This Fissured Land by Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha – Book Review

This Fissured Land is a book that provides an ecological interpretation of Indian history and a fresh theory of resource use. It is a book about the interaction between human and nature. Written by eminent scholars like Madhav Gadgil, an Indian Ecologist, and Ramachandra Guha, an Indian Historian, the book offers fresh insights and a different perspective on the history of India and environmental issues. The book is a compilation of the lifetime works of Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha. 

Madhav Gadgil is an Indian ecologist and the founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. He is know for heading the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP) of 2010, also known as Gadgil Commission. He was awarded with the Padma Shri in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan in 2006. Ramachandra Guha is an Indian Historian and a columnist. His notable works include India After Gandhi and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World. He has been awarded with several accolades for his achievements in the field of history. 

This book This Fissured Land looks at Indian history through an ecological lens and provides a proper account of environmental history. It studies the interaction between humans and nature and natural resources and the consequences of these interactions. It introduces us to an environmental dimension of history. 

The book studies the conditions under which humans excercised prudence or profligacy in their use of nature. It classifies human habits under the categories of prudence and profligacy. The book also offers a new sociological framework for the analysis of resource use. It presents the theory of ‘modes of resource use’. 

The theory of ‘modes of resource use’ classifies human societies based on their interaction with nature and natural resources. Understanding the shortcomings of Marx’s mode of production when trying to classify societies based on resource use and ecological context, the authors introduce the concept of modes of resource use. Their  major criticisms of Marx’s mode of production are that it ignores natural contexts within which field and factory exist, places less importance on political structures and struggles, its lack of applicability outside Europe, and its little value when interpreting religious, ideological and cultural values of various societies and differences in them. 

This concept of ‘modes of resource use’ includes natural resources in its domain of production. This concept is developed so that finding the characteristics of different modes, and estimates the environmental impact of different modes, and estimates the effects of these modes on the ecosystem and availability of natural resources become easier. When it comes to relation of productions, this concept inquires the types of property, control and management and forms of allocation and distribution. All these factors influence and guide the human societies and the periods of history in utilisation of natural resources. Regarding productive forces, it investigates the different technologies of resource exploitation, conversion and transportation that are typical of these human societies. This concept does not consider the socialist and capitalist societies as there are more similarities between them than differences in the ecological context. According to modes of resource use, human societies are classified into four historical modes. These are gathering(including shifting cultivation), nomadic pastoralism, settled cultivation or agriculture, and industrial mode of society. Each historical mode of society has a set of unique characteristics with respect to the aspects of technology, economy, social organization and ideology. 

After introducing this concept of ‘modes of resource use’, the next section of the book focusses on the ecological history of India. It studies historical events from an environmental perspectives and offers its opinion regard the practices followed in the past by Indians. The theory of ‘modes of resource use’ is applied to Indian history prior to British rule. It explains the origins and the practice of caste system and religions from an ecological context. The next part part of the book analyses the impact after the advent of the British. It focusses on the use and abuse of forests under colonial rule. It is a history of Indian forest using the perspectives of the authors. It points the flaws in our current mode of resource use and provides the basis for creating a sustainable mode of resource use. 

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