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'Safeguard the Global Commons'

Sucharita Sengupta

Edited by Vandana Shiva
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2009, pp. 156, Rs 225.00


Vandana Shiva has been a powerful voice for the rights of the dispossessed in an era of unequal, elite-led globalization. She has long rooted for maintaining biodiversity, and has shown that a bottom up approach to sustainability and conservation is both desirable and possible. In her latest book, she turns her attention to climate change, and how the global elite’s obsession with the ‘good life’ is destroying biodiversity, lowering food supply, and endangering the planet. Shiva argues that climate change is the result of the unsustainable energy needs of the global elite. The current global regime designed to tackle the problem offers solutions that are spurious at best, and negligent and even more debilitating at worst. Implicating the system of carbon trading, Shiva’s research points out all the loopholes in the system usually glossed over by carbon trading enthusiasts. The system privatizes the atmosphere, which is part of the global commons. The emissions rights granted by the Kyoto Protocol are much more than those required for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This translates into huge profits for the corporate sector, on the basis of an intangible commodity. Further, the very commodifi-cation of pollutants means that the incentive to continue their production for profitability is very high, defeating the purpose for which the mechanism has been created. The trade is between polluters, making it a ‘polluter-gets-paid’ system. All of this is being done without any actual reductions in GHG emissions, or any substantive changes in energy-intensive industrialization. While climate change worsens in its magnitude and impact, the world is soon reaching a point where the demand for oil will outpace supply. This point, known as ‘peak oil’, is expected to place further burdens with an end to the supply of cheap fuel. Some estimates state that the world will reach the peak of oil production by 2030. However, a recent and relatively unnoticed piece in London’s Financial Times said that world reserves of oil have been overstated and that the peak oil period may be as imminent as 2014–15. If this turns out to be true, and there is little harm in erring on the side of caution, the pressures related to energy use are even closer. One of the fallouts will be that the race to create fuel out of crops, which is already in various stages of experimentation, will be speeded up. Biofuels, Shiva argues, is yet another ...

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