This book is an output of Guha s two decade long research In this he traces the history of environmentalism in US and India.Rejecting the traditional environmentalist arguments, he persuasively argue for biosphere that consider human beings as much as other species He also provides the profiles of three eminent environmentalists Chandra Bhatt,Madhav Gadgil and Mudfold The basic question he is trying to answer through this books is how much should a person consume A must read for all who have interest in the future of humanity He Guha wears his biases on his sleeve, which does not excuse the ridiculous omissions, willful ignorance of positionality, privilege or identity, and an odd valorization of national chauvinism Also his writing betrays a certain generational handicap I don t think he has kept up with a lot of what has happened in the field. Based On Research Conducted Over Two Decades, This Accessible And Deeply Felt Book Provides A Provocative Comparative History Of Environmentalism In Two Large Ecologically And Culturally Diverse Democracies India And The United States Ramachandra Guha Takes As His Point Of Departure The Dominant Environmental Philosophies In These Two Countries Identified As Agrarianism In India And Wilderness Thinking In The US Proposing An Inclusive Social Ecology Framework That Goes Beyond These Partisan Ideologies, Guha Arrives At A Richer Understanding Of Controversies Over Large Dams, State Forests, Wildlife Reserves, And He Offers Trenchant Critiques Of Privileged And Isolationist Proponents Of Conservation, Persuasively Arguing For Biospheres That Care As Much For Humans As For Other Species He Also Provides Profiles Of Three Remarkable Environmental Thinkers And Activists Lewis Mumford, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, And Madhav Gadgil Finally, The Author Asks The Fundamental Environmental Question How Much Should A Person Or Country Consume And Explores A Range Of Answers Copub Permanent Black The book is less about the title and about the synopsis, as many have already pointed out Guha, in his distinctive style, elaborates upon the history of environmental movement in India and the US and what have been their guiding forces The contrast presented by him is intuitive Indian environmental movement has or less been people oriented, i.e., movement against the state s denial of local usage of resources to pave way for industrial urban development On the other hand, its American counterpart has been wilderness oriented, i.e., preserving the wilderness of nature for its own sake, which essentially means no human interference in spite of the fact that humans have lived in harmony with nature for centuries before industrial revolution Guha clearly elaborates on the reasons behind this contrast, which is again somewhat intuitive There are also chapters on some of the prominent American and Indian environmentalists Lewis Mumford, Chandi Prasad Bhat and Madhav Gadgil IMO, the selection of specifically these environmentalists could be attributed to two reasons one, their relevance to the ideas presented in the book and two, Guha s research on them Mumford and Bhat or work with them Gadgil This book is clearly not expansive For example, in the context of Indian environmentalism, it speaks only about Forest Law and movements of tribal rural populace and speaks nothing about environmental regulation in terms of Air Act, Water Act and EPA Because of this reason, Guha has also omitted the noted environmentalists such as Anil Agarwal whose work has focussed on regulation All in all, it is a great but limited read Recommended for someone interested in exploring the history of environmentalism. One of the finest books on sustainability and climate change understanding. I d been looking forward to reading this for a while until I finally got my hands on the book and realised I was misled by the title too The book profiles environmentalists and ecological schools of thought from the West and from India The author talks about exploitative overconsumption, existing environmental movements, and how conservation work can be but futile if it isn t complemented with a reduction in individual consumptions Some good insights into the history of how the West and India have perceived society s role with respect to the environment While that is an interesting comparison in itself, there was potential to explore much in those ideologies, to finally arrive at the concluding chapter How much should a person consume Instead the flow felt fairly disjoint and the concluding chapter didn t provide much new insight into individual consumption or actions. Although I didn t really find an answer to the question in the title, it was still such a well researched, well written book Gave a whole new logical perspective to the fundamental environmental questions. Although the question that is the title is not answered exactly how could it be a definitive answer is that the US could stand to consume much less Guha highlights little know activists and nature historians from India and the United States mostly arguing for a synthesis in environmental activities between indingenous or tribal societies, scientists and ecologists and government policies He proves over and again how a unilateral conservation system tends to harm peoples who are dependent on the land and benefit big business or nationalist narratives which can be big business as well An introduction into little known battles that have preceded what most would recognize in some threads of popular environmentalism today One problem with the actual book itself though pages 115 145 are out of order, not backwards, but all mixed up Maybe it was just my copy I picked up Dr Guha s book because I was intrigued by the title Is it really possible to quantify the amount one should consume irrespective of countries where they live in, the social classes to which they belong and the aspirations one has in life In the end, the book is not so much about this question in spite of the title Only in the final chapter does the author take up this question and ends up only posing further questions rather than answers Of course, it is unfair to even expect that such a question can be answered with a number like 42 This book is mostly about the comparative history of the environmental movements in two democracies which are at the opposite ends of affluence India and the U.S It is also about the contributions of four eminent environmentalists Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Madhav Gadgil For me, the book was mostly an education in certain aspects of the environmental movement in India and the US and associated personalities.Dr.Guha says that the dominant environmental philosophy in India is Agrarianism whereas in the US, it is Wilderness Thinking The curious thing about this is that wilderness thinking is hostile to agriculture whereas agrarianism is not favorably disposed to lovers of the wild However, the author likes to believe that we are on the threshold of a new synthesis of environmental ethics taking the idea of Diversity from Primitivism, the idea of Sustainability from peasant cultures and the value of Equity from Modern societies He is however, very critical of the wildlife conservation movement in the West which seeks to deny the right of tribals to continue to live in the forests where they have lived from time immemorial all in the name of protection of species He says that these movements have done great harm to native populations in Africa, India and Latin America by this policy.Dr.Guha s preference is for what he calls Social Ecology which would bring together the complementary skills of the sociologist and the ecologist in its approach to the Environment On this, he writes extensively about three social ecologists, two from India and one from the US The first is about the Historical Social Ecology of Lewis Mumford, who advanced a conception of regional development that balanced the needs of the social world with those of the natural ecosystem The second one is on the Subaltern Social Ecology of Chandi Prasad Bhatt from the Garhwal Himalayas Mr.Bhatt is a humble, sparsely educated transport dept employee who caught the attention of the world in the 1970s through the Gandhian ecological movement called Chipko where men, women and children of the Himalayas hugged hundreds of trees to prevent timber merchants from felling them The third is about the Democratic Social Ecology of Dr Madhav Gadgil, a professor from the Indian Institute of Science Dr.Gadgil contributed greatly to forest policy and forest management in India looking both at the scientific limitations of forestry as it was practised and its wider implications in terms of social equity The National forest Policy of the Govt of India in 1988 bears the mark of his studies and recommendations, not least in its ecological focus but also in its relative sensitivity to tribal and rural interests Finally, Dr.Guha says that the question how much should a person consume should come to dominate the intellectual and political debates of our time In this, he takes Prof J.K Galbraith s question of the 1950s how much should a country consume as the point of departure I would recommend the book not so much for any new ideas but as an education on the subject. Why is a book on history and theories of environmentalism, biographies of environmentalists be titled How much should a person consume Ignoring the misleading title, it was good in parts but a bit dry and repetitive.
Ramachandra Guha was born in Dehradun in 1958, and educated in Delhi and Calcutta He has taught at the University of Oslo, Stanford, and Yale, and at the Indian Institute of Science He has been a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and also served as the Indo American Community Chair Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley.After a peripatetic academic career, with
- 275 pages
- How Much Should a Person Consume?: Environmentalism in India and the United States
- Ramachandra Guha
- 02 March 2017 Ramachandra Guha