Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, 28-29 March 2015

A one and a half day workshop titled Ecological Resources Conservation, Environmental Protection and Equity Movements will be held on 2829 March as part of the XXXVIII Indian Social Science Congress to be held in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam between 29 March and 2 April 2015. The focal theme of the congress is Knowledge systems, scientific temper and the Indian people.

The object of this workshop is to explore the possibility of finding common ground for the three types of people’s movements to dialogue and work together and to understand the practical linkages between local issues on which movements take place and their global causes.

The workshop is largely for activists from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and will be conducted in Telugu. The activists should have participated in struggles against inequality or destructive development projects, or participated in conservation movements. Interested activists from other states may attend. The organizers will assist them to have whisper translation done.

Since the time they were hunter-gatherers, humans have used natural resources (wood, ores, soil, energy), to produce goods and services and discarded wastes (air, water and solid wastes, waste heat) back to earth. There is a direct interface with nature at the two ends of the production system, i.e., the extraction of natural resources and the dumping of wastes. 

Other species too use natural resources (caves, water, fruit) and dump wastes (biological matter), but they do not produce goods or services. They use nature only to the extent that they need it for survival and reproduction. Humans developed the ability to create knowledge of energy conversion and therefore have extracted ever increasing amounts of energy and natural resources from nature and dumped increasing amounts of wastes. Humans today have overused nature. They have appropriated 25% of the solar energy (the equivalent of 2,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs) that nature used to receive prior to the advent of agriculture. The wastes that humans are generating have resulted in significant local (water pollution), regional (deforestation, desertification) and global environmental impacts (global warming).

The process of converting raw materials into goods and services, i.e., the economy, has developed into a system that distributes goods and services inequitably. A small class of haves appropriates the lion’s share of products and services produced whereas the vast majority of have-nots get an unduly small share while actually toiling the most. Such a class system is common to slavery, feudalism and capitalism wherein the haves (slave and feudal lords, capitalists) are bestowed with ownership rights over nature and the production systems that are created to convert raw materials into finished products. The haves have appropriated a large fraction of the share of energy and natural resources that humans use.

Peak oil (oil production maxing after which declining) is happening now, and it represents the diminishing availability of all non-renewable natural resources. Peak oil and global warming are tipping points that human society faces today. Both of them independently have the potential to cause global civilizational regress or even collapse.

The ideology of anthropocentrism has sanctified humans stealing energy from nature and the ideology of private ownership of nature and production systems has justified a small class of haves distributing goods and services inequitably. The have-nots have fought against inequality for the last 5,000 years ever since the time of slavery. But it is in capitalism that this fight has taken the form of anti-colonial and class, struggles, and conflicts to establish equality amongst people of different regions, gender, caste, races, colour, sexual orientation, etc.

The issues of natural resource depletion and environmental degradation are recent. People’s movements to conserve natural resources have taken a diverse forms—forest and wildlife conservation (Chipko, Save the Western Ghats), organic farming, rainwater harvesting, etc. People’s movements to protect the environment (Kudamkulam, Sompeta, Udupi, Posco, Niyamgiri) essentially have said that they do not want their lives and livelihoods to be affected by development projects.

All three types of struggles have largely been fought at local level, except when they have been fought at regional or national levels, e.g., anti-colonial and class struggles. And even though fight for equality, natural resource conservation and environmental protection have the same roots, i.e., the fight against class society and anthropocentrism, they have rarely found common issues and platforms to fight together.

Session 1, Local struggles, 3 hrs—will be devoted a free flow description of activists’ experience in movements. An attempt will be made to draw common threads from their experiences, e.g., what were the major obstacles the movement faced, who were the movement’s friends, what was the bonding between people in the movement, what were the cause of their successes and failures, was any attempt made to link the issues of the struggle to larger issues, etc. There will be one formal presentation of half hour to introduce the workshop theme, followed by brief presentations of representatives of various movements followed by discussion.

Sagar Dhara, Predator—Historical developments and people’s movements (30 min)

Session 2, Global tipping and tilting points, 3 hrs— will explore the historical roots and of four global issues—social, economic and political inequality, peak oil,. There will be four formal presentations of half hour each followed by a one hour discussion.

V Janardan, Faculty, Hyderabad University—Types of equity movements in history (30 min)
Mansoor Khan, Author, The Third Curve—Peak oil (30 min)
K Shailender, Reserch scholar, BITS, Hyderabad—Limits to growth (30 min)
K Babu Rao, Retired scientist, IICT—Environmental degradation (30 min)

Session 3—Need for links and working platforms, 3 hrs: a) Between local struggles and global issues, b) Between the three types of struggles—equality, resource conservation, environmental protection. There will be two formal presentations of half hour, followed by a one hour of discussion and one hour to work out possible common ground for the three types of struggles to work together.

N S P Prasad, Climate activist, IYCN—Global warming (30 min)
Esther Subhashini, Coordinator, M V Foundation—Local and global movements (30 min)
Kishan Rao, Farmer, anti-nuke activist—Can the Ecological resource conservation, environmental protection and equity movements converge? (30 min)

(Note: The last two speakers in this session are still to confirm)

This workshop is unfunded, except personal donations from the organizers and well-wishers. Participants will have to bear their travel to Visakhapatnan. Arrangements will be made for a simple stay for one night in Visakhapatnam and three meals (1 lunch, 1 breakfast and 1 dinner). Any donation from participants to fund their stay and meals will be welcome. If any participant is in a position to send the Indian Social Science Congress a delegate fee of Rs 4,000 and an abstract before the congress, he/she can become a congress delegate and can avail of accommodation, meals and handouts that the congress will provide. The delegate fee (Rs 4,000) along with travel reimbursement will be made to the participant. Further information will be provided to registered participants. If you wish to become a delegate of the Congress, you may send your cheque for Rs 4,000 in the name of ‘Indian Social Science Academy’ along with the attached registration form directly to Dr N P Choubey. Please copy the registration form to us.