I thought to offer a few observations about this post by Felix Stalder, about an interview by the Green European Journal with Amitav Ghosh.

My qualification for doing so is working experience with two central ministries, government of India, the ministries being environment and agriculture. For both, I was a consultant based on my work on traditional knowledge. While the work with the agriculture ministry had to do with traditional crop knowledge (in which responding to climate change was a part), the work with the ministry of environment had considerably more to do with climate change (and climate variability, as we formally called it).

This experience, from 2005 until 2018, allowed me to witness at first hand what development is, and what it is not. Usually, career administrators stick to an official line that is loaded with political positions. Even when professionally and scientifically competent to formally correct unsound political reasoning (which I know is a tautology, surely there can't be sound political reasoning?) they prefer to stay backstage and issue sensible orders quietly. At times, but rarely, retired administrators have lifted the veil in their published memoirs.

Anyway, the point really is what are considered 'climate crises' and what I have seen them as in India and several other places in Asia. It's all very well to use terms like anthropogenic, extraction, disruption, technocratic and so on, but I see these as being both meaningless and irrelevant out there in the rural districts. There, ordinary households, whether they depend mainly on selling some agricultural produce to a small town market or in joining a wage labour industry, are focused on survival from season to season. In so doing, they have perforce to cope with what the state, and 'development', throws their way.

All too often in India, 'development' has been a term given a crippled meaning. And that meaning has everything to do with infrastructure in one form or another: a new road, a new or enlarged highway, a new township, a new airport, a new power plant, a new bridge over a river, a bigger railway station, more mobile phone towers, etc. If the 'development' is large enough and politically impressive enough, there will be consequences.

The consequences may result in the ordinary rural household having to migrate in order to 'cope' economically, or to suffer in place, and hope for the state to assign them hand-outs. If, because of such 'development', such as being downwind of a new coal burning power plant whose contaminating ash is lifted by the wind and deposited on fields, making them useless for cultivation, the household has to pack its belongings and move out, it will nowadays be called climate refugees. If they stay and through some NGO are represented in a legal pleading, they will be called climate victims.

As I see it, what they experience, and what has caused their experience, has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change or climate variability. It has rather everything to do with the willingness of experts, appointed and paid by the state, to justify politically and industrially advantageous investment decisions; the complicity of administrators to frame rules and issue orders that sanction the material manifestation of such investments (in the form of new factories, new special economic zones, new industrial parks, new tech hubs, etc); the distraction by media reporters, whose companies are influenced by the advertising budgets of infrastructure corporations or whose publishers are part of the political status quo, that the consequences can be blamed on climate change rather than abusing nature and environmental flows; and so on.

I would say therefore that Ghosh, when replying "In the past, Indian kings and emperors would prepare for and respond to famines with massive state interventions: distributing food, storing supplies, and so on", is not abreast with the actual history because it was and is, not at all so much the kingly state, or the state of (apparently) independent India, that has done the preparing and responding, but social institutions at the village and town level. And also, "The British, literally while famines were unfolding, would refuse to do anything that would interfere with the laws of free trade", while being correct about free trade, Ghosh failed to say (and the interviewer failed to pursue the point) that the British colonial regime engineered those very famines (the most recent and perhaps best documented of them being the 1943 Bengal famine) but that the free and independent Indian state has engineered a much larger number of malnutrition epidemics than the British ever could have, also in the service of free trade.

When, some thirty years ago, I supported very actively with participation and my writing, the protest in western India against big dams, and in particular the damming of the river Narmada, with the protest becoming familiar worldwide as the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the crisis then was a crisis of development and state over-reach, not of climate change. If the same consequences had unfolded today - deforestation over great swathes, massive displacement of people and communities and habitats, the inundation of large tracts of arable land - it would very likely be classified in some way as being related to climate change. It was not and cannot be, just as the 2013 June disaster in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand (flood and landslide) had very much to do with 'development' overtaking completely the precautionary principle especially in the hill districts, and not with climate change being the perpetrator.

Regards, Rahul Goswami

+91 8600043381/9833471884

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