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Radical Ecological Democracy: A path forward for India and beyond

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The search is on for sustainable and equitable alternatives to the dominant economic development model, and the emerging concept and practice of ‘radical ecological democracy’ can contribute to this search. This new framework places the goals of direct democracy, local and bioregional economies, cultural diversity, human well-being, and ecological resilience at the core of its vision. It arises from the myriad grassroots initiatives that have sprung up in India and other parts of the world. Although efforts to amplify and spread such a paradigm face the enormous challenge of overcoming the resistance of entrenched institutions and mindsets, current practice suggests opportunities for making progress. Ultimately, the wide embrace of radical ecological democracy will require the spread of the core values underlying the framework, a transition guided not only by hard-headed rationality but also by a strong ethical and emotional foundation.

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  1. An interesting version of this idea is proposed in Falk and Strauss (2000).

  2. To learn more about the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, visit To learn more about the Bhasha Trust, visit

  3. ‘Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment’, United Nations University, accessed 20 February 2014,

  4. India has a number of activity-based learning initiatives that promote culturally diverse and ecologically relevant systemic knowledge for rural and urban populations and all ages. Examples include schools like Pachasaale in Andhra Pradesh ( and and Adharshila in Madhya Pradesh (, colleges like Adivasi Academy ( in Gujarat, specially oriented to indigenous students, and non-institutionalized learning for middle classes like Swaraj University in Rajasthan ( and Bhoomi College ( in Bengaluru.

  5. See also the Deccan Development Society (

  6. See the outcomes of the World Parks Congress in 2003, the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2004, and World Conservation Congresses in 2008 and 2012; see also for material on Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs).

  7. For a few examples, see

  8. Note that here and subsequently, ‘national’ is not necessarily equated to the ‘nation-state’ but extends to peoples considering themselves nations, such as Canada’s indigenous peoples or the ethnic communities in ‘plurinational’ Bolivia.

  9. See an evolving list of such values in the Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Radical Ecological Democracy at


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This article was originally published by the Great Transition Initiative at, under a Creative Commons BC-NC-ND copyright


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Critiques the dominant economic development model on the basis of South Asian experiences and gives examples of ‘radical ecological democracy’ as a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable alternative

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Kothari, A. Radical Ecological Democracy: A path forward for India and beyond. Development 57, 36–45 (2014).

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