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For the ‘Comfortably Numb’: Conclusion

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Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)

Abstract

Rethinking Disasters: Small and Slow Onset More Harmful Than Large Ones

  • With climate change, smaller but much more frequently ocurring disasters are emerging to be more debilitating and harmful at the household, collective and systemic levels.  In the Sundarbans , 14 such ‘disasters’ (average) annually struck between 2010 and 2016, a total of 95, causing a cumulative loss of over €500 million. On a temporal scale, this loss is far higher than caused by single extreme weather events such as cyclones .

  • These now constitute ‘everyday disasters ’ in the low-lying socioecological coastal systems. Absence of locally comprehensible, socioculturally contextualised actionable information affects disaster risk reduction processes and do not allow climate services to be effective. How these disasters are produced is also not examined, often products of and co-created by a combination of anthropogenic (technical and sociopolitical), ecological and climatic drivers.

  • Slow-onset climatic changes and (mis)governance have increased marginality by 297% between 1991 and 2011. About 37.7% of the total workers, or more than one in every three, is without any job or income security, which was 9.5% in 1991. This clearly indicates failure of the existing development paradigm and a constrained, subsistence and stretched economy under the regime of global warming.

Discursive Hegemony of Sustainability and Adaptation: Eco-colonisation

  • A discursive hegemony of sustainable development and climate change adaptation is at work in the Global South – transpiring in a top-down, technoscience and market-based managerial approach.

  • This hegemony appears to have even marginalised nuanced, localised sociocultural, economic and ecological discourse dividing the SES of the subaltern into two distinctly disparate elite and nonelite compartments. A major shift is detected over the past 2 years – the vernacular newspaper has become an ally of the elite discourse, increasingly marginalising the local, nonelite discourse.

  • The ‘elite’ discourse argues for conservation , and at best (eco)tourism, the ‘nonelite’ local discourse emphasises threatened human security, incapacitating social condition and poor human development.

  • The linguistic and cultural limitations relegate the coverage in the vernacular media to either associate with an ‘alarmist’ or ‘tipping point’ agenda while reporting on climate change or increasingly resort to a ‘victimisation’ frame.

  • Absence of equivalence of key Anglophone terms and concepts further entrenched inequality, unfairness and remoteness between the state’s governance and peoples’ participation in managing the socioecological systems.

Aspirations and Not Adaptation

  • People do not want to adapt; they want to prosper. Aspirations must constitute an analytical device in the newly conceived regime of sustainable development; to infuse the vital element of justice and equity.

  • Residents exhibit high degree of self-organising abilities that suggests shifting focus from delivering institutional resilience to enhancing individual capabilities.

  • Concepts of sustainability and resilience do not yield any traction for people as it makes return to the status quo implicit, is conceptually intangible and nonquantifiable. To be operational, these concepts need to be actionable, culturally coherent and entrenched in their commitment to poverty reduction and social welfare.

Keywords

  • Everyday disasters
  • Discursive hegemony
  • Justice, Subaltern sustainability
  • Sociocultural transformation
  • Epistemic alliances

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://steps-centre.org/project/uncertainty/

  2. 2.

    The government of West Bengal, in December 2015, announced that the 19 sub-districts of the Sundarbans, spread across the South and the North 24 Parganas districts, will now constitute a separate political district named ‘Sundarbans’. The government claimed that this political demarcation and realignment will help better administration of the region which was geographically completely different from adjoining regions. The decision may have some positive impacts in clarifying jurisdictional and administrative entanglements between two district administrations of the South and North 24 Parganas and has been welcomed in general by majority of the stakeholders. However, it is unclear how this political realignment will negotiate with the already existing global, federal and local power dynamics that the region is subjected to. Also, it does not indicate any paradigmatic shift in the development regime or question whether the current embankment-based, fortress conservation model is apropos for the region to foster sustainable development in the region in the longer term.

    For ref., see Sundarbans to become separate district next year’, The Hindu, November 28, 2015, accessed at http://goo.gl/4HA5Gr

  3. 3.

    http://news.trust.org/item/20150308071149-vsv7r/ ‘Lured by marriage promises, climate victims fall into trafficking trap’ Aditya Ghosh, Reuters.

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Ghosh, A. (2018). For the ‘Comfortably Numb’: Conclusion. In: Sustainability Conflicts in Coastal India. Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-63892-8_7

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