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Developed Nations Grew At The Cost Of Others But Don’t Want To Pay For It

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Ecological debt refers to the consumption of resources from an ecosystem in a way that exceeds the system’s replenishing capacity. It the overall consumption of the global resources surpassing the earth’s ability to regenerate them.

The term is closely related to the carrying capacity which is the capacity of a biological species in an environment or the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely given the food, water, and other necessities available in the environment.

Ecological debt reverses the concept of financial debt and it demands social, cultural, economic justice to those who are marginalised in the third world. 

Obligation and the responsibility that industrialized countries have towards ‘Third World’ countries, because of the plunder of oil, minerals, forests, biodiversity, marine resources, because of the occupation of their environmental space and the destruction and pollution of their natural capital and sources of subsistence is narrated through the idea of ecological debt.

Representational image.

Some countries, especially the colonial countries like England, Germany, France, Spain etc have developed on a large scale and they developed at the expense of other countries.

Ecological debt is the cumulative debt owed by the rich global north (North) to the poor global south (South), a payback for the resource plundering and environmental and social degradation caused by colonialism and globalisation. It is impoverishing, displacing, marginalising, enslaving local communities.

An important element constituting ecological debt is the practice of exporting resources without taking into account social and environmental damages, there is an ecologically unequal exchange.

Components Of Ecological Debt

  • The environmental liabilities of transnational companies.
  • Export of toxic waste from North to South.
  • Biopiracy
  • Carbon Debt (Greenhouse effect debt)
  • Ecologically unequal trade.

Example: The European Union imports four times more tons than it exports, causing displacement of environmental loads from North to South through trade. We also import cheap exhaustible resources. Questions are more relevant every day because we take a ‘social metabolic’ view of the economy.

Politics Of Unequal Trade

The politics of unequal trade is an important concept in the world-systems approach. The developed nations with affluent capital dematerialise their economies and outsource the material production to foreign countries which have low labour costs to availing value-based consumption services.

This export trade by shifting production units of material goods in poor countries is unbalanced and not a fair deal. While the poor nations export the products, they are underpriced because the exported products value doesn’t include the scale of environmental and social costs of their extraction and processing.

The resources are being exploited and exported from the developing countries at the cost of the livelihood of millions of poor. The resources available in poor countries have been stolen out in some sense here. Social and environmental accountability is not taken into consideration.

The developed OECD countries are focused on service-oriented product designs and outsourcing material production to developing countries. This trend is increasing and more developed countries are putting the cost consumption-based environmental loss to underdeveloped countries by exploiting their resources.

The overutilization of environmental resources is a threat to global sustainability. Representational image.

The liberalised global economy because of globalisation has opened up the doors for putting the cost of developed countries’ consumption behaviours’ environmental cost onto the underprivileged resource-rich developing countries. Those developing countries are now the net importers of carbon-intensive goods. 

The unequal exchange is a kind of colonisation of modern time. The overutilization of environmental resources is a threat to global sustainability. Along with the environmental resource depletion consequences, the unequal exchange will prevent the resource use and consumption of bottom group communities of less developed countries, who are using the resources for their subsistence level of living and livelihood.

The measures of the surplus-value extraction from the underdeveloped countries are transferred under the guise of ‘international trade’ to capitalists to the core. Such exchanges have always been in favour of developed countries.

Unequal exchange means that the underprivileged countries are always the losers when it comes to trade because this unequal exchange is sending disproportionate ‘surplus value’ to the capitalist economies through a new structural influence. 

Example :

  • Tanzania: In the late 1990s, Tanzania was Africa’s third-largest gold exporter. But the citizens of Tanzania didn’t benefit from this, and thousands of citizens lost their livelihood because of the mining companies. They have lost their homes and lives. The mining activity was also a huge threat to the already fragile ecosystem of Tanzania. The only beneficiary of this mining was the north funded multinational mining company who paid only 3% in royalties and no taxes at all.
  • In India, the campaign of ecological debt developed after the Bhopal gas leak tragedy of 1984 that was specifically centred on one of the components of ecological debt, that is, the unpaid, unrecognized environmental liabilities was the component.
  • The National Aluminium Company (NALCO), Odisha which mines aluminium has destroyed over 353 villages by acquiring fifty thousand acres of land. Displacing hundreds of thousands of people, while creating an external debt of $1755 Million. The destruction by NALCO extended far beyond the mining area as mega power thermal and hydro projects were also added. They grabbed enormous amounts of resources while impoverishing people.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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