ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Eco-labour’s Challenge to the Neo-liberal Understanding of Nature

A conversation is constructed around three themes that mediate the encounter between labour and nature. The first is external pollution and internal hazards, that workers know it is the same toxins affecting their workplace that are responsible for the impact on the environment. The second is collective labour and cumulative nature, that as workers collectivise at work to press their demands for justice, they become conscious of the cumulative impact of labour on ecosystems. The third is externalities and exertions, that the invisible costs of production immanent in waste streams are similar to the invisible appropriation of labour’s surplus. These three streams are brought together to show how labour’s alienation from nature is not rooted in the nature of labour, but is a construct of capitalism that can be overcome only when industrial society is challenged and transformed.

The Scientific Worker and the Field

Drawing attention to scientific work as labour, the need for a closer examination of the subjectivities of educated, trained government employees in charge of field data collection on marine fisheries is emphasised. Field sciences such as fisheries science offer an opportunity to examine how workers engage with the field to produce value. Tracing historical influences that contribute to dissimilar identities and experiences with the field among scientific workers in India today reveals how value in routinised forms of field-based scientific labour is better understood through embodied skills and cultural relations forged by fieldworkers.

Many Environments

An ethnographic analysis of the interconnectedness of labour and landscape in North Andaman reveals a distinct discourse on the environment among the descendants of settlers there. They acknowledge that the labour of their ancestors created the landscape they inhabit. Yet, this entanglement of labour and nature seems irrelevant to their current understanding of the environment. This shift in discourse mirrors development and conservation expertise that imagines the environment of the Andaman Islands as devoid of labour. Unpacking the discursive, environmental and material circumstances in which the descendants of settlers produce their lives, allows us an insight into the widespread legitimacy accorded to the state to remake nature in the Andaman Islands today.

Towards a Conception of Socially Useful Nature

This article provides some theoretical and methodological reflections on the way in which the relationship between humans and nature has been captured in dominant forms of valuation of nature.It makes a critique of these methods and highlights the need to articulate a concept of “socially useful nature.” It uses this concept to interrogate dominant perspectives in the contemporary debates and methods on valuing nature from a Marxian perspective and shows the limitations of the tools and conceptual frameworks based on the principle of the commodification of nature in and for the market. In the context of this general theoretical framework, the article considers the methods promoted by the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting in valuation of nature and shows its inadequacy in arriving at a non-commoditised conception of “socially useful nature.”

Water and H2O

The contemporary water crisis is dehydrating, disturbing and undermining the foundation of the existence of all living beings. The most significant aspect of this crisis is the efforts to make manufactured water (h 2 o) available for human beings, leaving behind contaminated poisonous water for all non-human living beings. To tide over this crisis, it will be necessary to recognise that only the hydration of non-human living beings will ensure water availability for human beings. The primordiality of water in landscapes (and not h 2 o) will have to be given a foundational position in the modern world view, as the reflexive labor it metabolises can restrain the instrumental labour metabolised by h 2 o.

Maximum Sustainable Yield

Some scientific concepts are accepted and sustained by policymakers not because they can accurately explain or predict the state of natural resources, but because they can be used to legitimise certain forms of resource control. Taking the concept of maximum sustainable yield as an example, how it was originally developed in the context of scientific forestry, but entered marine fisheries management and became a part of the “accepted wisdom,” has been analysed. The consequences this has had, for marine fisheries globally and also in India, and the critiques it has spurred have been explained. The msy’s persistence is unpacked to suggest that debates on resource management need to be attentive to context, in order to understand how science may get enmeshed in efforts to enclose and appropriate resources.

Indian Agriculture

Sustainability of agriculture depends on soil management systems that ensure food security, healthy soils and ecosystem services, and prevent resource degradation. Globally, conservation agriculture has provided a common thread for the application of five sustainability principles—efficient use of water, reduced use of agrochemicals , improved soil health, adapt to climate change, and doubling farmer income—in order to tie the mix of interventions with local needs and priorities of the farmers. For food and ecological sustainability of Indian agriculture, the state’s interventions must be on the basis of the conservation agriculture approach.

Bovine Politics and Climate Justice

Caught between deepening ecological, climate, and economic crises, marginal and small farmers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been systematically pushed out of dairy and other livestock livelihoods. The growing political environment in India, openly supportive of cow-related hate crimes in the name of upholding anti-slaughter laws, is further destroying farmer livelihoods. Smallholder farmers are organising in creative ways, radically opposed to the dominant policy recommendation, in order to counter this situation and build climate and economic resilience that is socially just.

Agroecological Farming in Water-deficient Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is confronted with a water crisis that is adversely affecting agriculture, industry, services, and households. The principal crop in Tamil Nadu is rice, which is water intensive. Millets, in general, are less water intensive and more capable of withstanding drought conditions. An agroecological system of farming millets ought to take into account not only water use, but also the whole gamut of political and ecological issues that are connected to farming such as public procurement, land reform, minimum support price, subsidised credit, agricultural extension services, and so on. The publicly procured millet output may be distributed through the public distribution system, government schools, and through the network of Amma canteens in the state.

State, Community and the Agrarian Transition in Arunachal Pradesh

Following the rapid and uneven integration with the capitalist economy, the local economies and institutional mechanisms of the indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh have been transformed in multiple and complex ways. With the commercialisation of agriculture and the gradual emergence of private property rights, the community-based institutions for natural resource management and conflict resolutions are undergoing a multilevel transformation. This is mediated through the interactions among community, market and state institutions. With the expansion of the non-agricultural economy, a powerful class of local elites has attempted to extract rent through a variety of means, often using their membership of local communities and access to state institutions to safeguard their interests, against the backdrop of the ethnic competition between different ethnic groups.

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