View with images and charts Political Economy And It Co-Relation With Ecological Crisis Introduction: There is no doubt today that a major dimension of the present multidimensional crisis, which extends to the economic, political, cultural and general social level, is the ecological crisis, namely the crisis which concerns not the relations between social individuals, as the other dimensions of the crisis, but our interaction, as social individuals, with the environment. The upsetting of ecological systems, the widespread pollution, the threat to renewable resources, as well as the running out of non-renewable resources and, in general, the rapid downgrading of the environment and the quality of life have made the ecological implications of economic growth manifestly apparent in the past 30 years. Furthermore, it has now been established beyond any doubt that the ecological crisis and particularly the greenhouse effect ―as well as the consequent climate change― which is the most important manifestation of this crisis, worsens daily. In fact, the recent publication of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finally brought the ecological crisis to the status of universal front-page news. The catastrophic climatic change threatening us all because of the greenhouse effect becomes obvious once we take into account that, even if we take the best-case scenario of a 2.2C rise in temperature this century (while a 4.4C rise is much more likely!), this would mean ―according to the European Commission― that an extra 11,000 people in Europe would die within a decade, and from 2071 onwards there would be 29,000 extra deaths a year in southern Europe alone, on top of 27,000 extra deaths in northern Europe. However, the publication of the IPCC report was also accompanied by an entire mythology in the international mass media on the causes of the deepening ecological crisis and the ways out of it. This mythology is being reproduced, not only by the political and economic elites, but also by reformists in the Left and the Green movement, who declare, "the crisis belongs to all" (governments and civil societies alike). It would, therefore, be well worth examining the main ecological myths, taking for granted the shocking conclusions of the report, which simply confirms ―using indisputable evidence― the worst predictions of the anti-systemic Left and ecologists which, until now, have been dismissed by the elites and the reformists as “scaremongering”! It is, therefore, significant to examine this mythology in order to understand not only the causes of the ecological crisis, but also the ways out of it. Political economy: Political economy originally was the term for studying production, buying and selling and their relations with law, customs and government as well as with the distribution of the national income and wealth, including the budget process. Political economy originated in moral philosophy. It developed in the 18th century as the study of the economics of states, politics hence political economy. The relationships between ‘economics’ and ‘politics’:
Neoclassical response: Economics and politics can and should be separated. A valueneutral, ‘pure’ economics is possible Sustainability economics perspective: Economics is always political economics. It is an illusion that economics can be separated from politics and ideology. Each theoretical perspective in economics is specific not only in scientific but also in ideological terms. Limiting economics to one paradigm, for example the neoclassical one, is contrary to normal ideas of democracy. Since there is a diversity of ideological orientations in society, some part of this diversity should be reflected in research and education at universities. Limiting education to one paradigm at university departments of economics means that these departments acquire a role as political propaganda centres. This is essentially the situation we are facing today. The political economy of environmental change Some, though by no means all, of the policy research referred to above is of the problem solving’ variety. That is, it stops short of inquiring into the deeper reasons, consequences and ethics surrounding current local and global human-environment relationships. Political economists, of course, have always put these deeper issues centre-stage: their concerns, typically, are with both the broad logics of production and the distributive consequences of these logics. Although critical geographers came to environmental issues relatively late (Fitzsimmons, 1989), over the last decade they have produced some sterling work on the political economy of environmental change – especially in the field of agro-foods studies, political ecology and hazards research. Indeed, despite the wider cultural turn in human geography, the environment remains a topic area where political economy has a strong theoretical-political presence. Ecological crisis: The ecological crisis is an expression of the fact that the planetary set of ecological breakdowns and destabilization is growing at a rapidly accelerating and chaotic pace. An “ecological crisis” occurs when the environment changes in a way that destabilizes its continued survival. Causes of ecological crisis: Increase of global motor vehicle population Increase of carbon emission Increase of average global temperature Vanishing of species Degradation of agricultural land Human population has increased from 3.7 billion in 1972 to 7.0 billion in 2011 Increase of oil consumption Increase of natural gas extraction Increase of coal extraction
Disappearance of forest due to indiscriminate, cutting, felling and uses by affluent people Filling up of wetlands by developers, investors and land grabbers Emission of ozone gas (mostly by western world) Releasing of pollutants (mostly by western world) Gap between rich and poor countries Consumption attitude and practice by the well-off people of the developed countries (only one-fourth of world population consume more than two-third resources of world Decline of per capita income of developing countries Increase of poverty in developing countries Over urbanization Indiscriminate migration from rural to urban areas due to lack of income and employment Increase of slums and squatters in developing countries Prevailing of disparities between rich and the poor
Effect of ecological crisis: •
In 1998, environmental refugees fleeing from droughts, floods, deforestation and degraded land totaled 25m, outnumbering those displaced by war for the first time, according to the Red Cross
In Bangladesh, due to Sidr and Aila of 2007 and 2009, thousands of people had to migrate from their houses due to cyclonic devastation and intrusion of salinity
The 1999 world disaster report said that 1998’s ‘natural disasters’ were the worst on record, creating 58% of the world’s refugee
Everyone is aware of the environmental problems of global warming and deforestation on the one hand and the social problems of increasing poverty and growing shanty towns on the other hand
In 1998, environmental problems drove 25m people from their land to vulnerable squatter communities on the edge of first-growing cities
Dr Heiberg predicts that combination of human driven climate change and rapidly changing social and economic reaction of devastation leading to super disaster’
‘El Nino’ caused the worst drought in Indonesia for 50 years, setting off a chain reaction of crisis. The rice crop failed, the price of imported rice quadrupled, the currency dropped by 80% and riots erupted
Tsunami, SIDR and NARGIS have not only devastated the ecology and environment of Asia but also created great havoc on human population, animal population, plants, biotic community and bio-diversity
After all the natural disasters like ‘Catrina’, ‘Rita’ ‘Sidr’ ‘Aila’ ‘Nargis’ have been occurring frequently all over the world at an alarming rate
It may be noted that the recent earthquakes in China, Chile, Haiti, Turkey, Japan have demanded a great havoc including the death of 50000 people and homeless of innumerable people
El Nino is estimated to have cost 21000 lives in 1998, while the China’s Yangtze river contributed to flooding that affected the lives of 180m people
Current trends are putting millions more into the path of potential disaster. One billion people are living in the world’s unplanned shanty towns and 40 of 50 faster growing cities are located in earthquake zone
China had invested more than $3 billion in flood over the past 40 years and estimates it has saved the economy about $13 billion in avoided losses
Relationship between political economy and ecological crisis The nature that is the object and subject of the ecological crisis includes the ecosystem known as the human body. Political economy thus leads to ecological crisis at an alarming rate. Countries employment amenities, consumption, over urbanization of natural resource lead to ecological crisis in Bangladesh. Business, trade, commerce, industry, machinery, technology, urbanization, farming commercial plantation economy infra-structure etc aggravate the ecological crisis. The policy of Bangladesh about natural energy extraction could leads to ecological crisis. Even the Sundarbans, which is considered as a world heritage and the largest mangrove forest of the globe and only remaining habitat of royal Bengal tiger, is being occupied by the exploration activities of oil/gas companies. Ecological degradation resulting from Magurcherra blow-out: The Magurcharra blow-out took place on June 14, 1997, and wreaked havoc on the infrastructure and equipment, the environment and the locality, causing damage to the tune of Tk 4,500 crore, according to the report of the government committee. Ecological degradation resulting from the seismic survey in Lawachara National Park: A few years back US Company Chevron conducted a 3D seismic survey in the Lawachara National Park. The survey of Chevron involves such kinds of experiments which will have long term adverse effects on the sensitive forest. The political economy thus leads to ecological crisis through following way •
Excessive Extraction of natural resources.
Excessive emission of Carbon-di-oxide and other gases.
Excessive consumption behavior.
Excessive emission of greenhouse gases.
Excessive global warming.
At this level malnutrition, unemployment, social alienation, systematic poisoning by chemical discharges and the subtle effects of radioactive fallout and of climate change itself- all increase the likelihood that infections will take hold and become both lethal and pandemic. Two severe incidents of fire occurred in two largest gas fields of Bangladesh. Indiscriminate burning of natural gas which costs multi-million US$. Destruction of forests resources. Human settlement was displaced. Biotic community was threatened to a greater extent. Environment and biodiversity was devastated. Standing crops were destroyed. Generated excessive heat and affected the local atmosphere. The means of human livelihoods were impacted. Communication and transportation system were disrupted. Local people were traumatized and frightened. Ecological crisis in South Asia The nature that is the object and subject of the ecological crisis includes the ecosystem known as the human body. At this level malnutrition, unemployment, social alienation, systematic poisoning by chemical discharges, and the subtle effects of radioactive fallout and of clmate change itself-all increase the likehood that infections will take hold and become both lethal and pandemic Crisis of the oceans
Many species have moved northward, causing the population of pelagic birds to decline by 40% since 1987
About 10% of the world’s corals have died from the warm water, with an additional 20-30 under threat
The water of the oceans has warmed on average about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit during the twentienth century
Studies have shown that the pacific ocean of California yields declining volume of kelp. Production of zooplankton has dropped by 40%
Bacteria and viruses released by sewage have led to a four-fold increase in 160 coral along the coast of Florida. About 25% of people who visit Florida beaches now become ill as a result
Bhopal Disaster I. II.
An eco-catastrophic event occurred on December 1984 by the American union carbide corporation in india 8000 people died on the spot and over 50000-70000 people injured
Ruined the Bhopal city and leach toxic materials into the environment
The psychological damage was enormous
US$ 3 billion equivalent damage occurred but only 470 million was provided
Methyl isocyanate (MICO), and element widely used in the manufacturing of pesticides and herbicides have deadly effects on living organisms
It is highly volatile and inflammable gas Its vapours are denser than air and violently react in the presence of acids, alkali etc Tengratila and Magurchara gas disasters in Bangladesh Two severe incidents of fire occurred in two largest gas fields of Bangladesh Impacts: Indiscriminate burning of natural gas which costs multi-million US$ Destruction of forest resources Human settlement was displaced Biotic community was threatened to a greater extent Environment and biodiversity was devastated Standing crops were destroyed Generated excessive heat and affected the local atmosphere The means of human livelihoods were impacted Communication and transportation systems were disrupted Local people were traumatized and frightened Commoditization of environment through capitalism •
Case study: McDonalization With 26996 outlets in 119 countries offers robust capital penetration in global order Robbed indigenous food culture by introducing ‘fastfood’ culture Devastated the natural environment by introducing ranch culture including pig farming, goat farming, lamb farming, cattle farming in the world system Clowns and children’s games, playgrounds turned into commodities Capital’s invasion take place by destroying both nature and culture
Case study: Wal-Mart The average stocks of Wal-Mart is about 100,000 separate items In 2500 shopping outlets about 100 million people shopper a week All the produced goods and services are eco-destructive but profitable
Ecological crisis will not go away of itself as it is caused by human activity. In order to overcome the ecological crisis, it is necessary to assess the damage of ecosystem. Then the necessary measures should be adopted. Environmental Crisis: Global Warming Issues and Ecological Problems Ecological Problems There are two major crisis situations occurring all around the world currently, and these are the environmental crisis and the economic crisis, and sometimes these two factors may collide. Preventing earth pollution and using alternative energy sources can help to prevent a global warming crisis, and repair some of the ecological problems that mankind has caused the earth. The economic crisis is also contributing to the problem, because all over the world economies are slowing down, and many countries are facing massive amounts of debt trying to help the economy recover. Population growth effects make both the economical crisis and the ecological crisis worse, and steps must be taken immediately to address both of these situations. Global Warming Issues A balance must be reached between the economy and the ecology, because both of these are critical for the future. It does not do any good to have a world that does not face an environmental crisis if the economy is so bad that most of mankind can not survive and starves because of a lack of money and employment opportunities. On the other hand, what good is a world where there is no economic crisis going on if the entire planet is ruined in the process. It is important to try and balance these needs. In the ecological crisis vs the economical crisis equation, there are no winners unless we change the way we look at both problems. While many species have been able to adapt to the new conditions by moving their range further towards the poles, other species are not as fortunate. The option to move is not available for polar bears and for some aquatic life. Biodiversity Extinction Vast numbers of species are being annihilated. Every year between 17,000 and 100,000 species vanish from the planet. The speed in which species are becoming extinct is much faster than in the past. The last mass was caused by a meteor collision 65 million years ago.The loss of new species in an ecosystem will eventually affect all living creatures. In the U.S. and Canada, there was a dramatic reduction of shark population along the U.S. east coast. Since then, there has been an increase in population of rays and skates, which in turn has decimated the population of shellfish. The loss of shellfish has reduced the water quality and the size of sea grass beds. Biodiversity is being lost at a fast rate. The more species there are in an ecosystem, the more resilient it is to evolution. Seven million square kilometers of tropical forest have vanished in the last 50 years. About two million square kilometers were used for crops, while the remaining five million square kilometers is poor quality land. Overpopulation
In the wilderness, the problem of animal overpopulation is solved by predators. Predators tend to look for signs of weakness in their prey, and therefore usually first eat the old or sick animals. This has the side effects of insuring a strong stock among the survivors and controlling the population. Examples of animal overpopulation caused by introduction of a foreign species abound. * In the Argentine, for example, European species such as the trout and the deer were introduced into the local streams and forests, respectively, and quickly became a plague, competing with and sometimes driving away the local species of fish and ruminants. * In Australia, when rabbits were introduced (unwillingly) by European immigrants, they bred out of control and ate the plants that other native animals needed to survive. Farmers hunted the rabbits to reduce their population and prevent the damage the rabbits did to the crops. They also brought cats to guard against rabbits and rats. These cats created another problem, since they became predators of local species. Some common examples of ecological crises are: * The Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989 * Permian-Triassic extinction event 250 million of years ago * Cretaceousâ€“Tertiary extinction event 65 million years ago * Global warming related to the Greenhouse effect. Warming could involve flooding of the Asian deltas, multiplication of extreme weather phenomena and changes in the nature and quantity of the food resources * Ozone layer depletion. * Deforestation and desertification with disappearance of many species. * Volcanic eruptions such as Mount St. Helens and the Tunguska and other impact events * The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 caused the death of many people and animals from cancer, and caused mutations in a large number of animals and people. The area around the plant is now abandoned by humans because of the large amount of radiation generated by the meltdown. Twenty years after the accident, the animals have returned. * Global warming * Over-population * Peak oil The difference between environmentalism and ecology: As eco-anarchists contrast ecology with environmentalism. The difference is important as it suggests both a different analysis of where our ecological problems come from and the best way to solve them. As Bookchin put it: "By 'environmentalism' I propose to designate a mechanistic, instrumental outlook that sees nature as a passive habitat composed of 'objects' such as animals, plants, minerals, and the like that must merely be rendered more serviceable for human use . . . Within this context, very little of a social nature is spared from the environmentalist's vocabulary: cities become 'urban resources' question hierarchy, it simply adjusts itself to the status quo. Thus liberal environmentalism is so "hopelessly ineffectual" because "it takes the present social order for granted" and is mired in "the paralyzing belief that a market society, privately owned property, and the present-day bureaucratic nation-state cannot be changed in any basic sense. Thus, it is the prevailing order that sets the terms of any 'compromise' or 'trade-
off'" and so "the natural world, including oppressed people, always loses something piece by piece, until everything is lost in the end. As long as liberal environmentalism is structured around the social status quo, property rights always prevail over public rights and power always prevails over powerlessness. The relationships between ‘economics’ and ‘politics’: Neoclassical response: Economics and politics can and should be separated. A valueneutral, ‘pure’ economics is possible Sustainability economics perspective: Economics is always political economics. It is an illusion that economics can be separated from politics and ideology. Each theoretical perspective in economics is specific not only in scientific but also in ideological terms. Limiting economics to one paradigm, for example the neoclassical one, is contrary to normal ideas of democracy. Since there is a diversity of ideological orientations in society, some part of this diversity should be reflected in research and education at universities. Limiting education to one paradigm at university departments of economics means that these departments acquire a role as political propaganda centres. This is essentially the situation we are facing today. Ecological distribution and unequal exchange a. Sustainability There is a salience of an unequal ecological exchange methodology for understanding the links between the expansion of global capitalism, environmental degradation and international inequality. We can clearly see the existence of unequal ecological exchange through global ecological footprint data country by country. ‘The global Ecological Footprint—humanity’s consumption of natural resources expressed in land and sea surfaces necessary to renew them—is an average of 2.2 global hectares (5.4 global acres) per person, while the area available to support the global population (6.3 billion) is an average of 1.8 global hectares (4.4 global acres) per person’ (www.globalfootprint.org). On average high-income countries consume an average 6.4 global hectares of biocapacity per person, while low-income countries consume 0.8 hectares per person. The inequality of ecological consumption is striking. The United States consumes 9.7 global hectares per person, while its national bio-capacity is only 4.7 hectares, thus the ecosystemic overshoot of the United States overshoots its bio-capacity by 4.9 hectares per person. Data from 2002 data shows that throughout the world, humanity is overshooting the regenerative capacity of the world’s ecosystem by 0.4 hectares of ecologically productive land per person on the planet. b. Unequal Ecological Exchange Unequal Ecological Exchange is an analytical key to understanding the discrepancybetween the concrete data of global footprints and ecosystemic sustainability results. Thisanalysis draws on the works of the ‘unequal ecological exchange’ school that is seen inBunker and Ciccantel (2005), Hornborg (1998, 2003), Jorgenson (2004), Jorgenson and Rice (2005), Lipke (2004), Martinez-Alier (various including 2002, 2003), Murandian and Martinez-Alier (2001) and Odum (1988). Exactly how is this ‘environmental surplus’ extracted from the periphery? Odum (1988) conceptualized unequal ecological exchange in terms of energy and argued that the North imports
‘embodied energy’ (emergy), or ‘energy memory’ from the South, to explain the unequal exchange of energy between nations (Hornborg 1998: 130). C. Obligatory Unequal Ecological Exchange As poor countries have no alternative but to export their environmental resources at prices dictated by the market, unequal ecological exchange may be better understood as ‘obligatory unequal ecological exchange’. If we consider the factors of a developing country’s structural limitations to autonomous policy decisions, it is clear that these countries are in no position to dictate conditionality’s on the foreign cash inflows, which they receive in exchange for natural resources. “Conditionality” includes fiscally crippling external debt, an internalization of the Washington Consensus doctrine of an export led economy based on factor endowments, and the lack of a military deterrent to foreign imperialism. These countries are in fact ‘locked-in’ to a path of ecological destruction to supply the voracious consumption of the richer segments of the capitalist world economy. A power discourse analysis highlights the importance of bargaining power differentials between economically powerful states and economically disempowered states. c. The mechanism of under-valued exchange We have now established a macro level justification for the consideration of unequal ecological exchange. Joan Martinez-Alier, explains the actual mechanism by which unequal ecological exchange takes: By ecologically unequal exchange we mean, then, the fact of exporting products from poor regions and countries, at prices which do not take into account the local externalities caused by these exports or the exhaustion of natural resources, in exchange for goods and services from richer regions (Martinez-Alier 2002: 214). Unequal can also refer to ‘ecological dumping’, which means—‘selling at prices that do not include compensation for the exhaustion of resources’ (Martinez-Alier 2003: 19). The World Watch Institute, estimates that the amount of gold produced for a single 0.33 ounce, 18 karat gold ring leaves at least 18 tons of mine waste in its wake. (Radhika 2007). d. A Political Economy understanding of Unequal Ecological Exchange Approaching unequal ecological exchange from a political economy perspective, we are drawn to analyze the political and economic power struggles regarding environmental externalities. Therefore, unequal ecological exchange represents a ‘cost shifting success’ for more powerful members of global society. Unequal Ecological Exchange’s marginalisation of ecosystemic value runs parallel to McMurty’s (2002) critique of neoliberal business practice: ‘The unstated but ruling principle of business ‘cost efficiency’ is to externalize all possible costs of for profit commodity cycles onto those who do not profit from them’ (McMurty 2002: 151, his italics). f . The Value of Ecosystems A few recent studies attempted to set a value on the ecosystem. Costanza et al. estimatedfundamental ecosystemic services to have a value of US $33 trillion a year.
(1997: 255).However, mainstream economist critics such as Sagoff (1997) believe this effort to assign prices to ecosystems is inherently flawed because these services cannot be traded in open commerce. Nevertheless, ecosystems do have an inherent value—such as soil formation, nutrient cycling, and water regulation and supply (Constanza et al. 1997: 255). Neoclassical economics provides an insufficient framework for internalising these values, which are essential for sustainable human development. In the current economic framework for the environment, the guidelines for factoring in externalities into prices could be brought about by classifying them as a social marginal cost of production or extraction (Martinez-Alier 2003: 15). g. The Natural Resource Puzzle Unequal ecological exchange draws attention to the political economy relationship between extractive economies and the economies that consume their resources. When Richard Auty (2001) compared per capita incomes of developing countries from1960 to 1990, he found that Resource-poor countries grew at rates two to three times faster than those of the resource-abundant countries and the gap in growth rates widened significantly since the 1970s… Moreover the mineral driven resource-abundant countries have been among the weakest performers (Auty 2001: 3, his italics). h. The Intra-national level of analysis The intra-national level of analysis enhances our understanding of the under-valued ecological exchange involved in natural resource extraction. The environmentally degrading effects of mining for example does not happen in the analytical category of ‘periphery’, i.e. poor country, but in the ‘periphery of the periphery’ as in the marginalized areas of these already poor countries. Ascher (1999) writes that the sites of resource exploitation are often geographically and economically marginal, and inhabited by marginal groups. In these areas, property or user rights tend to be poorly defined or have passed into state control… [Therefore,] the political costs are also low because the losers from poor resource exploitation are often economically marginal people who have little voice to protest the manipulations, as well as future generations who will suffer the loss of resource wealth and healthy ecosystems (Ascher 1999: 22). i An International Perspective Bunker and Ciccantel (2005) explain why peripheral countries apply detrimental resource policies. They believe that securing access to cheap and abundant flows of natural resources is so important for powerful nations that powerful nations’ corporations, policy makers and consultants try to influence resource-rich states’ policies. Competing core states strove to influence economic and political policies of resource-rich nations in ways that allowed them to adapt to and exploit the materiospatial characteristics of the new extractive peripheries at low costs (Bunker and Ciccantel 2005: 56). The Inclusive Democracy approach on the ecological crisis The ID approach sees the causes of the ecological crisis (which is considered as part of a multidimensional crisis), in terms of the present huge and growing concentration of power at all levels that, in turn, is seen as the inevitable outcome of the dynamics of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ and of the related hierarchical
structures. In this sense, the ID approach represents an explicit attempt for a synthesis of the two historical traditions, the classical democratic tradition with the socialist tradition, as well as with the radical currents within the new social movements (feminism, ecological movement, identity movements and so on). The explicit aim of the ID project is the reintegration of society to nature the economy and polity. However, in contrast to the social ecology approach, an Inclusive Democracy is seen not just as an utopia, or as an objectively rational society (in the sense that there are objective trends in nature which involve the objective potentiality for such a society) but as a project, the product of political will, and as a way of transcending the multidimensional crisis. The main institutional changes proposed by ID supporters are: An analysis of the ecological impact of the global trading system a. International trade in historico-materialist perspective Ecologically unequal exchange is essentially a matter of trade and we will review how the current global trading system perpetuates and contributes to inequality driven environmental degradation. Materialist historical analysis reminds us that the global trading system has always been an imperial structure designed to maintain the core’s hegemony in trade Trade-dominant nations create formal regimes of administration and finance that govern relations with their peripheral suppliers—colonization, free trade, rights to foreign investment, autonomous joint ventures, structural adjustment programs, and organizations to monitor world trade and guarantee continued cheap and stable access to adequate and expanding supplies of raw materials (Bunker and Ciccantel 2005: 233). b. The Disembedded Market and the environment A salient way of understanding the trade liberalization process is that of the disembedding’ of the market. Karl Polanyi (1944) eloquently analyzed the rise of the global market economy as an example of the market ‘disembedding’ itself from social and environmental constraints through the rise of the market economy. This separation of market transactions from social and ecological considerations is obviously to going to have unforeseen environmental consequences as market decisions prioritize profit, in terms of maximum financial capital appropriated, rather than concerns about maintaining the functionality of ecosystems. e. Obscuring Ecosystemic Sustainability International trade allows the product of one area to be consumed in another, and advances in international trade allow economically and politically powerful countries to overstep their own ecological limits of resource consumption. This process has facilitated over-consumption patterns, allowing them to be perceived as normal in the North, thanks to mechanisms of unequal ecological exchange. Outsourcing obscures the causal link between the North’s consumption of resources and the South’s environmental degradation. The danger of this approach is that the link between consumption and degradation is forgotten. Environmental degradation remains out of sight and out of mind. c. Ecological Cost-Shifting Muradian and Martinez-Alier (2001) argue that the import of environmentally intensive products is an example of environmental ‘cost-shifting’. The present situation of a world
market disembedded from environmental limitations allows environmental cost shifting to occur on a massive scale. From a business efficiency perspective, factoring out the costs of environmental ‘externalities’ is representative of ‘cost-shifting successes’ through social asymmetries in the distribution of (mostly de facto) property rights, income and power”(Muradian and Martinez-Atlier 2001: 289). d. Southern Property Rights and Trade liberalization Chichilnisky (1994, 852) argued that a lack of property rights in the South gives the illusion that the South has a comparative advantage in the export of resource intensive goods. In reality, however, the South exports environmentally intensive products because control over natural resources is not defined (or not controlled) properly. e. Trade liberalization It is our contention to have a policy reform debate on international trading practices with a pragmatic understanding of social activities impacts on the world’s ecosystems. We find a consensus among economists that increases in trade liberalization leads increases in environmental degradation. A developing country’s natural capital accounts desperately need enforceable property rights alongside government accountability and intervention in the market for ecosustainability. Sustainable development and environmental economics Whereas environmental problems were once commonly believed to be solvable in isolation from social issues, the concept of sustainable development introduced a new quest for reconciling environmental and social concerns with economic growth. The concept of sustainable development was popularised in 1987 by the influential Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). For the first time, a strong link was made between eradicating poverty and achieving environmental sustainability. In the report, it was pointed out that poor people are often forced to destroy their immediate environment in order to survive. This is what MartinezAlier (1990) refers to as the "too poor to be green" perspective. Poverty and pressure of population on resources were consequently pointed to as the main problems related to environmental degradation. Unfortunately, the report did not go so far as to inquire into the political or economic interests which may cause or perpetuate poverty. Nor did it include the fact that many environmental conflicts actually involve poor people defending the environment and their livelihoods against encroaching economic forces (Martinez-Alier 2002). Rather, the view put forward regarded poverty as an "original state of being" and, as such, economic growth was turned to as the main answer to help the poor out of "their" predicament (Bryant 1997: 6). Economic and ecological crises Crises tend to create profound cognitive, strategic, and practical disorientation by disrupting actors’ sedimented views of the world, including their various social imaginaries. They disturb prevailing meta-narratives, theoretical frameworks, policy paradigms, and/or everyday life and create space for proliferation
(variation) in crisis interpretations, drawing on different imaginaries, only some of which get selected as the basis for â€˜imagined recoveriesâ€™ to be translated into economic strategies and policies. Many early accounts disappear in the cacophony of competing interpretations or lack meaningful connections to the salient phenomenal forms of the crisis. Overall, the plausibility of interpretations, strategies, and projects depends on their resonance (and hence their capacity to reinterpret and mobilize) in a semiotic field populated by competing imaginaries and their associated standpoints. Major moments of the current ecological crisis 1. The Destruction of the Land World Because the ecological crises of the land world -the destruction of forests, the spread of deserts, urban sprawl, water pollution and so on- most directly engage so many people, they are by far the most commented upon, analysed and fought over. The materials below represent only a sampling of the vast literature that has been generated by the on-going debates and struggles. A. Deforestation The constant destruction of the world's forests for timber, firewood or land has not only contributed to environmental crises (Global Warming, erosion, flooding) but has generated two kinds of reactions: socio-politico-spiritual responses which call for the preservation of forests both as wilderness and as cultural locales of human life -these have come both from indigenous peoples and from environmental activistsand a technocratic "resources management" approach which calls for increasing the efficiency of exploitation. For a theoretical critique of the latter see the article by Wolfgang Sachs in the section below on the "anti- developmentalists". B. Desertification This aspect of ecological destruction we have already touched upon briefly in the last section (deforestation is a fundamental cause of desertification) and in the food section while looking at the famines of the Sahel and Afghanistan. The problem is an old one, familiar to Americans during the Depression when part of the central plains turned to desert and dust and sent tens of thousands migrating to other parts of the country. The process is an old one and a contemporary one with famous case studies that date from the Middle East, Western Europe and colonial India to the infamous disasters in Soviet attempts to cultivate inappropriate steppe lands -an error comparable to the attempts discussed above to cultivate the ground under tropical rainforests. C. Animal Rights Although integral to many views of ecological crisis, the specific concern with the rights of non-human animals has recently emerged as both an issue and a movement. Partly this movement is an outgrowth of philosophies (such as Hindu beliefs which dictate "vegetarianism", or some versions of "deep ecology" -see below) which rever all forms of life, partly it is simply a reaction against the cruel industrial treatment of animals in
everything from the food, through the fashion, to the cosmetic industries. The perspective of "animal rights" englobes both a celebration of life- form diversity and a revulsion against the thoughtless subordination of non-human life to the endless proliferation of commerical products that feeds mindless consumerism. 2. The Destruction of the Ocean World Remote from most of society's daily activities and phyically vast beyond comprehension, the destruction of the ocean, while perhaps of the greatest long-run consequence for life upon this planet, has been far from uppermost in people's consciousness of ecological threat and break down. Only the destruction of ocean species such as whales or dolphins have caught the imagination and attention of large numbers of people who live away from shore. They find oil, dead animals and medical wastes like syringes strewn upon their beaches. Where they seek to make their living from the sea they have also experienced the destruction, in declining fish catches, oyster crops or seaweed harvests. For many small fishing communities, especially in the Third World, destruction of the ocean, like the encroachment and takeover of fishing territories by big outside companies, is the death of their world, their cultural and the meaning of their lives. Ecological Crises and Energy In the wake of the oil spills from the Exxon tanker Valdez and from tankers ruptured during the Gulf War, the issue of the relation between energy and ecological crisis has been headline news. But then such has been the case for quite some time now. From the publicizing of the dangers of radioactivity done by the anti-nuclear power movement to that of the dangers of the exploitation of the Artic oil reserves, to the preoccupation with the Green-house effect brought on by atmospheric over warming triggered by too much carbon fuel burning and CO2 emissons, such linkages have almost become commonplaces. They have also come to the fore in the wake of the Gulf Crisis because of the Bush White House attempt to use the War to push a National Energy Strategy than includes opening the remaining Alaskan Wilderness to drilling and revitalizing the nuclear power industry -which, as we have seen, has been in a stagnant state since the mid-1970s due to popular opposition. Ecological Crises and Debt Linkages between debt crises and ecological crises have been clear, especially in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, where money has been borrowed and spent in development projects that have brought ecological disaster and inadequate returns to finance debt repayment. They have also been clear in the efforts to speed exports (e.g., of timber) to earn the foreign exchange necessary to repay the debt which in turn have aggrevated the environmental destruction financed by prior borrowing. There have been some efforts by environmental groups to turn this situation to account by buying debt and cancelling it in exchange for wilderness preservation. Conclusion: A political ecological economics approach directly challenges some basic assumptions within conventional theories of economics and development. A thermodynamic understanding of production and consumption challenges the mainstream orthodoxy of economic growth by pointing to the physical limits of all growth, and more profoundly to
the entropic nature of all economic activity. With environmental systems already showing signs of stress, attempts to maintain the existing structure of economic growth can only be expected to deepen the current ecological crisis. As Altvater (1993) argues, ecological limits eventually turn into social limits and finally into barriers to the dominant economic rationality. By considering the net flows of energy and materials between extractive and productive social formations, it becomes evident how specialization in the export of abundant raw materials and primary commodities in the South, as recommended by the theory of comparative advantage, can lead to short-term “illusory” growth, but that such development tends to be unsustainable in the long term. In addition, the theory of ecologically unequal exchange helps explain how Northern advanced industrial countries are able to maintain a high level of production and consumption, while improving their local environmental standards, by shifting environmental costs to the South. From this perspective, reliance on the extraction of primary goods as a basis for development can be concluded to be not only economically unsound, but also socially, politically and ecologically detrimental. The understandings expressed through the theory of ecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt provide fresh insights into the causes of uneven development and new perspectives towards what needs to be done to resolve this imbalance. By focussing on aspects which have largely been neglected in development debates, an approach drawing on ecological economics has the potential to side-step hardening conflicts and access new points of entry into discussions on free trade, economic specialisation and (un)sustainable development. References: Andersson, J. O., and Lindroth, M. 2001. “Ecologically unsustainable trade.” Ecological Economic 37(1), 113–122. Buzzworm (ed) (1992): Earth Journal: Environmental Almanac and Resource Directory, Boulder: Buzzworm Books, 1992.Rich, though incomplete, sourcebook of materials on ecological issues. Costanza, R., J. Cumberland, H. Daly, R. Goodland and R. Norgaard (1997) An Introduction to Ecological Economics, Boca Raton: St. Lucie Press. Hayward, T. (1995) Ecological Thought - An Introduction, Cambridge: Polity Press. Deacon R., and Mueller, B. 2004. “Political Economy of Natural Resource Use” Working Paper 0104. Department of Economics, University of Santa Barbara, California. Accessed August 2006. Fotopoulos, T (2007); The Ecological Crisis as Part of the Present Multi-dimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy; The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, vol.3, no.3 Hornborg, A. (1998) Ecosystems and world systems: accumulation as an ecological process. Journal of World-Systems Research 4:169-177. Jessop, B (2012) Economic and Ecological Crises: Green new deals and no-growth economies; 55(1), 17–24.
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