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   Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Apr 2012

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Destructive growth

While growth and pollution swim in unholy alliance along all major rivers in the global south, consumerism triggered climate change is a way of life in the global north. Both are an act of delayed destruction dispersed across time and space that rarely get viewed as some form of ‘violence’ against nature. Violence, argues Rob Nixon, is highly visible act that is newsworthy because it is event focused, time bound and body bound. What often goes unobserved, undiagnosed and therefore untreated is the worst manifestation of violence. Yet, it does not get acknowledged at any level because our cultural moment is in thrall to speed and spectacle, which has the effect of distorting our perception of what counts as violence.

‘My central concern was to find a new way of drawing attention to the long dyings - the staggered and staggeringly discounted casualties, both human and ecological - that are underrepresented in strategic planning and official memory’, says Dixon. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor is an innovative and passionate attempt at defining ‘violence’ that is subtle but part of our daily existence. It's a type of violence that is often bloodless and by the time the casualties are incurred, the original fatal actions have sunk into what is often called ‘the lagoon of oblivion.’ In the age of regulatory oversight, the perpetrators of ‘slow violence’ conveniently build forgetfulness into their economic strategy.

Be the dam builders or highway contractors, they invariably know that they won't have to pay. The book aims to help activists put their finger on such violators with the 'language' that can strengthen the widespread struggles against slow violence, struggles that ideally are preemptive but too often are ex post facto. Certainly, one of the most pressing challenges of our age is how to adjust rapidly eroding attention spans to the slow erosions of environmental justice among communities that have the least access to media power.

Written in inspiring prose, the book bridges the fields of eco-criticism and postcolonial studies. Without doubt, 'slow violence' is a phrase that is here to stay and for rightful reasons!

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
by Rob Nixon
Harvard University Press, Massachusetts
353 pages, US$ 40

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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