I get the occasional cold call from secondary school students and always try to respond with some things that are expected and some unexpected. They might miss the mark, or be a bit wayward, but you know its a good sign when a year 11 student is interested in research. This one came from South Australia – literally five minuted response, so hardly even as taxing as the effort of posting it here (almost). The questions were about the Sundarbans, as the student Fariha had read a review essay on recent-ish books:
- Can you explain the situation that transpired in the Sundarban, after Cyclone Amphan hit?
To be fair, compared to you or anyone else with internet access, I cannot say anything much on this because I’m unable to travel at present and really, I would need to go and have a look for myself. Everything else I could tell you about the Sundarbans in the last year would be a summary of what is already online. I think having a look for yourself is the only way an anthropologist can say something different to what an year 11 researcher might find after a few weeks looking online. To some extent the habit of contextualising is something you learn with time, but if you are sensible you will know not to rush to judgement, to consider as many interpretations you can, and come up with your interpretation without thinking its always correct or final. That is the fun of research though, isn’t it.
- Why is the Sundarban area so important (culturally, ecologically, economically, etc.)?
Trees, people, animals. In Annu Jalais book Forest of Tigers, you can read heaps about the relationships of humans to animals and jungle. Its fascinating, and there is a lot to learn for all of us.
- What strategies are being implemented and/or proposed in the Sundarban to protect the site and local communities?
Hmmm, many, good and bad. You should investigate the Marichjhapi massacre for an example of something that went wrong.
- What determines the livelihood of the local people in Sundarban? How has extreme weather events such as cyclone Amphan affected their livelihood?
Much. Much. Much. Much. But then, ‘extreme weather’ is becoming less extreme in the sense that its hitting everywhere, so that by definition is not extreme but the new normal, however much we’d like to keep thinking its not. I mean, is ‘extreme weather’ or ‘climate change’ not just a way of talking about pollution without putting the blame of the top 100 corporations that easily produce the majority of world pollution, from plastics to carbon monoxide to toxins, to the entire commodity system?
- How does the local community’s perspective on the Sundarban and what solution do they perceive will help mitigate the impact of extreme weather events?
The mitigation you speak of requires a wider revolutionary movement, the return and even greater engagement of people’s organisations to wrest control of the means of production from the greedy plutocrats that currently dominate and ensure no voice of the people can be heard except when they are controlling the microphone (platform, outlet, forum).
- Some writers and scholars have highlighted that dating back to the colonial era, the government has historically offered little help to victims of natural disasters. Do you see any parallels between the situation then and now?
What is the difference between colonialism and neo-colonialism? Perhaps the difference is that while people know about it now, people do less about it. A kind of mass paralysis of everyone sitting in front of a screen nodding to the ever slowing heartbeat of their own disengagement.
- How has the nature of the Sundarban itself changed over time as a result of lack of consultation and lack of political will for a solution and how has that impacted the lives of the community?
Lack of consultation – sounds like a thing, but consultation with who? The lack of political will is real at least I guess, even as communities have been forced out of the area for various reasons.
- What do you think needs to change in order for the situation in the Sundarban to improve?
Overthrow of the ruling class, defeat of corporate culture, opportunism and bigotry, a real critique of the so-called ‘climate crisis’ (pollution/world destruction). Of which a research project like yours can be a start, but cannot be all we do – it can start with research but it must expand to get more people involved, more people need to be reading and learning about revolutionary theory and thinking long and hard about forming organisations that are collectively run, counter-hegemonic (look it up if need be – against the dominant) and in the business of informed critical engagement, questioning everything, accepting nothing (including this) and of course allowing for occasional five minute rants by grizzled old professors who wish they were a part of the coming global communist insurrection that will be the only thing that will save us all from rampant grasping crazy-ass capital.