RETHINKING THE ECONOMY

through participation

Talk by Dr. Gurudas Nulkar: 23 May 2020

(As part of the REVIVE series hosted by eCoexist during Covid 19)

About the speaker – Gurudas Nulkar, Professor of management at Symbiosis Center for Management. His research and teaching interests are Sustainability and Alternative Economics for a sustainable planet. He has a PhD in Environmental Management in industry and a post-doctorate as the Endeavour Fellow of Govt. of Australia. He is also the Sir Ratan Tata Visiting Fellow at Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. He is trustee of the Ecological Society and works closely YASHADA and Pani Panchayat.

Contact details –

Mail ID – [email protected]

Phone No. – +91 98220 34579

This talk covers three main aspects of the economy:

In the Pre-Covid world| In the Covid situation |Post- Covid world

Key aspects In the Pre-Covid world

  1. Tragedy of the commons – A society coveting currency
  2. Externalised cost – Climate change
  3. Economic system of growth – Free markets, Jobless growth, Inequality

 

Key aspects In the Covid situation

  1. There’s sanctity in slowing down
  2. People notice nature, lower pollution, clear skies
  3. Unprecedented social work, community efforts
  4. Appreciation of menial workers, healthcare staff, law enforcement

Key aspects In the Post-Covid world

  1. National level – Participative and Decentralised system
  2. National and International level – Sustainable Economy
  3. International level – Global Cooperation – principles of public good, shared values.

Case study

Small villages in the Shahda Nandurbar area of Maharashtra

 

PRE-COVID WORLD:

How we are configured in this world and what is leading us to this situation.

The Pre-Covid world is arranged such that at the centre we have the democratic system of Governance which is loosely based on the social choice theory. The social choice theory says that the collective opinion and preferences of a multitude of people when they are channelized together then we can arrive at some form of decision making and some form of welfare for the entire society. So that is loose way of how the social choice theory is arranged and the democratic system of governance which most of the counties follow is this particular way of governing.

Now that’s about the governance of a country.

What works within the country to generate development, growth, welfare and well being is the economic system of the growth. It is very squarely founded on the free market theorem which says that government doesn’t need to regulate the markets. What it needs is to give it a very enabling atmosphere and the market will essentially for the need of individual private goods they will lead to a social welfare. So that has been the free market theory right from the 17th century when Adam Smith thought about it to very recently to economist Milton Friedman to Ahluwalia, Raghuram Rajan, Manmohan Singh. All have been the proponents of the free market theory.

Social development, welfare and wellbeing of society is the dominant paradigm with which we are operating. So the role of the Government (democratic system) is to create an enabling system for the economy to function in a manner in which it gives rise to continued economic growth.

The dominant paradigm is that the democratic system much essentially do two things, one is to promote an enabling system for the economy to function on smooth lubricated manner. The government much look at the social infrastructure, social institution, social well being. This is not going to be taken care by the free markets.

This is the paradigm under which most countries operate except a few countries that are communists, dictatorial etc. Most of the commercial world is managed this way.

Economic system of growth – So the free markets economy and the circular growth of money.

On the right hand side we have the industries on the left hand side the households. Industries are making the products which are bought by the houses and the houses are providing the services like labour, effort, knowledge. It’s a circular flow of goods.

The exact opposite to the flow of goods is the flow of money. The houses pay the industries for the products that they are making and the industries pay the house for the labour that they provide.

This is the way the economy runs in a smooth manner and we get to see that this continuously expanded. Everybody pays taxes to the government with hope that the government provides system of infrastructure, airports, laws, policing, leadership, which will keep the entire system lubricated. Most of the time of the government is spend creating an enabling atmosphere.

The GDP becomes a measure of economic growth i.e. flow of money. In this entire cycle currency gains importance because this currency will meet the needs of the welfare and well being of the society. This is a dominant model on which the world economies are working. But the thing that is often forgotten or disregarded is that industries run on natural resources. We need land, food, air, fossil fuels, crude oil etc. A whole lot of stuff without which a single industry cannot produce. The other thing that is overlooked is the industrial way in which natural resource is converted into products creates pollution. Consumption of these goods and services also produces pollution.

When we say that GDP should be the only measure of growth, we are ignoring that once the GDP rises the natural resources are going to be depleted and the renewable resources are going to be continuously polluted. Natural resources are the real capital and pollution is the real cost of the economic growth, which are not featured in the balance sheet of any of the company.

We get only The Gross Domestic Product. Have you seen a balance sheet with only income and no expenses. GDP is like that one sided balance sheet. We need to know the Net Domestic Product, for that we need to reduce the cost of depletion of natural resources and the cost of pollution and then we will realise that GDP will be negative. Therefore, economists don’t want us to see the NDP but the GDP. Due to this we have continuous degraded ecosystems, Increasing ozone holes, Lower immunity, New diseases like SARS, ZIKA, MAERS and global warming. All this is linked to the economic system of growth.

What does the economic system use from nature?

  1. Non-renewable resources – Fossil fuels like coal, minerals, metals – Not renewable in human life span.
  2. Renewable resources – soil, water, air, gases, fishery, timber – renewable in the human life span.
  3. Global Public goods – Not owned by any nation but they are sustaining life, air, water, oceans, atmosphere.
  4. Ecosystem Services – interaction between biotic and abiotic systems providing a plethora of services which improve the life sustaining capacity of the economy.

The first two are the direct inputs in the economy, they have an extrinsic value or we apply a human value.

The resources 3 and 4 are contributing to the planets life sustaining capacity and have an intrinsic value. For eg. Air is not valued in the economy because there is so much of air and so little is use an so we don’t need to assign a scarcity market value to it.

When we say that we want the economy to grow, the GDP to grow it is going to degrade the ecosystems of the world. On one hand where we want to lead a better material life, we are reducing the life sustaining capacity of the planet on the other. There is a clear standoff between economy and nature. Eg Road passing through the Tadoba national Park, Mining in the Niyamgiri hills. We fail to see the connection that nature has with economy. We feel that development is based on continuous economic growth.

The other problems that are due to this type of economy.

  1. Skewed towards discretionary goods and services:

The economy has 3 types of goods

Necessary goods – Food, water, milk

Discretionary goods – consumers are at a discretion to buy them like 2nd car, 3rd bike, 2nd home. The economy is skewing to manufacturing discretionary goods and services and forgetting the necessary goods which half od the world not having access too. Goods directed to affluent society.

  1. Economic machinery engaged in driving currency growth.
  2. Benign towards the affluent, corporates – their ‘development’ – SEZ, Tax rebate, airport redevelopment, how people use the air travel vs how many people use the state transport. Improving the ST facilities is far more important for the country then improving the airports.
  3. Subsidizing global corporations and intimidating local enterprises – This has been there since the 1990’s since the era of privatisation, subsidisation. During the time when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. The unintended subsidisation of global corporations is not allowing local enterprises to compete and help them sustain and survive.
  4. Agriculture is sympathised. Not looking at structurally reinventing the model of Agriculture so that the poverty level in rural India goes down. Oxfam and other org. say that India is in the worst state in terms of chronic poverty than any other country as big as India. – 58% Indians in agriculture, but contribute 16% to GDP by sectoral analysis. The balance 42% Indians are contributing 84% to GDP. Isn’t it a skewed way of distributing the money which is generated? The markets are very inefficient in distributing the currency that is generated. Markets are extremely efficient in generating currency but not distributing.
  5. Agrarian economy stands on a foundation of subsidy and loan waivers – Since the British left we have been sympathising agriculture and giving them loan waiver and subsidies. There are no structural reforms seen. The recent thing about the ENAM, the electronic markets has not taken off. There’s hardly any penetration of it in the country. The PDS has failed to distribute nutrition. They are just distributing starch and sugar at subsidised rates. We are eating food that is subsidised and cheap.

 

Q: Aren’t these issues more political then economical? When subsidies are given its for political reasons.

A: Yes indeed they are. The base of it is the governance system, the democratic system. We have an elected government and the elected government is enabling the economy. This is a politico- economic situation. The companies are demanding something and the government is exceeding to it.

Other problems

  1. Tragedy of the commons – depletion of the mines in India, Kolar gold mine in Karnataka no gold left there. Mines depleted to make discretionary products. Owned by commons no control over it.
  2. Externalised cost – Externalised costs of pollution. The media happily says that India produces 10 million cars per year. But we need parking space for so many cars. Where are we going to park this? Its going to choke our roads, pedestrian traffic. We need to remove pavements.
  3. Jobless growth – Accounting software tally has completely removed the need for any BComs in the country. Automation has created Jobless growth
  4. Inequality
  5. Grand daddy of all externalised cost is climate change.
  6. Globalisation – consumers are benefitted by Globalisation. We get low prices more choices. We get everything from the US in India now. We have been benefitted in the short run.

Q : Unnecessary consumption. Hasn’t the recent lock down shown us that if we reduce our unnecessary consumption a lot of people will loose their jobs?

A: The normal paradigm is that if you reduce consumption people loose jobs. But there are many more ways for generating jobs than loosing.

  1. Free trade in Agriculture – The country’s food security weakens during disaster as we are seeing the Covid situation
  2. Excessive transport leads to Carbon emissions.
  3. Highly automated technologies for economies of scale leads to job losses
  4. When there is a global flow of currency then the local economy weakens.

COVID SITUATION:

A black swan event is what Naseeb Talim described is as something that nobody had anticipated and the chances of it happening where statistically weak and it has happened. So Covid situation is popularly called the Black swan event.

Is this really a Black swan event or is it human ignorance and disregard for Natural systems? This question is not refereeing to only the Covid situation but we could have biological black swan, Geophysical black swan, Climatological black swan events, hydrological events where there have been 5 mass extinctions since the formation of the earth and man- made events like the nuclear standoff between countries.

We have learnt these 3 things in the Covid situation:

  1. Lessons – There’s sanctity in slowing down and so people have noticed nature, there is less pollution and clear skies. There has been many community efforts and lot of help pouring in from everywhere. There is increased appreciation of menial workers like housemaids, health care workers, laws keepers etc.
  2. Expose – No matter how rich or developed a country you are, every country is ill prepared for any Black Swan event. We don’t have the machinery, thought process to deal with such situation. Poor immunity reflects our nutritionally deprived diets. Countries are investing in reaching the moon but they don’t have enough hospitals. We have many hospitals that rich can afford.

A lot of east European countries are not able to feed themselves in this lockdown. The government is forgetting the food security and looking only towards economic security. For countries depending on other countries for food are inviting other disasters during such black swan events. So many companies have kicked their workers because they cannot maintain them in this situation. So many cab operators from the hinterland are left with no job.

  1. Conundrum – Everything is questioned, the way we were governing ourselves, running our economy, the way our social development is structured. Major questions being do we need to pursue policies that are creating global dependence? Do we continue’ growth at all costs’ model?

POST COVID WORLD:

In the Pre Covid world, the economy was outside the circle and nature was a very small component. And everything was a measure of growth – GDP

In the Post Covid world, the nature and ecosystem will make the outer most circle then the society and economy. The economy must acknowledge the assimilation and the limits of regenerative processes of ecosystem and then manufacture goods and services. This has been largely ignored by most of the countries. A lot of economists have warned about these limits. Yet we have not been looking at them.

First and foremost the economy needs to operate with the planetary boundaries. The society needs to look at improving quality of human life, equity and equality and not at increasing the income. Since a number of years we have been hearing about doubling the farmers income. We always need not think in terms of accumulation of currency. We have to think about quality of human life, equity and equality. Every country must work towards maintaining the life sustaining capacity of resource stocks. We need to have new measures of growth like social equity, health and prosperity.

In the post Covid world we need to focus on sustainable Economy. Sustainable economy means 2 things. Firstly Participative and decentralised democratic system which we do not have today. At the international level we need to have Global cooperation based on the principles of public goods, shared values. We need to have shared ecological vision between all the countries that are there on the planet. We are bound by shared resources like air, water, soil. Yet we do not have a shred ecological vision. How strange?

Are we Homo Sapiens or Homo Economicus?

More about Sustainable Economy –

  1. Reduced Externalised costs – why are we looking at only pollution from vehicles, why not life cycle pollution of products? Why only pollution that happens in a factory, why not pollution during consumption? We need to look at pollution during entire life cycle of a product. Polluter pays should become the norm rather than people of the planet pay. We are the 2nd largest users of mobile phones in the world. The exact same no of phones are going into our landfills. Have we ever thought of that? We haven’t. we think more about our generation than the future generation or 3 generations ahead. In economics this is called the discounting rate. Economists have always discounted happiness of the future generation.

Why cant we make laws where if a seller wants to sell a mobile phone he has to buy an old phone? This can make us use things longer.

  1. Mover to Circular economy – We need to take the economy from Take – make – throw to Take – Make – Reuse. When the economy is more consumption driven then the companies tend to make use and throw things. For circular economies we need new tax regimes and enabling industrial ecosystem. If we have SEZ’s, why can’t we have Green economic zones. The SEZ’s are completely benign towards corporates with no taxes, why can’t green economic zones work like that. When we talk of circular economy, we need to think of reducing our wants to. The rate at which our wants are increasing in the last few decades, the circular economy can do nothing about it.
  2. Encourage servicization of products – More production doesn’t mean more jobs because companies want automation, they don’t want labour. Labour is inefficient, labour has fatigue. Automation can be efficient. When food industry like lays has started their new plant Uttarakhand, where they will churn tonnes of chips is not very good prospect. Because it will mostly be based on automation and not many jobs will be created. So the FDI that’s coming is not commensurate with the jobs they are creating. Encouraging servicing of products. For Xerox a market leader. Some years back they stopped selling their photocopying machines. We will just keep our machines with companies who need it and they pay us the no. of photocopies they have made. In 2 years we take back the machine, use many parts and give you a new machine with new technology which is better and efficient. In this you generate less waste. The prices remain low. The customer changes the product cost from capital expenditure to operating expenditure.

Q: If there was an economy where everything was reusable, there would be less purchase happening. That would put a limit on economic growth of the company and how such a company can sustain itself?

A: Do you want to generate more currency or create a more egalitarian and welfare society?

 

Q: Do their need to be an either or?

A: It does not mean that you spend less, it means to spend on more on meaningful things. If you stop buying less, it means you are taking away the natural resources from the fixed deposit of future generation. We don’t have to believe in the economists concept of consumption driven growth, because we are already borrowing into the resources of the future generations.

 

  1. Promote barter economy – Less dependency on currency hence no inflation. Take goods in exchange of any services provided.

Questions: How scalable is barter economy? what’s optimal scale?

Answer: We think of scale when we think global, but at local level we don’t think of scale. We think of scale because we are thinking of growing businesses. The idea of scale has to somehow take a back seat in the post covid world.

  1. Remove information asymmetry – There are people in this world, who want better ecological choices of the product, products and services which are not degrading nature. But we do not have the information. This gives to an imperfect market acc. to economics. Remove the information asymmetry, Every product must have its carbon footprint and water footprint labelled on it. Make the information clear and choices of the consumers will improve. There are good people who want to make effort and do this, but imperfect markets do not allow them to do so. The green dot and red dot for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food stuff is a perfect example of removing information asymmetry.
  2. Localisation – Promoting small enterprises and not VC funded startups that will go bust in 5 years. The failure rate of the VC funded startups is phenomenal in the world. The success rate of a very small enterprise is great they are creating livelihoods. Small enterprises are more resilient. Startups are great in doing mergers, acquisitions, market valuation but are not great in creating social value.
  3. Sustainable agriculture – Agriculture has to be nutrition based not quantity based. We have always talked about crop productivity, but not the nutritional inequality. The real wealth is in nutrition. Traditional cultivars are totally neglected. We are moving towards genetically modified and hybrid. We need to shift from economic to ecological agriculture, from quantity to quality agriculture.
  4. Agricultural self-reliance – We need Aatmannirbharta in agriculture and not in defence and manufacturing. Our seeds, machinery, pesticides industries are all non-Indian companies. The amount of food grain imported is phenomenal.

 

Need of Participative and Decentralised democratic system:

We have a tremendous diversity in our country in terms of physical, biological and social. Therefore our human relation with nature is different. The species that people in Karnataka worship will be different than the species worshipped in Rajasthan. Every region thus has their unique culture, their idea of quality of life, about welfare. We have enormous social diversity. All these things go to a central place and are governed centrally.

 

CENTRALISED GOVERNANCE AND PLANNINGPARTICIPATIVE, LOCALISED DEVELOPMENT
If you go to a small village the village will come together for a whole lot of events. But its not there in the cities. So since we have a divergence of economic activity in the urban cities we see less convergence of world view and welfare.There is universal cooperation if you have a fair and just system in place.
Culture histories varyHind Swaraj – Gandhiji’s idea was not English rule without the English, but culturally appropriate self-governance. His idea would have been successful if you break out the country into cultural zones.
Voting – Very less adult population votes and we thrust upon other people’s choice.Revival of the commons – in Pune Vikalp Sangam is looking at that.
These concepts are the leftovers of the British Raj. The European countries have mostly uniform climate, culture. All the countries that came as rulers had centralised systems of governance. They carried it with them. We shifted from participative development to centralised during that period. 

 

Global common responsibility – Everything today is managed as an economic resource. Where do we have the knowledge and understanding of managing natural resource.

Since it’s a difficult path to transition. We need to look at each of these things above.

  1. Small achievable targets for each year.
  2. Break up large problems into small which together will give a solution.
  3. Choosing transition paths for all activity. Eg. Social behaviour – if we can a low ecological footprint by moving to towns and villages, whats wrong in going back.

All transition paths must address measures of Mitigation, Adaptation and resilience to improve pollution, security, climate change. Measures of mitigation and adaptation are for immediate use but resilience comes in later. Action framework to eliminate, reduce, raise and create. In the economy what will you eliminate, in the resource what will you reduce, in technology what will you create in the next year, in the agriculture system what will you raise.

You need Enablers like ecological education. We are teaching to compete not to cooperate. The mountain communities live in cooperation but the same villagers when come to cities compete.

If know these levers well we will be able to drive our economy sustainably.

CASE STUDY:

Dara- Chinchora Case study Villges near Shahada, Nandurbar with population of 1100, Bhil Adivasis, Marginal and landless farmers. Kumarbhau Shiralkar, MTech from IIT Bombay, went down and settled in these villages to fight for the rights of these people. Under the Forest Rights Act, the community received 138 hectares of land for community management under his leadership. Since they were the Bhill community they were dependent on the forest and non-timber forest produce. When the forest land was taken away they were left with no forests, no forest food, no NTFP. The area had exposed soil, eroded hills and they were only left with the option of migrating to the nearby cities to do menial work.

So Ecological society along with MKCL and ACWADAM undertook the ecological restoration program along with the Ambarsingh mandal there. The principle idea behind the program is to take the villages from economic destitution to ecological self-sufficiency.

So to begin with a 3 point program was made giving details of the 3 phases of development in the Dara Chinchora Eco zone. The planning pf the program was done by Ecological society, Pune, The executive work was done by the villages and the monitoring was done by MKCL. Dr. Nulkar is associated with providing sustainable livelihoods.

The restoration work shown in images below:

So the restoration work was carried through community participation and decision making. Counter trenches, continuous trenches, drip irrigation, soil improvement program measures have been taken.

Sustainable economy key points for Dara- Chinchora

  1. Moving from consumption to well being driven growth in the form of food and nutrition, forest and ecosystem health and natural resource wealth. All the villagers agree to it.
  2. Equitable availability and distribution of resources like water, common resources amongst people. Also looking at equal participation in maintenance and shred enterprise economy.
  3. Economy based on Bio-geographic understanding of Agro-climate, soil, water, energy, food, culture and aesthetics.
  4. The local wants are to be met with local resources. Using available water and natural resources, promoting barter, basic comforts.

The common shared infrastructure are Biodiversity Interpretation centre (as beautiful hill station Toranmall is nearby) whose expenses will be shared by the villages, medicinal nursery for people travelling there, promoting barter in the panchkroshi , geographical food specialities for eg. Shatavari is growing there very well, it needs to be promoted and the non-timer forest produce, can they be labelled as Dara-Chinchora brand, creating seed banks.

To summarise what is being done is: Normally land is privatised into an economic resource but here it will be maintained as commons for indigenous communities. The landscapes are transformed for economic or aesthetic considerations but here they will be improved to meet subsistence needs and support cultures, sustainable lifestyles.

The team.

Impacts:

  1. Mainly subsistence farming is undertaken.
  2. There are about 12 private lands and there is work available there.
  3. There is ECOZ1 AND ECOZ2 and 10-15 people increased Nawada livelihood.
  4. Soil moisture increased. Maka, jowar, tur, udid, Morya(Millet) cultivated.
  5. Big achievement -22 families have stopped seasonal migration to cities.

So the Post Covid choice is to either go back to chasing growth or to pursue happiness.

Q & A SECTION

Q:  A tad pessimistic question: With ref. to Harari’s Sapiens, are we putting too much hope into this abstract value called “humanity” – this value that puts a clear weightage on prioritizing what you call the “intrinsic values”? Aren’t we, as a species, hardwired towards a self-destructive trajectory? Doesn’t the sanity appear only in times of distress, because ALWAYS, after these black swan events, its back to business as usual?

A:  In ecology there is a K Strategist and an R strategist. We are the K strategist. We rise up to the carrying capacity of the land, we grow our population so much that we are extremely competitive for survival. On the other hand the R strategist live by the rate of growth. Yes, we could argue that because we are K strategist, we are hard wired. I don’t think I have an answer to that.

Q: Barter system Panchayat system existed in the past but failed in many ways so new things evolved. That’s why the market economy. So how are we going to those models now?

A: Barter failed is easy to understand. Wealth and currency become a great measure and means to accumulate. You can’t accumulate surplus food, you need some medium to store your wealth. So once currency came into trade and commerce, it became easier to accumulate wealth. One become wealthier than the other. It gave one social power and social organisation. It gave centres of power and centre of slaves. That became a way human society was developing in the world. We are not globalised in the last 100 years, we have be globalised since invasions hat have happened, the trade and commerce. So barter gave way to money economy and the way economy was growing.

Barter has a lot of problem – Valuation How much eggs will you give for 1 kg of rice? Exchanging of perishable stuff. Money took away all that and it was convenient for trade and commerce.

Panchayat system – Centralised governance is a a leftover of the British Raj, Nehru and the others were ruling India after the British left just like the British just without the British. We did not have a culturally appropriate system of governance. Just tweaking some previously done stuff thinking it will be right. Panchayati raj gave way to centralisation.

Q: What about asymmetry of information in markets such as insurance? There is an infringement of privacy? I don’t think individuals would want their private information being shared with the insurance companies.

A: There is a lot of information that we have to divulge to them before we buy anything. The imperfection in the market is happening due to the other side. Information that is missing from the companies to us. That to me is more important than our information to the company. This happens when we have global companies. I don’t trust MET NEWYORK life insurance for my insurance. If there’s a local insurance company we know of the owners their work etc. But for global companies we aren’t aware of the founders, their whereabouts. As companies grow larger and larger consumers grow insecure about how their information is handled.

Q: Please explain how population affect environment& economy? how we control population?

A: We have overcome our rate of growth of population. We are not growing as we were 10 years back. Europe is in the negative. The chronic poverty populations are growing, and the affluent and upper economic class populations are diminishing. We are creating more of lower class. The wealth is being concentrated in the upper class. So inequality is bound to happen. The problem of population doesnot have a technical solution. There are religious and cultural feelings. For class of problems that don’t have technical solutions, moral and environmental ethics need to be brought in. You can do that in small concentrated regions. The villages have kept the populations under control but there has been hockey stick jump in populations after the industrial revolution and then the green revolution. Norman Borloug had warned against the increase in population after the indiscriminate increase in food supply.

Q:  Dr Gurudas, do you see parallel bottom-to-top responsibility evolving at the River Basin Levels, through Jala-Saksharta and Jala-Sanskaar and eventually a Jala-Sanskruti – even at school and family level.

A: Vinod Bodhankar from Sagar Mitra Abhiyaan. Whenever you ask children where are they from they say Pune Mumbai etc. He says the we need to put it like we are from Krishna river basin, upper Bhima basin. We have totally forgotten where our primary resource water is coming from. We have a fundamental disconnect with the basic resource like water. We are not ware o our duties towards the river.

Yes its important to think in a basin wide perspective, a huge shared resource. The participative democracy is about smaller shared resources. A panchkroshi, where 5-6 villages along the basic would work in a participative manner. When people who are taking the decisions are not the beneficiaries there is a problem of governance. When there is a participatory decision making by the beneficiaries there is conservation. That’s the difference between basin level and watershed level.

Q:  Last month Prakash Javadekar made a statement, if we’ve to follow the path what ecologists talk about then we can feed just 30 Cr population n not 130 Cr so we need today’s model of development. Your comments on this.

A: We are asking the wrong question. We need to rephrase the question ‘How do we suffice the nutritional requirements of 1.3 billion people?’ That is the question we need to ask. And not about the quantity. Its not about satiating hunger but about nutrition. In the last few years the land under potato plantation has phenomenally increased, due to increase in demand of snack foods that need potatoes. The no. of oil seed companies that have come up, The land under oilseed cultivation, the production of oil as we require lot of oil for snack foods. We are diverting more and more land from food to industrial produce. If we reclaim that land for agriculture. We will be able to constrain our land use for agriculture, nutritious and healthy produce.

Q: How does one practice these in an urban setting, without moving to villages? Is segregation of waste important?

A: Urban Conglomeration have vast ecological footprint. A village will have very low footprint as compared to city. The per capita usage of electricity is much higher, the cities become net borrowers of natural resources from other areas. Resources are borrowed and ecological footprint spread over a wider area. Cities have no meaning and they are only an economic engine. We have to live as communities not as cities or towns.

Segregation of waste – each and every citizen should segregate waste. Diversity and economic backgrounds affect such habits. Income and wealth equality are creating a situation where some causes are important of some and some for others. So the first option is not segregating the waste, it is reducing the waste that is generated.

Q:  Could Triple Bottom Line reporting for business become a transition from the current economic model to the ecological model that we aspire to?

A:  Triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. Profit in company, people and nature. A lot of companies are just doing green washing while reporting about their triple bottom line. Can we strengthen the triple bottom line. A probable alternative to triple bottom line would be steady state economy. A economy that is not growing and is steady. Th triple bottom line and GRI for accounting of the companies.

An addition to the Triple Bottom Line reporting would be also a measure of how growth can happen without growth of top-line. that will enable the steady-state economy we desire.

Q: Is it possible to stop the manufacturing of cars?

A: That is not a very good way of handling the markets. If there is no demand then the supply curbs. Eg. The trans fat used in baking in the US (precursors to heart disease) the federal government was requested to stop the production of trans fat, but USA being out and out capitalist they did not stop. Since it’s a free market. The NGOs gave the idea of putting a message on the packets saying this food contains trans fat, removing the information asymmetry. So time being due to the campaigns. America stopped using packs with trans fats completely. Without a regulation entire country stopped using trans fat.

Q: Don’t you think ACCOUNTABILITY at various levels by relevant stakeholders is the key issue ? Its hard to believe that the collective global debt is more than thrice the global GDP ?

A:  Law and enforcement should be stricter. We have a plethora of laws, archaic laws, ministries that are not connected to each other. Enforcement is difficult as it is not connected and weak. So we need to have transparent ways in which this ministries are working.