Skip to main content

Present growth model renders us partners in 'war' against climate change, tribal people

Child labour in mica mining in India
By Ankit Goyal*
I don't know if it is right to attribute this to the education system and societal values but the most important thing that is sought after in life is 'career' and 'money'. Because let’s face it, it is only after possession of this that you can afford the most sought after livelihood...
You can enrol your child into the most expensive school (apparently good education is expensive), get your dream car (Is it Audi or Merc?), sponsor that most awaited dream holiday to Greece, celebrate your daughter’s fifth birthday anniversary in The Taj, buy your son a RTR 200 after he managed to clear his 10th grade, fund your ward’s higher education (Ivy leagues, IIMs etc.) so that he can make something for himself -- a six figure salary package, a promising career, name and fame... 
Finally his salary package will make him eligible to find love and her dowry will make them eligible to get married.
There is a feeling associated with 'possession' of these consumerist vanities and that feeling is ‘gratification’, 'happiness', 'pride', and 'societal acceptance'. We all are working to realize 'true happiness' and if a person is raised within these value systems, it won't be a shock that he will make ‘choices’ that will help him attain this 'vain happiness'. No matter what the 'cost is'.
The choices available to him comes down to employment or entrepreneurial opportunities in extraction industry -- gold, iron, coal copper or other mineral mining, quarrying, oil and gas industry or related industries like automobile industry, FMCG, pharmaceutical industry, power industry, manufacturing, logging, textile, plastics, construction, weaponry, nuclear etc. or in the service sector created to facilitate uninterrupted operations of the aforementioned industries, namely Big 4 accounting firms, consulting firm, marketing, IT firms, graphic designing, banking, share markets, banks, entertainment etc.
Organizations are run by people and the sole objective of these organizations is to create value and profits for their shareholders, for themselves. And they are doing it pretty well. No matter what the 'cost is'.

Understanding cost

Lesser is the operational expenses, more is the profit an organization can make. And the techniques an organization uses to reduce operational expenses are somewhat similar to what East India Company used to do. It doesn't matter if you are a CEO or manager from a premium management institute (IIM, XLRI, ISB etc.).
The techniques like bribing of bureaucrats, land encroachment, overutilization of land and water resources, complete disregard for environmental and safety norms, ecocide- destroying ecosystems or harming the health and well-being of a species, bonded labour, child labour, and in some cases even slavery.
Even if a reputable organization is not committing these atrocities by themselves, they might be supporting it by purchasing raw material or services from suppliers who are engaged in it. For example Hershey, Nestle, Mars -- who allegedly procure cocoa beans harvested by children, Mica extraction and cosmetic industry.

“Anything for moolah” – CEO’s anthem

Can you name one ethical organization? Are you associated with any profit making organization that gives prior importance to interests of community, people and ecology before its own profit? Can you do the same? What is the limit to profit? Is profit at the expense of ecocide justified?
All the big names you can think from oil exploration and refining industry, beverage manufacturers, FMCGs, social media etc. have exploited or are exploiting environment, natural resources or the rights of local/indigenous community for their own profits. It’s no wonder that average pay package of CEO of the largest US firms is $17.2 million. 
And a CEO has to justify his salary, has to persistently create value for its shareholder, beat the competition and increase the annual profit percentage. In order to do so has to incessantly work to acquire more of people’s land, resources and also their ‘spirits’ and ‘health’.

A prevalent truth

And it is a prevalent truth, the situation is sordid. We can respond in absolute dismal or abysmal shock but that just validates our ignorance. A nation’s judicial system which is installed to protect the rights of minorities, to oversee that interests of all communities are protected and to ensure there is no bullying by rich and powerful corporation is often found to be lopsided towards the high-powered.
Rich corporate have lot of resources -- money, power and influential political contacts at their disposal. Nation’s best lawyers and legal firms are known to represent these goliaths against the persecuted, under resourced and suppressed communities. Seeking justice in the present legal framework is bit cumbersome, harassing and dreadful for the latter.
A nation’s legal process characterised by inordinate delays, lawyer’s exorbitant fees, travelling expenses, and on top of that a looming threat to life is enough to break spirits of even the most determined of the plaintiff.
The aftermath, i.e. complete acquittal of the culprit (a prominent actor of Bollywood), a paltry punishment that too after decades of wait (Bhopal gas tragedy), endorses the immoral actions, encourages the malicious behaviour and makes persecuted accept the intolerable status quo.

Understanding our role

It is important to understand our role in the present status quo. Ignorance is the greatest virtue, but it comes at a ‘cost’ -- it makes us accomplice. After all we are the consumers, the employees, the employers, service provider, the beneficiaries, the decision makers, the entrepreneurs, the CEOs, the law makers, the law keepers, the culprits and the persecuted.
Children from Burkina Faso on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast
It is important to understand that no matter what side you are on the present growth model, the policies, the opportunities and the banking system renders us partners in crime. You might not support the malevolent activities of the corporate or you might have waged a war against climate change, exploitation of indigenous communities or the atrocities committed against inexpressible flora and fauna, but the ‘choices’ you are making are annihilating the very same cause.
The choices come down to ‘funding’ and ‘contribution’. Every organization needs ‘money’ to be in operation. The funds are obtained via loans, investments, initial public offerings (IPOs)/shares and selling of products/services. If the same funds are utilized to confiscate resources and ultimately lives, then not only the corporation but the sources of aforementioned funds are equally culprit.
All big names from oil exploration and refining industry, beverage manufacturers, FMCGs, social media are exploiting environment
The contribution can be in the form of involvement, either at the capacity of customer, business partner, and banking partner or as an employee. If we are purchasing any product that is unethically sourced, or investing in a firm which is confiscating the rights of ecology or carrying out immoral operations by ourselves (employee), then the contributors are equally culprits.
“Means are as responsible as the end”.

The choices

But what if we don’t want ‘guilt’ of ecocide on our conscience? What’s the alternate path? The only path I could envisage is to be more informed about the choices we are making:
  • To become more conscious of the decisions in terms of investments or purchase. May be the next time you are out for buying groceries you can opt for organic alternatives, or purchase products that comes with a green certification, or purchase only from organizations, co-operatives that operates on the principle of fair trade. You can refrain from purchasing products that are bad for the environment like plastics, cosmetics with microbeads, oxybenzone laden sunscreens, wet wipes etc or try to use products/services cautiously like fossil fuels- LPG, natural gas, power, and gasoline.
  • To become more conscious of the organizations we are part of. Let’s look at the profile of an organization before choosing to be a part of it. Let’s choose the organizations on the basis of morality and not on packages. Let’s not keep any kind of professional relationship with any organization engaged in unfair or immoral trade practices. And most importantly let’s not defend misdeeds of such corporations in front of law. Let’s keep our principles and maintain our integrity. 
  • To divest from ‘culprit’ organizations. Let’s refrain from giving ‘more power’ to such organizations. Even a single share we possess of these organizations makes us an accomplice in wrongdoing. In the past, ‘divestment’ was instrumental in ending an age-old iniquitous practice of racial segregation- ‘apartheid’. Presently, it is giving impetus to the fight against climate change which is corroborated by the fact that hitherto April 2020, a total of 1,192 institutions and over 58,000 individuals representing $14 trillion in assets worldwide had begun or committed to a divestment from fossil fuels. 
These choices will not only affect the financial standings of the culprit firms but will also spur investments in green fund, that is imperative to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. 
As more and more people start to resonate with the cause, the profit will start to dwindle and the culprit corporations will have no other alternative other than to undergo metamorphosis or transform into a green and an ethical organization.
This will lead to creation of plethora of green jobs. Now a person who is raised with capitalist values will have a choice to work in a malefactor firm or to work towards development of society. And the people, if given a choice, will choose to survive on a path of least harm.
“Less hand that destroys the environment means more hands preserving it”.
---
*Co-convenor of Eco-Socialist Front

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

World Toilet Day 2022: Will new schemes usher in safe cities for India's sanitation workers?

By Sameer Unhale, Dr Simi Mehta, Dr Arjun Kumar, Kushagra Khatri*  World Toilet Day is held every year on November 19. It has been an annual United Nations observance since 2013, which celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Water and Sanitation for All. The SDG 6.2 is the world’s promise to ensure safe toilets for all by 2030. This year, the theme is "Let’s make the invisible visible." India, in its endeavour to achieve health, hygiene, and cleanliness along with universal sanitation coverage, launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) (SBM-U) or Clean India Mission in 2014 on the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi (October 2), as a national movement. To ameliorate urban sanitation infrastructure, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (A

Odisha dolphin tourism victim of climate change, prawn farming, infra projects

By Sudhansu R Das*  Nature has blessed Odisha with a vibrant natural sector economy. The forestry, handicraft, handloom, fishery, agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism, pilgrim tourism and horticulture sectors etc can create huge employment and revenue in the state on a sustainable basis. The state needs to develop a sound economic vision to harness the benefits from the natural sectors. Construction of infrastructure projects with investment though generates revenue and ticks the GDP growth; there is no guarantee that it would create inclusive employment opportunities. Today infrastructure projects are like consumer items which are being marketed by middlemen and global traders across the world. Many countries have been ruined due to their obsession with infrastructure driven growth illusion. Recently, the Sri Lankan economy has collapsed due to this illusion. It has created a heavy loan burden on the country whose interest the country can’t repay in the next 50 years. Many infra

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

Innovative, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's movies often banked on excessive sentimentalism

By Harsh Thakor*  Late Hrishikesh Mukherjee more popularly known as Hrishi Da, whose birth centenary was celebrated recently, ranks amongst India’s most progressive and innovative film makers, exhibiting mastery in craft of making socially relevant themes. Mukherjee knitted plots together with great visualisation and sensitivity, be it in comedy, pathos, anger or romance, weaving every ingredient in proper proportion.  Melodrama was restrained and scripts dissected with surgical skill. Without over romanticisation, Mukherjee would do complete justice to the role of the character. He did not champion art films, but gave commercial films an artistic touch. Rarely have artists transcended the medium of cinema to project the real essence of their cultural values so or film directors who narrate a simple tale of regular families that have characters of unique shades, characters which are bound to touch human emotions universally. His characters frequently underwent life-changing journeys

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

Parivarnama: A story of love, challenges, sorrow of family 'devastated' by Partition

By Aditya Mukherjee*  “Parivarnama” by Shehla Hashmi Grewal is a riveting account of a family of Delhi from the late 19th century to the present. Through the story of this family, we are taken on a journey through the atrocities of British rule and the resistance against it by the Indian national movement and the left stream within it, the traumatic events leading to the virulent spread of religious communalism and the partition of the country and the destruction of lives and livelihoods, the challenges and travails of building a new life after the old was destroyed, trying to build a secular society in India after independence, the struggles for social and economic justice in independent India leading to the martyrdom of a very distinguished young member of the family and much more. It is not only a very sensitively written history of a family, it is a social and political history of India through some of its most turbulent periods. “Parivarnama” combines what one gets from meaningfu

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.