In this presentation, I explore the social and historical roots of the ecological crises facing humanity as crises rooted in the continuous pillaging of resources and extraction stemming from colonial empire and perpetuating highly unequal development around the world. I illustrate these effects through an understanding of what has been termed unequal ecological exchange. This refers to the siphoning of resources and labour from one region of the world to another, or from peripheral hinterlands to core financial centers. I turn to two strategies proposed to address these crises: technological innovation responding to ecological crises and policy strategies for improved valuation of environmental 'goods' and 'bad', so as to better incorporate environmental impacts in decision-making.
I discuss the consequences of focusing on efficiency and the greening of technology without attention to the political and economic context by which such technology is deployed. On valuation, I examine some of the basic principles, the social implications of deciding how the environment is valued, and whose understandings of the environment are made visible or conversely disregarded in this process. I conclude with some reflective questions for collective discussion on the purpose and role of technology. In what ways does technological development reinforce or embed uneven ecological exchange? In what ways can it be wielded to imagine alternative and plural futures?
Vijay Kolinjivadi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp (Belgium). He is also a contributing editor to the political ecology blog Uneven Earth, and a writer for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and a regular contributor to Aljazeera English. His research interrogates ‘greening’ initiatives in terms of the ways they deviate from or reinforce relationships of economic production that threaten socio-ecological.
Trained in ecology and environmental policy, he conceptually positions his work between the fields of ecological economics and political ecology. His research has examined initiatives such as agroforestry-related Payments for Ecosystem Services programs in Canada and in South Asia. His current research focus explores the social and ecological impacts of compensatory afforestation plantations in India.