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The Environment Caught in Combat

This note traces environmentalism enmeshed in the Cold War politics of the 1970s and discusses its growing relevance in India. Moving away from military strategies and elite political leadership, it examines the environmental movements that had taken off, not only in the Western world, but significantly, in the many colonies of the Empire. The disruption of the relationship between local societies and the natural environment is also critiqued in the context of the expansion of the modern Indian state; arguably one of the foremost legacies of colonialism.

The tracing of ideas is a guessing game. We can’t tell who first had an idea; we can only tell who first had it influentially, who formulated it in some form, poem or equation or picture, that others could stumble upon with the shock of recognition. The radical ideas that have been changing our attitudes towards our habitat have been around forever.

— Wallace Stegner

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