Ecological economist talks about predatory growth in India
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 00:10
Dr. Aseem Shrivastava gave a presentation in the Dodd Center: Predatory Growth in India. Dr. Shrivastava, an ecological economist with an interest in globalization, and author of Churning the Earth: the Making of Global India, spent much of the event focusing on the unsustainability of the Indian economy.
The event began with Dr. Shrivastava offering a description of the current global economy, a time period that is formed from the year 1971–the year the dollar became its own standard, unhinged from the gold standard–to the present day. In doing so, he pointed out the disturbing trend of man making a claim even when there is no wealth to make a claim on. The result of this is the spillover onto making a claim on the environment that can be seen today.
“I think the most interesting part of the event was the connection that Dr. Shrivastava drew between the abstract idea of money and very real extinction of species,” said Ben Cannan, a 7th semester EEB major. He was referring to the graph that Dr. Shrivastava had presented which offered a positive correlation between the two.
From there, Dr. Shrivastava moved on to the topic of India itself, starting off with several startling statistics. For instance, more than 40 percent of children and 70 percent of childbearing women suffer from malnutrition. This is a fact of life that has not changed over the past two decades in a country with an expanding economy.
The explanation can be found in workplace statistics. In India, a very clear distinction is drawn between work that is in the “organized sector”–the sector that has an office of more than 10 people with electricity and benefits–and the “unorganized sector” consisting of the contract laborers. While India’s workforce grew by 150-200 million people within the last two decades, only 2.5 million of that expansion was channeled into the organized sector, creating a wandering underclass with few opportunities. “I think this part was very interesting,” said Jane Moran, a 5th semester History and Classics double major, “primarily because it forced you to look at employment in a way you really wouldn’t otherwise.”
Dr. Shrivastava posits that this may be due to the hyper-financialized background in which India has been forced to globalize. It was this background that allowed India to bypass human labor and move straight to mechanizing industry and damaging the environment. While this helped the top third of the country, it actually harmed the majority and left India without a stable middle class.
If this trend continues, economic growth in India will no longer be sustainable. However, a few small rays of hope exist, such as the recent, if small, protests blocking environmentally destructive projects and independent movements towards environmental democracy.
Dr. Shrivastava started off the event by saying, “If you want to test a theory, bring it to India, we’ll test it out for you.” However, India might already be testing its environmental capabilities too fully.