Democracy and the Small Car

5 04 2009

This is the draft of the edit I wrote for the EPW issue dated 04-11 April, 2009.

[The political role of the small car is as important as its environmental impact] Read the rest of this entry »

Lenin’s Epitaph: Lessons from the Russia – Georgia War

19 08 2008


Now that the war between Russia and Georgia is over, it is a good time to learn a few lessons. This war holds out important lessons for all concerned – for the Georgians, for the Russians, for the Americans and NATO, for the world at large. Moreover the lessons are political, military and economic. Let us see what some of these lessons are. Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Nuclear Shadow: Reviewing one decade of nuclear weapons in South Asia

20 05 2008


Ten years ago, on the occasion of the birth celebrations of India’s own prophet of peace – Gautama Buddha – the Indian State exploded nuclear warheads under the sands of Rajasthan. Pakistan responded to it in a predictably unfortunate manner by exploding a set of nuclear warheads of its own. We complete a decade of living under the nuclear shadow in the sub-continent of South Asia and it’s a good time as any to remind ourselves of what this means. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto V (The relevance of Socialism)

31 10 2007


For the past few weeks, this column has been arguing that constant economic growth is not only un-achievable but also deeply undesirable.

Unachievable because it is impossible to have unlimited growth in a planet of limited resources. With human population creeping close to seven billion, we collectively consume about a quarter of the world’s biomass but this only satisfies about a fifth of our energy and natural resource hunger. So we are happily mining away the non-renewable resources of petroleum, coal, gas, iron and other metals. This is a situation when an overwhelming majority of the world’s human population lives on less than US $ 2 a day or in utter poverty. Imagine the extraction of natural and non-renewable resources if every one of this blessed planet’s seven billion people lived the life of a West European or North American? Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto IV (The Energy Trap)

17 10 2007


As this column has pointed out a few times in the past, hydrocarbons have been the material foundation on which continuous and limitless economic growth – so characteristic of our industrial societies – is based. It may be useful to recap the main points before we move further.

Hydrocarbons provide concentrated energy in small packets. One litre of petroleum concentrates the energy from 23 tonnes of prehistoric plant matter. Coal, though less energy efficient, is still far superior to charcoal or fresh wood as an energy source. Not only do these hydrocarbons provide high levels of energy, being carbon-based, they are useful for a range of other products for our use like fertilisers, plastics, textiles, medicines and cosmetics, among others. Further, hydrocarbons are easily transportable and storable over time, while at the same time being available in sufficient quantities for globally pervasive, if unequal, use for a few centuries before they run out. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto – II (The Need for Speed)

3 10 2007


The two week absence of the Left~write column was caused by the sudden death of my brother-in-law in a road accident in the city of Baroda (India). A young man of 42, he leaves behind an uncomprehending daughter who is not yet seven, a distressed wife and distraught parents. It is difficult to come to terms with the hurt and loss this has caused, especially since it seems so avoidable and inexplicable. ‘Why?’ is the question in everyone’s mind. But even in our moment of sadness it is sobering to realise that close to a 100,000 people die in similar road accidents in India each year. Each death a catastrophe for the family. Globally close to 800,000 people die annually in road accidents, a figure that is expected to touch a million by 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Growth Manifesto – I

12 09 2007

Sherlock Holmes, that immortal detective of Victorian England is perhaps among the best teachers of the methodology of research. As he proceeded to unravel one crime after the other, Mr Holmes left behind a treasure-trove of tools of investigation that stand any social scientist in good stead when he investigates human society. In the famous novel, Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes says, “The world is full of obvious things, which nobody by any chance ever observes,” and in Boscombe Valley Mystery, he observes, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” Read the rest of this entry »