In August 2014, at the beginning of my third semester of college, I decided to enroll for one of the new courses being offered as elective called “Key Concepts in Ecological Economics”. Offered by Dr. Julien-François Gerber, it had the following course description-
This course offers an introduction to the field of ecological economics. Ecological economics goes beyond environmental economics by combining ecological, social and economic knowledge in an integrated way. It has been called the “science of sustainability”. Instead of resorting to a single unit of account – money – ecological economics uses a variety of indicators and includes the biophysical structure of economic processes. Its approach is fundamentally social‐metabolic, meaning that the economy is seen as an open system – open to the entry of energy and materials and to the exit of wastes and emissions. Social‐metabolic processes take place in a state of permanent non‐equilibrium: energy and materials continuously flow throughout the economy. The economy is thus considered a subsystem of society (i.e. of the cultural, institutional and power structures), itself a subsystem of a larger finite global ecosystem, the Biosphere. In this course, the core concepts of ecological economics are approached both qualitatively and quantitatively, and with special reference to the Indian context.
And it was, by far the best course I had taken in a long, long time. Not only were the theories and concepts something that I could understand and relate to, the course was taught in a way that made it more like an informed discussion than a formal lecture. And by the end (well, actually a few weeks into the course) I was so influenced by the concepts that I picked up the concept of ‘ecologically unequal exchange’ as the topic of my Master’s thesis. And it was not just me. I met quite a few people who were equally interested in the theories of ecological economics and wanted to take it forward. Nihar and Ezra, my batch mates, wrote their Master’s thesis on languages of valuation and the political ecology of mining in Meghalaya respectively, and another friend Arpita, who also took the course is writing a thesis titled Ecological distribution conflicts against mineral extractivism at resource peripheries in India for her PhD.
It was early on during the coursework that I came to know about the concept of Degrowth, which is still hardly known here in India. I was more fascinated by this theory after attending the Symposium on “Growth, Green Growth or Degrowth? New critical directions for India’s sustainability” held in September last year (You can read more about it here). And by this summer, after my experience at the European Society of Ecological Economics conference and hearing about Arpita’s Degrowth Summer School experience (about which she will be writing soon), I realized I needed to do something to spread more awareness about Degrowth in India. The government is hell bent on proclaiming that growth is the solution to everything, when it clearly isn’t. Thankfully, I am not the only one. And although we are still in the minority, and by that I mean we can be counted on your fingertips, we would still like to make some noise about Degrowth!
This blog, along with the FB page is an initiative in this regard.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
pic courtesy- Ashima Mahlawat