Time and location

Tuesday, 20 January 2015, 20:00 - 22:00
Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Favoritenstraße 15a, 1040 Vienna


Ashish Kothari
sociologist and environmentalist, Kalpavriksh, Pune (Indien)

Özlem Onaran
Professor of Workforce and Economic Development Policy, University of Greenwich, London (UK)

Chair: Martina Neuwirth, VIDC

Languages: English and German with simultaneous interpretion

Please register: neuwirth@remove-this.vidc.org

Beyond the Limits. Economy vs Ecology?

© iStock.com/loops7
© iStock.com/loops7

“As it becomes abundantly clear that humanity as a whole has crossed the ecological limits of the earth, and that countries like China and India are fast joining the already-industrialised nations in stressing the planet even more, the search for radical alternatives is humanity’s most urgent quest.” (Ashish Kothari)


The globalised economy of the 21st century and the conditions that states have created for it have exacerbated inequalities in a way that the richest top 1 percent’s income increases exponentially, leaving the 99 percent more and more behind.

The impressive growth rates of emerging countries like India or China have lifted millions of people out of poverty, but they have also impoverished many millions, and have created greater inequalities.

At the same time, scientists warn against an irreversible climate change and biodiversity loss. Their negative consequences will affect people in more vulnerable so-called developing countries more. The emerging countries’ ecological footprint becomes bigger, whereas the main polluters are still western industrialized countries.
The global financial and economic crisis has exacerbated inequalities as well as imbalances and further weakened the political will to solve the ecological crisis.
In European countries the financial base of the middle classes – a traditional backbone of the state – is systematically eroded by (inevitable?) budget cuts. At the same time, pressure grows at all levels to face up to international competition – mostly at the expense of national social welfare systems. All this contributes to a sense of insecurity, leading to a growing support for nationalist and extremist movements.

But scientists as well as civil society activists discuss alternatives – searches for ways out of the “the winner takes it all” logic in which fundamental changes only produce few winners and many losers. There is a wide range of ideas and concepts, like the concept of ‘buen vivir’ (the “good life”), the ideas of a solidarity- or commons-based economy, de-growth initiatives, radical ecological democracy, or happiness indices.

Where do Ashish Kothari, Indian sociologist and environmental activist, and Özlem Onaran, a Turkish economist currently based at the University of Greenwich, see current transitions and upheavals? What are the opportunities and risks of these changes? Is growth-based capitalism compatible with ecological limits? Are there alternatives that can challenge the current economic paradigms – in the (global) South as well as in the (global) North?


Ashish Kothari

Ashish Kothari is a founder-member of the environmental group Kalpavriksh. He has taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration and coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process. He served on Greenpeace International and Greenpeace India Boards and steering committees of two Commissions of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). He has also been active with various people’s movements, and has authored and edited over thirty books. In 2012, he wrote together with Aseem Shrivastava “Churning the Earth. The Making of Global India”, in which he challenged India’s impressive but “predatory” economic growth story. Ashish Kothari currently focuses on Radical Ecological Democracy as an alternative to economic globalization.

Özlem Onaran

Özlem Onaran is Professor of Workforce and Economic Development Policy at the University of Greenwich since 2012. Before she worked at the University of Westminster, Middlesex University, Vienna University of Economics and Business, the University of Applied Sciences-Berlin, Istanbul Technical University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Yapi Kredi Bank in Istanbul.
Her research focuses on the interaction of income distribution, demand, and growth; the financial crises and distributional consequences; the effects of international trade and foreign direct investment on wages, employment, and investment; the gender effects of international trade and economic crisis; and on the effects of globalization on the welfare states. She published articles in books and journals such as Cambridge Journal of Economics, World Development, Public Choice, Economic Inquiry, European Journal of Industrial Relations, International Review of Applied Economics, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Review of Political Economy, and Eastern European Economics.

A follow-up event to the 6th Austrian Development Conference.


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