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historical analyses

Farmers’ protests reveal growing anger against India’s development model

Ashish Kothari & Aseem Shrivastava write: The growing protests of farmers around the country-last month’s protests in Mumbai being the latest-is not just a claim for dignity. Even more portentously, it calls into question the paradigmatic rationality of the reigning development model. Alternatives do exist, practised and conceived of at hundreds of sites in India.

Western science is finally catching up with Traditional Knowledge

From The Conversation: Are Indigenous and Western systems of knowledge categorically antithetical? Or do they offer multiple points of entry into knowledge of the world? As ways of knowing, both systems share important and fundamental attributes. There are also many cases where science and history are catching up with what Indigenous peoples have long known.

Melvin Kranzberg’s Six Laws of Technology, a metaphor, and a story

Michael Sacasas writes: Melvin Kranzberg was a professor of the history of technology and the founding editor of the journal Technology and Culture. Here are Kranzberg’s Laws of Technology — “a series of truisms,” according to him, “deriving from a longtime immersion in the study of the development of technology and its interactions with sociocultural change.”

The science and politics of human progress: Closing a widening gap

Richard Eckersley writes: The core flaw in the dominant model of progress arises from the equation of progress with modernisation, especially the processes of cultural Westernisation and material progress (measured as economic growth). Global politics is based on this outmoded and increasingly destructive model of human progress and development. Can science change a dire situation?

Tribute: Nikolai Vavilov, persecuted Soviet geneticist who foresaw our present crisis

From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.

Marx’s Capital at 150: An invitation to history

Radhika Desai writes: Read what Marx says. Pay no attention to those who tell you Capital is hard: they are merely saying ‘read my book first’. You have limited time: spend it on reading Capital. Remember, Capital was serialised in a workers’ paper. You are today’s workers and Capital is your invitation card to history.

Easter Island: A sustainable society falsely blamed for its own demise

Catrine Jarman writes: Recently, the Easter Islands have become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. But 60 years of archaeological research and recent genetic data shows that this dark tale of ecocide and Malthusian collapse has more to do with Western ignorance and prejudice than facts.

Memo to Trump: US president Lyndon Johnson acknowledged global warming 52 years ago

Dana Nuccitelli writes: On 5 November 1965, US president Lyndon Johnson’s science advisory committee sent him a report on the environment, which included a section on atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate change, written by prominent climate scientists. Reviewing it today, one can’t help but be struck by how well they understood climate change back then.

How ‘Silent Spring’ ignited the modern environmental movement

As much as any book can, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” changed the world, by describing it. An immediate best-seller, this classic book launched the modern environmental movement, which, in turn, led to the creation of the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of green laws. On the 55th year of its publication, a tribute.

The case against civilisation: Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors have it better?

From The New Yorker: Recent research shows a gap of 4000 years separating the “two key domestications,” of animals and cereals, from the first agrarian economies based on them. Our ancestors evidently took a good, hard look at the possibility of agriculture before deciding to adopt it; because the life they lived was remarkably abundant.

Why political correctness fails – Why what we know ‘for sure’ is wrong

Gail Tverberg writes: The Politically Correct (PC) worldview has been called the “religion of success”. In this post, I explain why many popular (or politically correct) understandings are just plain wrong. I cover many controversial topics, including environmentalism, peer-reviewed literature, climate change models, and yes, religion. I expect that the analysis will surprise almost everyone.

Aseem Shrivastava: Who killed Swaraj?

Nehru’s grand illusion was to imagine that the ‘good’ in the modern world could be somehow magically preserved while allowing the ‘evil seed’ (gluttony of power?) to flourish into a ravishing rainforest of destructive avarice, an inevitability our times are having to face, as barbarism knocks on every door. Gandhi’s fears are globally vindicated today.

Celebrating the Champaran Satyagraha, a hundred years on

Prof. Irfan Habib writes: This year is the centenary of one of the most remarkable episodes of modern Indian history, the Champaran satyagraha of 1917 that joined the national movement with the great struggle of the peasantry for bread and land, exposing how the twin processes of drain of wealth and de-industrialisation had ruined India.

A window into coal workers in India: The history of Raniganj Coalfield

From Sanhati: A history of the 240 year-old Raniganj Coalfield– the story of its workers –the many lives that have been spent in its shadows, displaced by coal and depending on it for survival –would be a tale every bit as expansive as the Mahabharata. This two-part article gives a short glimpse of this history.

Bookshelf: Indica—A Deep Natural History Of The Indian Subcontinent

Amita Baviskar writes: Pranay Lal’s Indica, describes the first 4,600 million years of the subcontinent, comprising a cast of fascinating characters in a drama that begins with the Big Bang and closes with the arrival of Homo sapiens, present-day humans, in India some 70,000 years ago. But along with sparking appreciation, it also raises apprehensions.

The domestication of humankind

From Pragati: Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, governed by precursors of today’s states? Anirudh Kanisetti reviews James Scott’s lucid Against The Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, which provides surprising new evidence that refutes mainstream narratives of how civilization came into being.

What tames inequality? Violence and mayhem, says new book

From Chronicle.com: In his new book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Stanford University professor Walter Scheidel puts forth the following thesis: that historically, it took four kinds of violent ruptures  –mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure, and lethal pandemics– to reduce widespread inequality.

Satya Sagar: What on earth is a human being?

Satya Sagar writes: It’s time to step back, reflect and ask again and again the questions:  who or what exactly are human beings, how we should live in this world and where we should go?  For this time the very survival of the human species may lie in getting the answers right with great honesty.

Thomas Robert Malthus, we need your voice today!

John Scales Avery writes in Countercurrents.org: Malthus’ “Essay on The Principle of Population” was one of the first systematic studies of the problem of population in relation to resources. He was the first to stress the fact that, in general, powerful checks operate continuously to keep human populations from increasing beyond their available food supply.

Can we live without progress?

Kurt Cobb writes: The idea of progress is embedded in the socio-economic system, and we cannot attack carbon emissions without attacking the idea of progress itself. If the progress we’ve made since the beginning of industrial civilization only leads to a complete reversal of all our supposed gains, can we really call what’s happening progress?

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