The phenomenon of ‘planet as a patient’ is misleading and deceptive. For instance, the Brundtland Commission’s report appears to be something magical or attractive as it uses fancy words such as ‘sustainable development’ and is equipped with a language of control, a kind of internalised violence. And we have accepted the report under the justification of development (a hidden violence). But sustainability and development cannot go together, both are contradictory as money tends to dissolve ecology.
The image of the earth as a patient is completely misleading. It does give us the picture of our planet’s destruction but does not tell us how this destruction takes place and who is responsible for it. It gives the impression that chickens are in-charge of the fox. People who are actually the cause of this destruction are now claiming themselves to be experts on curing the planet. The question is that should we believe these experts as those who would ensure the best for the survival of this planet?
It must be noted that the environmental crisis is not sudden; it has a long history and has been developing over a very long period of time. But now, with economic expansion the environmental crisis has become more intense, grown in size and is difficult to control. But planet as a patient gives us a misleading picture of the origin of this environmental crisis that it is something unexpected or surprising and has happened suddenly. The opposition to the planet’s destruction has historical roots. But it is only now that these environmental movements have become mainstream. What was previously available free of cost is now short in supply and has become a commodity as a price has been put on nature.
The image does not tell us about the two extreme ends, that there are exploiters (consumers) and, on the other hand, there are those who suffer from the consequences of this exploitation (starvation). This is because the world’s global resources are distributed unequally among different countries. They are accessible only to a minority of people, whereas these big cats, aka corporations, place all the blame of environmental degradation on the people who are under their rule (the third world countries). These people get together for the sake of humanity every year under the banner of sustainable development and make policies that benefit them and assist them in further exploitation.
It seems as if the process is something that is apolitical; they act like they are engaging the whole public in the decision-making process and putting everything in front of the public. However, there is a huge difference in the front and backstage scenes. Actually, this whole process is governed by a few big powers and their allies and is aimed at increasing their power by a process called enclosure – marginalising the interest of the common people.
The self-reliant community that used to be in complete harmony with nature has now been enclosed by the mechanisation of the agriculture sector. The power of the local people has been dissolved by this process that Ivan Illich spoke of as the new ecological order. For example, distribution of common resources is completely unequal, for instance, over the last 50 years the US has single-handedly consumed more resources (fossil fuels) in the recorded history than the rest of humanity.
The process of enclosure is the pioneer of environmental crisis. It has reformed a new political structure that determines the fate of the commons and whose decision is the final one. The people have been deprived of their local skills, making the people servants of the global treadmill. Reorganising the structure of society leads to scarcity and conflict among people. The power that was distributed among the locals now stands centralised to a minority of people. By reassigning control over the resources, enclosure cordons off those aspects of environment that are deemed useful. It redefines and reorganises the community structure that resulted in a new political order, thus, changing the network of the power.
Now the question is that what is the solution of these environmental or social problems? The Rio Summit had identified a lack of expertise and capital as the major causes of the environmental crisis. We need to take some emergency measures, such as investing in the north for the sake of the planets’ survival. But these kinds of solutions resulted in an increase in the power of big corporates.
Resistance to the process of enclosure has a long history. People have been resisting to the enclosure of their livelihoods and natural resources since a long time. It is due to these kinds of movements that the ideology of economic growth as the only solution for inequality, poverty and other social or environmental problem has been dismantled. But, unfortunately, there are corporations which only see economic expansion as a solution to these problems.
People who are a part of this resistance movement are not searching for alternatives, they actually want to recover those natural resources that once belonged to them and served them. The image of the planet as patient does not tell us about these kinds of resistance movements and the effect they have had throughout the world, not till it is for their own benefit.
The writer is an environmentalist.