Mountain Perspective: Monism Of Ideas And Actions To Alternatives

May 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Advocacy, Agriculture, Bhutan, Biodiversity, Capacity Development, Ecosystem Functions, Experts Speak, Forest, Governance, India, Information and Communication, Lessons, Livelihood, M-20 CAMPAIGN, Nepal, News, Opinion, Pakistan, Rio+20, Vulnerability

Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma IndiaDr. Sudhirendar Sharma: I’m indeed grateful to all the members who made written submissions to the discussions on ‘rewriting mountain perspective‘. At bilateral level, many others have contributed their unwritten thoughts and reflections. While many have gone public with their inputs, others have restricted themselves to drawing-room conversations such that they remain ‘unidentified’ in the virtual space! The fact that it has generated some heat (without causing any rise in ambient temperatures) has been valuable. I have tried to assimilate such inputs within my limited abilities to bring forth some additional thoughts on the subject.

My initial thoughts on ‘rewriting mountain perspective’ evoked somewhat expected reactions. Far from taking the argument further, the trajectory of discussions confined itself to ‘whether or not to support the contention’. I suspect that wasn’t either the objective or the purpose of drawing members into discussion on something that has outlived its relevance. In many ways, the ‘mountain perspective’ could be read as limited human understanding aimed at improving entitlement to the mountain resources. Without doubt, it had its relevance during the time it was drafted. If researchers and planners see value in persisting with it, so be it!

Bereft of ‘metaphors’, bio-physical perspective on ‘mountains’ perpetuates ‘monism’ of ‘ideas’ and ‘actions’. Since it does not provide the imaginative space to envision changed relationships, changed practices and their consequences, we see the mountains sliding into (ecological) degeneration at the cost of (economic) growth. And there are any number of those for whom growth is ‘reality’ which, according to anthropologist Frederique Apffel-Marglin, has been a political innovation which separates ‘fact’ and ‘value’, and reposes unquestionable faith in ‘fabricated facts’. And, repeating such ‘facts’ distances ‘us’ from ‘truth’.

By arguing that it is time to re-write mountain perspective my contention has been to challenge the ‘dominant narrative’ of our times because such narratives are not only hegemonic but do not, by virtue of being entrenched in dominant institutional spaces, allow alternative narratives to flourish.Haven’t inflated rhetoric of industrial agriculture, depicted as scientific and cutting-edge, been one such ‘dominant narrative’ that has been hard to criticize? Though the ‘narrative’ has been positioned around ‘feed the world’ logic, hunger and malnutrition has only continued to grow as a global problem. Without doubt, it did serve some purpose but not without destroying the ‘alternative narratives’ of organic, natural or sustainable agriculture.

I often use a metaphor of ‘seed’ to suggest regeneration, growth and potential. The multi-functionality of ‘seed’ as something that can be eaten, traded and gifted has been embedded in social relationships. However, for industrial agriculture ‘seed’ is an economic object that can be bought, traded and sold. The ideology of control and commodification is the ‘dominant narrative’ of our times that need to be challenged. I’d encourage members to read between-the-lines to get a better sense of what I’m trying to say. If Einstein’s theory can be subjected to scientific inquiry, there can be every reason to question the validity of ‘mountain perspective’ in the changing times.

Let there be an ‘objective’ assessment of what is being said rather than its ‘subjective’ interpretation.

Featured Photo: Shri Ved Badola, New Delhi India.


Author: Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma is a development analyst based in New Delhi, India. Email:

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya team.


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