Summary of "Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development"

Summary of

Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development

By Dharam Gjai and Jessica M. Vivian

Summary written by T.A. O'Lonergan, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development, Dharam Gjai and Jessica M. Vivian, (eds), (New York: Routledge, 1992), 347 pp.

Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development will be of interest to those who desire an understanding of grassroots action toward environmental goals. The work is a collection of the essays by multiple authors which are divided among four parts, each with an overarching topic. Following an introduction by the editors, the first of these parts addresses approaches and concepts. Michael Redclift offers a framework for analysis of the relationship between sustainable development and popular participation. The author argues that "... the concept of sustainable development needs to be recognized as an alternative to the prevailing view, rather than a modification of it. ... The emphasis is placed on the structural determinants of local-level decision-making, at the local, national and international levels, rather than on a more 'human resources' or interactional (sic) approach".

The third chapter examines participation, empowerment and local resource management as the foundations for sustainable development. The author discusses the issues raised by the UNRISD research programme on sustainable development and participation in resource management. One topic addressed in this chapter is, "... the question of the apparent linkages between poverty and environmental degradation in the Third World in the light of the issues raised by the above mentioned research.

The second section focuses on traditional systems of resource management. The first chapter examines the threats posed to the sustainable land use of the Barabaig pastoralists of Tanzania. One such threat is the agreement between Canada and Tanzania to develop the Basotu plains for wheat production. The author also addresses: social injustice, unsound economics, and an alternative way forward. Ruth Ammerman Yabes offers the Zanjeras and the Ilocos Norte irrigation project as examples of lessons of environmental sustainability in Philippine traditional resource management systems. She examines: the organizational structure of the Zanjeras, the benefits of these irrigation activities, and the challenges which they face. The final chapter in this section presents two comparative studies of sustainable development and people's participation in wetland ecosystem conservation in Brazil. The two studies are: people's participation in the conservation of the Marituba wetlands and the study of rubber tappers of the Guapore Valley.

Part three considers social action and the environment with four chapters, the first of which concerns urban social organisation and ecological struggle in Durango, Mexico. The authors offer the historical context, prefatory to a discussion of the origins and development of the Durango Popular Defense Committee and the resultant growth in the environmental movement. Chapter eight "... presents two initiatives taken within indigenous communities in Southern Mexico; initiatives designed to ensure the rural poor's control over their physical and social resources. The different socio-political dynamics within and surrounding these communities, the environmental context, and the historical experiences with state-led development programmes are considered as background to the different forms of activism adopted". The next chapter in this section examines coastal overfishing and the fish-workers' actions concerning the running of the commons in Keral State,India. The author addresses two issues: the ruin of common property resources and the collective action in response to the destruction of those resources. The final chapter in this section addresses the move from environmental conflicts to sustainable mountain transformation in the Garhwal Himalaya.

The final section offers lessons to be learned from environmental projects. The authors first examine constraints to people's participation in the environmental rehabilitation in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands, followed by considerations of strategic dimensions of people's participation. The final chapter offers lessons from Latin America which focus on who should manage environmental problems.

Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development is a comprehensive collection of essays addressing grassroots participation in sustainable development. Each essay is extensively annotated and is followed by a list of relevant resources. Both features will be useful to the serious reader who wishes to pursue the topic further.