losses in GDP calculations – e.g. – In case of any natural calamity, if we have an infrastructural loss, this is a loss for the country and should be considered in the GDP calculations. But it’s not. Or if a local municipality destroys a road in good condition in the name of ‘repair work’ or ‘up-gradation to cement road’, it should be a infrastructural loss, but this is also not considered in GDP calculation. To put it in the language of commerce, on the balance sheet or profit/loss account of GDP, the debit side is always empty, everything is just credited. It should be called an ‘imbalance sheet’, rather !

* What’s worse, all of this is done deliberately. Yes, the use of ‘Gross’ Value is emphasised and made a norm, only to hide Net Value. Subtraction of all the expenses/losses from the gross production, gets us the ‘Net production value’, Yes you guessed it right – which could even turn out to be negative. Such a calculation would indeed reveal the actual face of the Development paradigm, and could prove that its really destruction and not ‘development’.

* Many better indices have been developed by different new age economists and scholars – Net national welfare (eliminates the debit problem in GDP), Quality of Life, Country Future Indicators, Basics Human Needs Index, Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare, Human-Development Index, Social Performance Index, Gross National Happiness, Better Life Index and so on. GNH addresses most of the issues mentioned above and is one of the best choices till date.

Cuba, Bhutan and many villages communities with world-wide with a rich natural heritage are trying to tell us something – Prosperity without economic growth is possible, and the first step towards such prosperity is to give up one ‘sacred’ rule – “Growth is imperative and economy must grow at any cost”. It’s time we stopped worshiping the false god of ‘Development’!

EcoUniv session on Sustainability at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth

EcoUniv delivered a special lecture on sustainability to college students and faculty from various disciplines at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, a renowned University in Pune, on August 28, 2017.

Aniket’s talk was about the threat to our natural ecosystems like rivers and lakes due to discharge of toxic chemicals, the chemicals that are a part of products in our daily use, and the negative impact these chemicals have on our health and the environment.

Yogesh introduced the students to concepts like carbon footprint, ecological footprint, land use change, bio-environmental limits, sustainability and the various facets of sustainablity.

We also announced our mentoring program for students interested in green careers and green entrepreneurship. If you are a student and are interested in this, email us at connect AT ecouniv.in

EcoUniv session on Toxin free lifestyle at Niramaya Yoga Chikitsa Kendra, Pune

Aniket Motale conducted an introductory session on Toxin Free Lifestyle at the renowned Yoga institute, Niramaya Yoga Chikitsa Kendra in Pune on August 27, 2017.

Aniket talked about the threat to our natural ecosystems like rivers and lakes due to discharge of toxic chemicals, the chemicals that are a part of products in our daily use, and the negative impact these chemicals have on our health and the environment. He also presented natural alternatives for several such consumer products.

Book Review: “dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations” by David Montgomery

by Yogesh Pathak

We know Darwin for his work on evolution. But he also spent a significant amount of time analyzing the soil in his fields, the role of worms in the recycling of soil, and estimating how much soil formed in the British countryside every year. “dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations”, written by geomorphologist David Montgomery, starts by noting Darwin’s intriguing observations on soil. The book highlights the central role occupied by soil in the sustenance of human cultures.

The study of soil is the study of geology, rainfall and climate, agriculture, irrigation, and human land use. The author describes the role played by soil in the growth and decay of ancient cultures like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Rome, Mayans, and China. He observes that most cultures have lived harvest-to-harvest with little hedge against crop failure. Our population expanded or got squeezed in tandem with agricultural surpluses.

During the colonial era, Europeans outsourced food production as they built industrial economies. The author describes the interesting history of tobacco farming in USA and how the soil was getting degraded fast. Edmund Ruffin’s practices to improve soil fertility saved American agriculture. The book mentions the interesting history of guano as a soil nutrient and competition among nations for this strategic resource. In India, we know the role played by hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides in improving yields (the “green revolution”) while we dealt with an exploding population. There is a pattern here: When faced with the crisis of unproductive soil, nations look for short-term solutions based on resource grab or technology.

But in the end, we continue to be vulnerable to the gradually accumulating effects of soil degradation. Organic farming is making a comeback as a response to this. Soil needs to be seen as an “ecological system where microbes provide a living bridge from soil humus to living plants”. Urban farming also needs to be encouraged.

The book makes an interesting read for anyone looking for a deeper dive in the history of soil and agriculture.

(This review was originally published in the Newsletter of the Ecological Society)

Book Review: Feeding Frenzy

by Yogesh Pathak

As we know, the environmental crisis is a multi-faceted monster. Chief among these is the food crisis, which has come to the center stage in the last 10 years. Its many aspects include the sheer quantity of food needed to feed the growing global population, malnutrition, unequal distribution of resources, changing land use, toxic-laden food due to fertilizers, pesticides, and preservatives, GM food, persistent rise in food prices (partly due to biofuels), falling yields, and the decline in the quality of soil.

‘Feeding Frenzy’ by Paul McMahon is among the first “post crisis” books on the topic. Published in 2013 by Profile Books, it traces the history of the global food system and dissects the causes of the current turmoil. The author raises key questions like: Can we feed a population of 9 billion by 2050? Do we have enough land and water? Will free markets really help in solving the problem?

Governments and industry are reacting by banning food exports, controlling supply chains, and buying large farmland in African countries for contract farming. Many of these are knee-jerk reactions. Poor countries will be the ones to suffer most as their dependence on imports will increase. e.g. A “nightmare scenario” similar to 1840s Ireland could be waiting for Africa.

The final chapter, ‘Better Ways to Feed the World’, lists solutions coming out of the author’s analysis: Helping smaller farmers and poor countries to grow more food (self-sufficiency), putting ecology at the center of food production, making financial markets solve rather than aggravate the problem of food pricing and availability, adapting to higher food prices (here the author presents good contrarian thinking), and accepting biofuels as a norm and regulating that industry. This last solution is something that does not make complete sense to us if we adhere to the holistic perspective for sustainability. We believe the world needs to reduce its aggregate consumption of energy. Precious land and water should be used to grow food and restore ecosystems, not for biofuel crops.

The book has a global perspective and offers insightful country-specific examples. It is an engaging read for anyone interested in the topic.

(This review was earlier published in the Newsletter of the Ecological Society, Pune)

Welcome to EcoUniv

EcoUniv welcomes you it’s blog and website.

Here we will post updates about:

  • Upoming events by EcoUniv (e.g. lectures. workshops, book sales)
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  • Book reviews of books about environment and sustainability
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