West African agrarian environments and the palm oil sector: An historical perspective (Giovanni Tonolo, Department of History and Civilization, EUI)
This talk aims to bridge the gap between environmental history and history of development, building on the cases of the palm oil development plans of Benin and Ivory Coast. I elaborate on three interrelated aspects. The first is the environmental consequences of the development projects (such as soil exhaustion and deforestation) and the countermeasures eventually adopted by the various actors. The second is the misreading of local practices by some experts – namely, the confusion between slash-and-burn and shifting cultivation, or the belief in the existence of an original forest climax. The third aspect is methodological. I ask how to analyse historically the transformations of both landscapes themselves and the way local communities perceive them.
Climate change, transformations in indigeneity and legal mobilisation against coal mining in India (Arpitha Kodiveri, Department of Law, EUI)
They are about to cut 50,000 trees to make way for a coal mine, our sacred lands are being taken away from us. The planet is heating up and yet, the company is allowed to open up its mines said Jitu, a young Adivasi struggling against the Adani coal mine that is set to begin operations in Talabira, Odisha. In this brief exchange I observed how the vocabulary of resistance had transformed to include climate concerns.
A similar framing This is observable in many struggles against mining projects in the coal-rich state of Odisha. In this presentation of my empirical research, I map the nuances of this transformation and how it has shaped mobilisation strategies in two Odisha communities, Talabira and Sundergarh.
It has been difficult for Adivasi or Indigenous communities in India to protect their rights over land and resources. The Coal Bearing Areas Act of 1957 allows for land to be compulsorily acquired by the state. Moreover, in 2019, coal mining was privatised through a government committee recommendation. This has attracted private actors into a sector previously monopolised by the state-owned company Coal India. In this context, Adivasi communities challenging the acquisition of land for coal mining have strategically harnessed concerns over climate change to be able to leverage international law and India’s climate change targets. An example of this is in the struggle against the expansion of the state-owned Mahanadi Coal Fields in Sundergarh. Local communities are speaking to the increase in carbon emissions that the expansion would result in, apart from the difficulty it would bring through the likely loss of their lands.
This transformation is important not only for how it shapes the relationship between the use of law and social movements but for how it has reshaped the articulation of indigeneity. Instead of positioning themselves as the original inhabitants entitled to rights over land, Adivasi communities are now positioning themselves as the benevolent conserver of the forests. As a young Adivasi in Talabira put it, The world needs to recognise our rights, as we know how to keep the forests and not destroy them.
This seminar is organised by the Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Governance Interdisciplinary Research Cluster.
Please register to receive the Zoom link.