When discussing political ecology usually the main points established are the specific environmental problems, the focus on the concepts such as global change and trade, problems that face political ecology in a regional context, problems in term of socio-economic characteristics, and we also acknowledge the fact that it is actor oriented. The usual critique of Political Economy is based on its high plurality, while no rational theory is offered. It is also widely said to be biased towards poverty, the rural and land.
While this may be the case, Bryant and Bailey’s book Third World Political Ecology takes a different approach, it is not a book on a single approach, it adopts more than just the two usual ones which are neo-Malthusian and cultural ecology, and deterministic neo-Marxism and detail them very effectively. In their conclusion they argue that the only way to understand the environmental change or the increasing environmental crisis is by analysing ‘the role of various actors in relation to a politicised environment characterised by unequal power relations’ p. 88, Third World Political Ecology, 1997
The actors included in this generalisation include business, which at most times would be Transnational Corporations TNCs , the state, multilateral institutions, which could be referring to the International Monetary Fund IMF, environmental non-governmental organisations ENGOs and those who have influence at grassroot level. Being political ecology this book puts politics first, and that is how the authors view the interaction between each of these actors and the environment. Surely the aim in this book is to show that nature can be politicised.
It is yet to be understood how or why humans would want to include nature into politics but it is happening, and that is what Bryant and Bailey propose to do. POLITICAL According to Whiteside p. 114, Divided Natures, 2002 ‘politics pertains to the processes of persuasion, competition and issue framing through which groups with differing values achieve sufficient reconciliation to constitute a community’ with this definition of politics one can see what Bryant and Bailey intend to illustrate about political ecology, they clearly put politics first and ecology last.
In their introduction Bryant and Bailey say that their book is about ‘the politics of environmental change in the Third World but does not claim to cover all aspects of this vast subject’ p. 1, ibis. They cover the main arguments in political ecology including that of the radical which mainly focuses on the economic side of the issue. They criticise the classical political ecologists for criticising the status quo, which in turn they do not find an alternative for. HISTORY Research wise the book is much researched and shows immense amount of knowledge of other perspectives/approaches.
Shows clear knowledge of origins, the book tells us that ‘Third World political ecology originated in the early 1970s at a time when human environmental interaction was coming under close public and scholarly scrutiny, especially after the First World War. ‘ p. 10, ibis This book gives clear non-biased origins of the subject but tends to talk a lot about who wrote about it rather than actually saying what they have in fact wrote on the subject, it requires after reading it too much self-research.
Although they consider the importance of history in the political ecology framework they limit their discussion of historical faces to the imprint of colonialism on the natural environment. They fail to make a convincing argument for the value of rich historical analysis of land-issues at the local level. The fact that an area was colonised does not mean that we understand the nature and extent of environmental change.
As an emerging theoretical structure political ecology is developed with opportunities for full-bodied historical research but this point is largely neglected in ‘Third World Political Ecology’. Indeed it is not arguable that it shows good research/empirical study skills, but depth lacks to some extent. BUSINESS This book explored the role of businesses, mostly TNCs Transnational Corporations at environmental degree, whether it is change or conflict or prospects.
This chapter puts into detailed paragraphs themes and ideas which pertain the global capitalist system. The role of TNCs is more or less described in the rest of Chapter Five. Issues such as technology hazards and their actual outcomes, they clarify this point by giving examples which is a good way of analysing issues, ‘the release of a toxic cloud of methyl iso-cynate into the air was not socially indiscriminate since it affected mainly low-income families living near the factory,’ P. 10, ibis more clearly it is understood why Third World Countries need the TNCs, and that is due to their lack of funds because of debts etc. but their control over the economy and the political sector makes it rather difficult for Westerners and other organisations to agree with their approaches on environmental change. After all the economy is what retards Third World countries, though rapid economic growth may be at hand, poverty still touches the majority of the people, due to unequal distributions of wealth and a weak state.
This Chapter is just as detailed as the others, gives good debate -a strong point of these two authors- both on the negative and the positive. ENGOs Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations The Chapter like Bryant and Bailey says has ‘suggested that professional ENGOs-especially but not exclusively from the First World- have experienced considerable difficulties in integrating environmental and development considerations in their activities, but that this situation is changing as a result of pressure from their Third World counterparts. ‘ p. 57, ibis ENGOs are being accused of failing to do their job as actors of political ecology, Bryant and Bailey make a thorough analysis of the influence of politics on environmental change in this chapter, analyse the role of ENGOs and the consequences people in the Third World have had to suffer because of bad governance and decision making.
But in doing so they moderate the importance of understanding natural processes. CONCLUSION This book provides close to 500 citations and contains remarkable chapter summaries exceptional intermediary paragraphs and appendix and efficient use of examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
It has valuable referencing for anyone interested in the environment and development in the Third World. Though it may sound politically incorrect, this books does have a biased approach in my opinion. Not to full blown knowledge does it do this but the Malthusian belief that famine and poverty are a natural outcome comes into mind whilst reading the book. They do criticise the actors for not creating an alternative solution to the problem of the environment but neither do they say that humans need become equal, so they agree that some people are destined to be poor, and some rich.