Student Spotlight, Federico Demaria
Shipbreaking and conflict in India
'Bigger and better' washing machines, automobiles and superjets must lead to 'bigger and better' pollution. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, 1970
A number of environmental issues are tackled from different perspectives enriching the exchange among students, researchers and professors that is informal and challenging.Federico Demaria works linking ecological economics and political ecology, looking at how ecological distribution conflicts emerge from social metabolism. Economies are open to the entry of energy and materials, and to the exit of waste. Conflicts can therefore arise from resource extraction (as studied by a group of students at ICTA for oil, gold, uranium, etc.) and waste disposal (as in the case of Federico's project). A part from freely using oceans and atmosphere for the temporary deposit of CO2 (biggest waste in terms of volume), rich countries export for dumping toxic waste. An example is represented by ocean-going ships like oil tankers, bulk carriers, general cargo, container ships and others like passenger ships.
Shipping industry represents a key infrastructure for the world's social metabolism as more than 80% of the world's trade travels by sea (7.4 billions tons of goods loaded in 2006). But, where do these ships go at the end of their life?
To answer this question Federico spent three months in India doing field work in Alang-Sosiya, the site of one of the world's largest shipbreaking yard. Shipbreaking is the process of dismantling an obsolete vessel’s structure for scrapping or disposal. Ocean-going ships, both mainly owned and used for their trade by developed countries, are demolished, together with their toxic materials, in developing countries. Ship owners and ship breakers obtain large profit avoiding decontamination, dumping environmental costs to workers, local farmers and fishermen. Unequal distribution of burdens and benefits, due to an international and national uneven distribution of power, has led to an ecological distribution conflict.
The more general idea is to study the clash between the economy and the environment, with particular attention for the distributional aspects, valuation issues and environmental justice.