ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Situating Agroecology in the Environment–Development Matrix

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Agriculture is a pre-eminent illustration of the inter-weaving of nature and culture, a part of the complex that underlies the metabolic, metaphysical, and other relations between humans and nature. Yet, with valuable exceptions, environmental research in academic circles has often developed in parallel with agrarian studies, and vice versa. This is remarkable, given that agrarian ecologies have been central to several social movements across the global South and some even in the global North (Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring [1962], recognised widely as an inspiration for the environmental movement in the North, made primary connections between the disappearance of songbirds and growing use of pesticides in agriculture). However, as Robert M Netting commented about anthropology in 1974, agriculture has often been treated as infra dig within environmental literature. The move away from the agrarian has often engendered an environmentalism that dissociates labour and livelihoods and peoples’ knowledge from ecology. Recent academic work seeks to breach the dichotomy between agrarian and environmental studies (Altieri 1987; Shiva 1991; Vandermeer 1995; Agrawal and Sivaramakrishnan 2000; Moore 2008; Borrass et al 2010). Focusing on agrarian ecologies has also meant contending with other analytical separations, such as rural from urban, peasant from worker, and agriculture from forestry, pastoralism, fisheries, etc, and most of all, eschewing the environment–development dichotomy. Agrarian ecology, therefore, is central to the premise of this review of environment and development.

Food production, so fundamental to human survival, so influential in relating to and transforming soil, water, air, forests, organisms, etc, has also become intensely entrenched in state regimes and global commodity markets. It forces us to ask how the most fundamental questions of survival, health and nutrition of the individual are linked to community cultures and worldviews, national agrarian regimes, globalisation of economy and culture, and climate change. Issues of scale are, therefore, central to an understanding of agrarian ecologies, linked by the ecological, social, cultural, economic and political flows.

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Updated On : 16th Oct, 2018

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