Tag Archives: Climate Change

And Somewhere There are Engineers …

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A conversation with youngsters – who are by nature bubbling with energy , fired with idealism and suffused with innumerable questions – is a thing which everyone with grey hair looks forward to.

For someone like me it is an added gift this morning that after exactly a gap of forty years this writer is with students of engineering helping him rekindle memories of his own days of engineering in the city of Varanasi. A really exciting period when few of us had come together to do something for society as well. A period worth remembering when we were engaged in running evening classes for deprived sections in neighbouring villages, learning from their life experiences and in spare time reading good literature, tracking trajectories of different revolutions, debating, discussing, brainstorming what else can be done to awaken the society around. Continue reading And Somewhere There are Engineers …

Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change

The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and bourgeois property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development. [Marx and Engels, ‘Preface’ to the 1882 Russian Edition of The Communist Manifesto; all emphasis added]

The above passage, jointly signed by Marx and Engels, appears at the end of the 1882 ‘Preface’ to the Russian edition of The Communist Manifesto. It also appears, towards the end of a decade-long engagement with the Russian social formation and the social formation of many Eastern societies like India’s. The detailed notes, excerpts and commentaries compiled by Marx, published later as The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, belong precisely to the end of this period, the years 1880-1882. Marx passed away the following year, in 1983. Continue reading Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change

Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

The past few months have been exceptional, in one respect at least, for the Indian press: a serious structural problem has actually been given the attention it deserves. The Economic Times continues to play a prominent part in discussing air pollution in Delhi – there is no other city in the world where it is so bad. Nor is this all: including Delhi, India now boasts thirteen out of twenty cities with the worst air. More recently, the uproar over supposedly high levels of lead in a brand of junk food led to a (very) few articles on groundwater contamination: after all, the reason why lead and other poisons get into food is because they are present in the soil in which crops grow. Another piece, in the Guardian this time, speculated that the recent Sahelian heat wave in the Deccan might be a symptom of climate change (an “extreme” climate event of the kind likely to become all too common).[1]

These stories are only a tiny fraction of those that could be reported, for we are already in the throes of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Large swathes of our agricultural soils are contaminated or saline. Pesticide residues and heavy metals form part of our food. The air of our major cities is unfit to breathe. Freshwater availability is declining; most rivers, especially in the south, do not flow at all, or only seasonally, since their runoff is impounded in dams and used for irrigation (with very high rates of seepage and evaporation loss). Groundwater tables are falling as a consequence of over extraction and the disappearance of vegetative cover enabling percolation. The pattern of weather is being reset with gaps and lags – the available evidence indicates that the onset of the monsoon is changing and precipitation becoming more uneven. Our offshore seas are denuded of marine life thanks to trawler fishing at ever greater distances. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking with obvious long-term consequences for the hydrology of river systems dependent upon snow-melt. Sudden, destructive floods, exacerbated by embankments and dams, the building over of river valleys and floodplains, have become a regular occurrence. Continue reading Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India: Shashank Kela

Climate Change – Keep the Climate, Change the Economy: Sagar Dhara

Guest post by SAGAR DHARA

Contrasting outcomes of recent global warming meetings

Two recent meetings on global warming, one scientific and the other political, are of great public interest as they have a bearing on human society’s future course to become a sustainable global community. The meetings stand in sharp contrast with each other in terms of the clarity of their outcomes.

The first meeting was held by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of over 2,000 scientists. IPCC released its fifth assessment’s synthesis report in Copenhagen end-October 2014. The report states unequivocally that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” Further, it warns that the emission of another 1,000 Giga tonnes1 (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), referred to as the carbon space, is likely to raise average global surface temperatures by 2oC above pre-industrial times. This is considered dangerous to the environment and human society.

Since the industrial revolution began in the mid-18th Century, humans have used 35% of the known 1,700 Gt of conventional fossil fuel reserves, and cut a third of the then existing 60 million km2 of forests to emit 2,000 Gt CO2. The consequent 0.85oC average global temperature rise over pre-industrial times has triggered significant changes in the physical, biological and human environments. For example, rainfall variation has increased, extreme weather events are more frequent, pole-ward migration of species is noticeable and their extinction rate is higher, human health, food and water security are at greater risk, crop yield variations are higher, a 19 cm mean sea rise and a 40% reduction in Arctic’s summer ice extent have occurred over the last century, glaciers have shrunk by 275 Gt per annum in the last two decades, and social conflicts have increased. Continue reading Climate Change – Keep the Climate, Change the Economy: Sagar Dhara

Hidden in Plain Sight – Problems of Democracy Under Capitalism: Ravi Sinha

Talk delivered by RAVI SINHA at the International Seminar on “Democracy, Socialism, and the Visions for the 21st Century”, 7th to 10th March, 2014 Hyderabad, India

If one has to say something brief and short about a large and complex subject, which is also a much discussed topic, one always runs the risk of stating the obvious. But one may also chance upon the unexpected and the counter-intuitive. Problems of democracy under capitalism and under socialism have by now a ring of tiring familiarity around them, but they also contain surprises that are hidden in plain sight. While fixing my coordinates by recounting the obvious, my hope is to point towards aspects that may be counter-intuitive to the political common sense prevalent in much of the left and the social movements.

 Let me begin with the status of democracy under capitalism. Popular mind considers them complementary to each other. Ancients – whether in Greece or in India – were familiar with the concept of democracy and, at least in some famous examples, they are also supposed to have practiced it. But the large-scale acceptance and practice of democracy overlaps with the history of capitalism. In addition, the history of socialism of the twentieth century has been such that this association got further entrenched in the popular mind. I will come to the socialism question a little later. For now, let me stay with the relationship between democracy and capitalism.
If I were to say, then, that at the core of this relationship lies a tension that is fundamentally irresolvable, it would appear counter-intuitive to the popular common sense. On the other hand, it would appear obvious to a leftist. On both counts there are reasons to dig a little deeper. Truth is often counter-intuitive for the wrong reasons, but at times it is also obvious for the wrong reasons.

The year climate change became common sense: Jacob Sebastian


 Is 2012 the watershed year for climate change? The year it ceases to be a ‘dodgy concept’ and transforms into painful reality?

Some facts to consider:

 *The United States – particularly the food basket that is the American Midwest, is facing its “worst drought” since the 1950s, and is expected to last all summer. US agricultural secretary Tom Vilsack told the media: “If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.” The US is the world’s second biggest food producer, after China, but more importantly, one of the biggest exporters of food.

*Prices of the four key crops: Corn, wheat, sugar and soybean have risen 44%, 48%, 22% and 26% over the last month. The United States produces 41% of the world’s corn and 38% of the world’s soybeans. The two crops comprise two of the four largest sources of caloric energy produced and are thus critical for world food supply. Continue reading The year climate change became common sense: Jacob Sebastian

Looking forward looking back

While the Bali conference is finally over, work on its roadmap is only just begun. Below, am pasting a summary of Bali prepared by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. The full report can be found on their website: http://www.iisd.ca



You should not be impelled to act for selfish reasons, nor should you be attached to inaction. (Bhagavad Gita. 2.47)

Marking the culmination of a year of unprecedented high-level political, media and public attention to climate change science and policy, the Bali Climate Change Conference produced a two-year “roadmap” that provides a vision, an outline destination, and negotiating tracks for all countries to respond to the climate challenge with the urgency that is now fixed in the public mind in the wake of the headline findings of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. The outline destination is an effective political response that matches both the IPCC science and the ultimate objective of the Convention; it was never intended that the Bali Conference would focus on precise targets. Instead, the divergent parties and groups who drive the climate regime process launched a negotiating framework with “building blocks” that may help to square a number of circles, notably the need to reconcile local and immediate self-interest with the need to pursue action collectively in the common and long-term interests of people and planet. The informal dialogue over the past two years has now been transformed into a platform for the engagement of parties from the entire development spectrum, including the United States and developing countries.

Continue reading Looking forward looking back

Whose woods these are….

…. I think I know?

If the latest developments at the Bali Summit are anything to go by -the answer to this question is going to become very contentious in the coming years. Armed with a mandate to cut, capture, and squester carbon; Governments, International Organisations, and private companies have been working hard at arriving at a means to bring forests under the carbon market – and possibly use carbon in forests as a tradable commodity. What this means for the future of our forests is uncertain.

There are several components that can be considered under the Forests and REDD – Reduction of emissions from Deforestation and Degraded Land in developing countries. Some of the big ones are afforestation programmes, deforestation reduction programmes, carbon capture and squestering (CCS), the rights on indigenous peoples and forest dwellers, the Clean Development Mechanism and conservation. Each carries with it an entire lexicon and phrase-ology of its own.

I mentioned in previous posts, it is one of the most interesting issues at the conference – and one I hope to deal with at length in my article for Frontline – which I shall have to work on very soon. In the meantime, jus to get interested readers up-to-speed, am appending to articles that I have written for the The Hindu. They should provide the briefest of introductions. Note that the articles correspond to standards of objectivity required in “Hard News” reportage – Shall write an opinion piece for Kafila soon. In the meantime, I would urge careful readers to read against, for, below, above and around the text.

Continue reading Whose woods these are….

REDD Salam

A week ago, I had promised a short post on the Forest Issue. As promised, here it is:

Nusa Dua: As the UNFCCC World Climate Change Conference crossed the 10,000 attendee mark , delegates braced themselves for what could be one most difficult and divisive issues of what could constitute “The Bali Breakthrough.” “The working group on Reduction of Emissions by Deforestation (and Degradation) in Developing Countries (REDD) was constituted and has begun work today,” stated UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer in his daily press briefing at the World Climate Change Summit today. The working group is tasked with arriving at a mechanism to incorporate deforestation reduction into the framework of the Kyoto Protocol and the carbon market.

Continue reading REDD Salam

The Shotgun and the Sniper

“The time for silver bullets has passed,” proclaimed Marc Stewart, “What we need is a Shotgun!” In his bright Bali shirt, Nike sneakers and Investment Banker haircut, Mr Stewart is the firm-handshaking, fist pumping, ever effusive all-American co-founder of Ecosecurities, a firm that specialises in developing and marketing carbon trading projects under the Clean Development Mechanism – CDM – of the Kyoto Protocol. With emission reductions under Kyoto less than a month away, Mr Stewart’s firm is looking to extend its market capitalisation to far beyond its existing 40 million USD. The Ecosecurity model functions in the following way – they find and help develop projects in the developing world that is eligible for credit credits under the CDM, and then sell the credits to firms in EU, and across the world, that are looking to meet their Kyoto targets by offsetting excess emissions against carbon credits. Firms like Ecosecurities pushed the carbon market to 30 billion dollars in 2006; and if Annex 1 agrees to further emission cuts (25-40 per cent below 1992 by 2020) the potential size of the market is open to the most optimistic hyperbole.

The “Shotgun Approach” suggested by Stewart was his response to the fact Continue reading The Shotgun and the Sniper

Kafila makes Impact at International Conference!

In perhaps a first ever “Impact Kafila” story; the event organisers at the UNFCCC Climate Change Summit at Bali 07, seem to have changed their lunch plan. Two days ago, Kafila carried an exclusive investigative breaking news type piece on how millions of rupiahs were being wasted on freeloaders who attended lunch and refreshments and slipped away before the sessions began. Our fearless reporter posed as a freeloader and purloined one free lunch, some prawn cocktails and a can of Dr Peppers Ginger Ale (it tasted pretty awful, but I could not resist the attractive packaging) before unceremoniously leaving the premises and attending a rival side session. However, the event I attended this afternoon, had no large tables covered with starched white tablecloths, no silverware polished to a dull glow, no mile long queue of people from all over the conference – in fact, no free lunch. Continue reading Kafila makes Impact at International Conference!

Day Two At Bali

Day Two at the Bali Conference sees an intensification of the “inSide Climate Change” programmes. “inSide” is the UNFCCC’s witty title for the side events and exhibits at Bali 07 and is often a good indicator of the issues that shall be on the agenda for upcoming conferences. inSide is thus a great place to hang out if you want to get a sense of the future and, if you time it right, get to free lunch on donor-body expense. Because lunch is a serious issue. Not content with making collossal amounts of money off the UN for hosting their conference, the Bali conference centre offers meals at (literally) One million Rupiyah a pop – which works out to about 10 dollars for a grubby sandwich; but the point about the side events is that they offer a glimpse into big businesses plans for our environment. And there are many. Continue reading Day Two At Bali