Stockholm syndrome: What should ‘+50’ be about

The 50th anniversary celebration of the Stockholm conference should be about our common future, not the divisions of the past

Sunita Narain

Down To Earth | June 01, 2022

The Stockholm conference on the human environment marked the initiation of global consciousness on sustainability. It brought the world together to discuss the big issues of growth and environmental management.

This was the time when Rachel Carson, through her seminal book Silent Spring, had told the story of poisoning of nature. It was also the time when the industrialised West was battling against pollution and toxification.

Our colleague Anil Agarwal, who was at the conference in 1972, often recalled how Stockholm’s lakes were so contaminated with chemicals that you could develop a film negative in the water.

This conference was about the fallout of industrialisation and how to cope and mitigate its harmful impacts.

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Environment and war today

Farooque Chowdhury

Countercurrents | June 05, 2022

War environs environment.

War destructs and demolishes life, all forms of environment. It’s war’s powerful approach to contradictions within and with environment surrounding life. Wars including the current Ukraine War bear this signature of destruction of and on environment and ecology. The first victim is life; and, then comes surroundings of life that help sustain life. Activities to secure, nourish and sustain environment are hampered/suspended during war, and in war zones also.

Military activities, preparatory to war including training/drills/exercises, itself is threat to environment and ecology. Military/war expenditure is in direct and hostile contradiction with environment and ecology. The expenditure takes away a lot of resources, which can be allocated for life, steps to nourish and secure environment and ecology. The sphere of destruction of environment and ecology widens as the sphere of war widens. Today’s Ukraine is the witness. Iraq and Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Vietnam are witnesses. Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as witnesses.

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Stockholm+50: Is science for just solutions

If science-policy interfaces are to deliver just and effective solutions to climate change, they must involve indigenous peoples and local communities

Pia M Kohler

Down To Earth | June 04, 2022

When presenting my research on global institutions established to guide policymaking on environmental challenges, my (mostly North American and European) audiences will often wonder at the need to scrutinise these science-policy interfaces. Isn’t the only thing that matters, someone will inevitably ask, is that we have asked the best scientists on the planet to guide us?

This is typically when I draw from Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain’s seminal 1991 piece, ‘Global warming in an unequal world’. Agarwal and Narain called out the environmental colonialism evident in a 1990 report by the US-based World Resources Institute purporting to measure a country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

I invite my interlocutors to consider the distinction Agarwal and Narain draw between “luxury” and “survival” emissions. We then consider what gets erased when we take up the now commonplace unit: the metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) or of CO2 equivalent.

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Stockholm+50: We need decentralisation of ‘power’

Power generation and transmission models that are local and self-sustaining can increase access to energy in the future

Koshy Mathew Cherail

Down To Earth | June 03, 2022

Availability and access to uninterrupted and reliable energy sources is a prerequisite to enable an equitable and just development of communities, nations, and regions at large.

Countries that have clear goals of raising the socio-economic conditions of their population have prioritised access to energy above other development goals.

Construction and operation of power plants, as well as ensuring a steady supply of fuel of consistent quality, is a time-consuming and capital-intensive process.

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50 years since Stockholm conference: The summer lingers

Richard Mahapatra

Down To Earth | May 31, 2022

From June 5 to June 16, 1972, countries across the world shed a bit of their sovereignty. The aim was to create a common governance structure for the planet’s environment and natural resources.

The occasion was the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the first such worldwide convergence on planetary environment, with the theme ‘Only One Earth’.

When the participating 122 countries — 70 of them developing and poor countries — adopted the Stockholm Declaration on June 16, they essentially committed to 26 principles and an action plan that set in a multilateral environmental regime.

One of the overarching principles was that sovereignty should be subject to not causing harm to the environment of other countries as well.

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Metal-lifespan analysis shows scale of waste

Mining metals has a rising environmental cost. But high losses and low recycling rates mean that many last only a short time.

Freda Kreier

Nature | May 26, 2022

Metals can be lost at any stage of their commercial lifespan — including during smelting. Credit: He Huawen/VCG via Getty

Metals might be the foundation of the modern economy, but that doesn’t mean they stick around.

A study looking at the economic lifetimes of 61 commercially used metals finds that more than half have a lifespan of less than 10 years. The research, published on 19 May in Nature Sustainability1, also shows that most of these metals end up being disposed of or lost in large quantities, rather than being recycled or reused.

Billions of tonnes of metal are mined each year, and metal production accounts for around 8% of all global greenhouse-gas emissions. So, recycling more metal could help to lower its environmental impacts, says co-author Christoph Helbig, an industrial ecologist at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

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Economics for people and planet—moving beyond the neoclassical paradigm

Lina Brand-Correa, PhD *, Anna Brook, MPH, Milena Büchs, PhD, Petra Meier, PhD, Yannish Naik, MPH & Daniel W O’Neill, PhD

The Lancet | Open Access | Published: April, 2022 | DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00063-8

Summary

Despite substantial attention within the fields of public and planetary health on developing an economic system that benefits both people’s health and the environment, heterodox economic schools of thought have received little attention within these fields. Ecological economics is a school of thought with particular relevance to public and planetary health. In this article, we discuss implications of key ecological economics ideas for public and planetary health, especially those related to critiques of gross domestic product as a measure of progress and economic growth as the dominant goal for economic and policy decision making. We suggest that ecological economics aligns well with public health goals, including concern for equality and redistribution. Ecological economics offers an opportunity to make the transition to an economic system that is designed to promote human and planetary health from the outset, rather than one where social and environmental externalities must be constantly corrected after the fact. Important ideas from ecological economics include the use of a multidimensional framework to evaluate economic and social performance, the prioritisation of wellbeing and environmental goals in decision making, policy design and evaluation that take complex relationships into account, and the role of provisioning systems (the physical and social systems that link resource use and social outcomes). We discuss possible interventions at the national scale that could promote public health and that align with the prioritisation of social and ecological objectives, including universal basic income or services and sovereign money creation. Overall, we lay the foundations for additional integration of ecological economics principles and pluralist economic thinking into public and planetary health scholarship and practice.

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Good while it lasted – I: 6th mass extinction underway, courtesy humans

Earth is losing species at an unprecedented rate; This marks the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch, a self-aggrandising nomenclature that highlights our disproportionate and irreversible impacts on the surroundings

Richard Mahapatra

Down To Earth | April 11, 2022

This is the first part in a four-part series

My growing-up years on the banks of the Mahanadi — one of the planet’s oldest rivers, flowing for the last 160 million years through the land we now call Odisha — offered more ecological and geological experiences than I would encounter later in life. As I jog my memory, it becomes clear that our lives were marked, in fact, dictated, by ecological indicators.

Every tree, every creature, even the speed and direction of the wind, declared the arrival and departure of something.

When the dragonflies swarmed around in September, we rejoiced at the arrival of the winter festival season. In the post-monsoon season, around every puddle of water, or wetland, they had their merry world. Just before this, when the damselflies flew around our house, it was time for the monsoon.

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Debate: A critique of degrowth

An ecosocialist perspective in the context of a global Green New Deal

David Schwartzman

Climate and Capitalism | January 05, 2022

Ecosocialist responses to “degrowth” analysis and proposals have ranged from full support to total rejection. The author of the following critical commentary is an emeritus professor of biology at Howard University, and co-author of The Earth is Not for Sale (World Scientific, 2019). We encourage respectful responses in the comments, and hope to publish other views in future.

See also: Ecosocialism and degrowth: A reply, by Simon Butler

The positive contributions of the degrowth proponents should be recognized, in particular, their rethinking of economic growth under capitalism, critiquing its measure, the GNP/GDP, as well as pointing to capitalism’s unsustainable use of natural resources, in particular fossil fuels in its production of commodities for profit generation regardless of their impact on the health of people and the environment. Further, they wisely critique eco-modernists who claim that simply substituting the right technology into the present political economy of capitalism will be sufficient to meet human and nature’s needs.

But the degrowth solutions offered are highly flawed and their brand is not likely to be welcomed by the global working class, even as it attracts sections of the professional class.[1] Degrowth proponents commonly fail to unpack the qualitative aspects of economic growth, lumping all in one basket; i.e., sustainable/addressing essential needs of humans and nature versus unsustainable, leaving the majority of humanity in poverty or worse. Degrowthers point to the relatively privileged status of workers in the global North compared to those in the global South as a big part of the problem, instead of recognizing that the transnational working class will not only benefit from growth of sectors that meet its needs in both the global North and South but must be the leading force to defeat fossil capital.[1, 2, 3]

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Environment, human rights and class power

Farooque Chowdhury

MR Online | March 12, 2021

| Earth man | MR Online

Environment is human right, said and resolved a recent UN meet. It’s a reiteration of an already discussed issue–essential to all of the human society. It’s a much important issue to the peoples in countries facing forces ravaging environment; and, ravaging of environment is an act against people as the act denies people’s right to life and existence.

Reiterating and implementing the environment right empowers people, created/widens people’s space for a democratic life, as environment itself is an area for democracy, for people’s participation. There’s no scope for individualism, neither for person nor for capital–irrespective of capital’s power–in the area of environment. The reasons:

[1] No individual or a coterie of individuals create/can create livable environment at no level. Having a livable environment is collective contribution.

[2] No capital or an alliance of capitals create/can create livable environment with its own power. Without labor, capital is lame, useless–incapable of moving a single grain of sand a millimeter.

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