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Culture/Cognition

Why technology favors tyranny: Yuval Noah Harari

Artificial intelligence could erase many practical advantages of democracy, and erode the ideals of liberty and equality. It will further concentrate power among a small elite if we don’t take steps to stop it. “We’re facing not just a technological crisis but a philosophical crisis,” says the author of ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’.

Arturo Escobar: Farewell to Development

Over the years, ‘development’ has undergone multiple modifications, such as sustainable development, participatory development, development with gender equity, integrated rural development, and so forth. All these approaches stay within the conventional understanding of development: they don’t constitute a radical departure from the prevailing paradigm. What we need to do is get rid of ‘development’ itself

As Kerala’s sacred groves disappear, the Theyyam art form loses a vital link

There has always been an unmistakable umbilical link between the dance form of Kerala called Theyyam and nature. The unique pantheistic art form of the Theyyam now faces increasing threats of gentrification and Brahminisation, thus paving the way for the destruction of the sacred groves where it was born. Text and photographs by Thulasi Kakkat.

Getting to the heart of democracy’s decline

The crisis in democracy is much discussed these days, but almost entirely in political terms that ignore its deeper causes. It’s the continuing failure to have this deeper discussion that has led to the democratic crisis we have. In this sense, the mainstream news media can be considered ‘enemies of the people’, peddling ‘fake news’.

Seeing Wetiko: An interview with Alnoor Ladha

From Gaia Foundation: Alnoor Ladha, a founding member of the activist platform The Rules, which tries to “connect the dots between the various issues that are happening in the world to reveal the underlying antagonist: the economic operating system itself.” Here, he speaks on culture, technology and the cannibalistic economic system consuming life on Earth.

Carbon Ideologies: ‘The most honest take on climate change yet’

From Vox.com: “For a long time I was a climate change denier,” says William T. Vollmann, the award-winning American author, journalist, and war correspondent. Yet, he has just completed a sprawling, two volume polemic called Carbon Ideologies, which explores the ideology of energy consumption, and is addressed to humans living in a “hot dark future.”

Hope and mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding ecological grief

From The Conversation: The eminent American naturalist Aldo Leopold described the emotional toll of ecological loss thus: “One of the penalties of an ecological education,” he wrote, “is to live alone in a world of wounds.” Ecological grief reminds us that climate change is not just some abstract scientific concept or a distant environmental problem.

J.C. Bose: Why the great scientist’s legacy remains astonishing a century later

Stefany Ann Goldberg writes: Famous for his plant-response studies, J.C. Bose was also the first scientist to study inorganic matter the way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose performed his plant experiments on rocks and metals, too. Remarkably, he found that the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.

Charles Eisenstein: Initiation into a living planet

Most people have passed through some kind of initiation; a crisis that defies what you knew and what you were. Societies can also pass through a similar initiation. That is what climate change poses to the present global civilization. A key element of this transformation is from a geomechanical worldview to a Living Planet worldview.

Re-reading Tagore in the age of development gone mad

Aseem Shrivastava writes: Tagore’s play Mukta-Dhara foretells the manner in which people across the country have been losing their freedom— those uprooted by development quite obviously so, those ‘benefitting’ from it (mostly living in cities) more subtly and invisibly. This is the ecologically fatal price of ‘progress’, which Rabindranath anticipated in much of his work.

Engineered for Dystopia

David A. Banks writes in The Baffler: Engineering has not strayed far from its military origins… Engineers are trained to “plug into chain-of-command decision making structures… In times like these it is important to remember that border walls, nuclear missiles, and surveillance systems do not work, and won’t even exist, without the cooperation of engineers.

Memo to The New York Times: How not to talk about climate change

From Jacobin Magazine: The New York Times’ blockbuster story on climate change concludes that democracy and human nature are to blame for the climate crisis. They’re wrong. You cannot tell the story of climate change without telling the story of twentieth-century capitalism. This isn’t just a missed opportunity or a partial story—it’s the wrong story.

Bookshelf: Caste and Nature: Dalits and Indian Environmental Politics

Rarely do Indian environmental discourses examine nature through the lens of caste. Mukul Sharma shows how the two phenomena are intimately connected, and compares Dalit meanings of environment to Neo-brahminism and mainstream environmental thought. Here, he argues that the Ambedkarite vision is relevant for environmental sustainability, and it is Indian environmentalists who have marginalised Ambedkar.

The social ideology of the motorcar

“The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people”. So starts Andre Gorz’s justly famous 1973 essay which remains as relevant today as ever.

“Two” – A film fable by Satyajit Ray

In 1964, renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray was asked to create a short film for a TV-showcase by American oil company Esso. Asked to write and direct the film in English, Ray opted instead to make a film without words. The result is a poignant fable of modernity and ‘development’, which remains just as relevant today.

What would a thriving rural space look like?

Shashank Kalra writes: We have a vivid vision of a thriving urban space; but what would a thriving rural space look like? This was one of the key questions I went with in this Gramya Manthan, a rural immersion-programme. Here, I shall bring up some of the subtler issues, which aren’t ‘rural issues’ but all-pervasive.

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