A Third World Perspective

“Peasants, indigenous peoples, and artisans who live outside the industrialised globalised economy, who have caused no harm to the earth or other people, are the worst victims of climate chaos. Over 96 percent of disaster-related deaths in recent years have taken place in developing countries.”

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned Indian physicist, environmentalist and activist. The following quotes highlight her support for the need to change the priorities of global development systems:

India’s 9 percent growth is based on pushing small farmers to suicide; uprooting tribals for mines, factories, and Special Economic Zones; and damming every inch of every river. If measured in terms of nature’s economy and people’s economy, this growth would register destruction.

From the perspective of the planet and the poor, we need to make a paradigm shift from consumptive energy to productive and regenerate energy, from labour-displacing energy to livelihood-generating energy. In other words, the energy transition that the poor need increases the possibilities for meaningful work and decreases the use of fossil fuels. A transition that brings people back into the sustenance economy helps the poor by increasing their security of livelihood and putting more resources back in their hands and helps the planet by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Noble Peace Prize laureate and founder of The Green Belt Movement, calls for action within developing countries:

Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions are negligible compared to those of the industrialised world and the emerging economic giants of China and India. But our responsibility to act should not be equally small. It is we who will pay the price for our inaction. Many of us already are, and the predictions of what is in store are sobering.

Many others and I are challenging the leaders and citizens of industrialised nations, and in fact all nations, to move beyond fossil fuels, to reduce their energy consumption, and to adopt policies so that individuals can live more responsibly on the planet.

…protecting the environment is not just a pleasure but also a duty.

Rishard Bathiudeen, former Minister of Disaster Management in Sri Lanka, outlines the need for climate change adaptation strategies:

We are now being warned by scientists that climate change is not only real but Sri Lanka needs to be well prepared. We do not want to wait till the people become climate refugees as is happening in other parts of the world.

Arundhati Roy, Indian novelist and winner of the Booker Prize in 1997 writes politically informative books and supports action, debate and challenges to take place through different channels:

Tens of millions of people have been dispossessed and displaced from their land by floods, droughts and desertification caused by indiscriminate environmental engineering and massive infrastructural projects, dams, mines and Special Economic Zones. All of them developed in the name of the poor, but really meant to service the rising demands of the new aristocracy.

I worry that I am allowing myself to be railroaded into offering prosaic, factual precision when maybe what we need is a feral howl, or the transformative power and real precision of poetry. Something about the cunning, Brahmanical, intricate, bureaucratic, file-bound, ‘apply-through-proper-channels’ nature of governance and subjugation in India seems to have made a clerk out of me. My only excuse is to say that it takes odd tools to uncover the maze of subterfuge and hypocrisy that cloaks the callousness and the cold, calculated violence of the world’s favourite new Superpower. Repression ‘through proper channels’ sometimes engenders resistance ‘through proper channels’. As resistance goes this isn’t enough, I know. But for now, it’s all I have.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation promotes the message that micro-gardening and other forms of urban horticulture can boost city dwellers’ food security and improve living conditions. Neveen Metwally, a researcher at the Central Laboratory for Agriculture Climate in Cairo, Egypt, highlights the importance of practical urban solutions and relating scientific data to the ordinary activities of the general public:

In Egypt the numerous benefits of rooftop gardens are well-documented – they can decrease air pollution; absorb heat and act as insulators, reducing the energy needed for cooling or heating; and provide low-cost food and often also a source of revenue.

But I can say to someone, ‘A rooftop garden will help the environment’, and they’ll say, ‘No, thank you – I just want to feed my family’. So I must identify and communicate benefits that are of interest to that person.

Hama Abacrinne, teacher, Bintagoungou village, Timbuktu in northern Mali:

We don’t talk about climate change here, we talk about how we are lacking water and food. There is so little water and the community cannot support everyone.

Pavan Sukhdev, head of UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative has said:

A Green Economy is not about stifling growth and prosperity, it is about reconnecting with what is real wealth; re-investing in rather than just mining natural capital.