Monday, March 24, 2014

PF April 2014 - Economic Development vs Environment in India - Con Position

Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.

For part one of this topic analysis, click here.


Environmental degradation in India is creating harms that can be measured in dollars and cents; lots of dollars and cents and this is evidenced by a World Back Report released in 2013.

World Bank 2013:
The report estimates the total cost of environmental degradation in India at about Rs. 3.75 trillion (US$80 billion) annually, equivalent to 5.7 percent of GDP in 2009, which is the reference year for most of the damage estimates. Of this total, outdoor air pollution accounts for Rs. 1.1 trillion followed by the cost of indoor air pollution at Rs. 0.9 trillion, croplands degradation cost at Rs. 0.7 trillion, inadequate water supply and sanitation cost at around at Rs. 0.5 trillion, pastures degradation cost at Rs. 0.4 trillion, and forest degradation cost at Rs. 0.1 trillion.

The World Bank report is detailed and breaks down the some of the less obvious impacts which are not necessarily reflected in direct economic cost evaluations.

World Bank 2013:
Environmental damage means physical damages that have an origin in the physical environment. Thus, damages to health from air or water pollution are included as well as damages from deforestation. The term cost means the opportunity cost to society, i.e., what is given up or lost, by taking a course of action. When goods traded in markets are damaged, prices and knowledge of consumer preferences for the damaged goods (embodied in the demand function) and production information (embodied in the supply function) provide the necessary information for computing social costs. Estimating social costs from reduced productivity of agricultural land due to erosion, salinity or other forms of land degradation is a good example. However, many damages from environmental causes are to "goods," such as health, that are not traded in markets. In these cases, economists have devised a number of methods for estimating social costs based on derived preferences from observable or hypothetical behavior and choices. One example is the value of time lost to illness or provision of care for ill family members. If the person who is ill or who is providing care for someone who is ill does not otherwise has a job the financial cost of time losses is zero. However, even in such a case the person is normally engaged in activities that are valuable for the family and time losses reduce the amount of time available for these activities. Thus, there is a social cost of time losses to the family. In an economic costing exercise this is normally valued at the opportunity cost of time, i.e. the salary, or a fraction of the salary that the individual could earn if he or she chose to work for income. In summary, social costs are preferred over financial costs because social costs capture the cost and reduced welfare to society as a whole. All cost are estimated as flow values (annual losses).

One interesting piece of evidence illustrates how economic development can have unintended and direct environmental impact in India.

University of Gothenburg 2009:
Many of the substances in the most common medicines are manufactured in India and China. Some of these factories release large quantities of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical substances into the environment. There is an obvious risk of these releases leading to resistant bacteria. ”We used to think that pharmaceuticals that ended up in the environment mostly came from the use of the medicines and that the substances were dispersed through wastewater. We now know that certain factories that manufacture substances release very large quantities of active substances," says associate professor Joakim Larsson of the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg,Sweden, one of the research scientists behind the studies.

India is resource rich, having an abundance of useful minerals ripe for exploitation.  As a result, foreign investors streamed into India beginning in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the foreign investments have remained low due to government restrictions.  The Indian mining industry is thus meeting the demands of ever-increasing economic development with minimal outside support resulting in broad impacts on worker safety and the environment.

Mehta 2002:
While the safety of mineworkers is the most important serious problem facing the Indian mining industry, the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS), who is responsible for the supervision and enforcement of mining rules is unable to do its job effectively because of a shortage of supervisory staff...due to a lack of funds. The miners also face health hazards arising out of on-site pollution due to dust, gases, noise and polluted water.  Health related issues are increasing coming into focus. One of the major environmental challenges facing the minng industry is due to the mine sites which are no longer in use. In the Jharia and Raniganj coal fields in Bihar there are more than 500 abandoned mines covering about 1800 hectares. The sites include subsided areas, excavated pits, overburdens, spoil dumps, and areas affected by fire.

Many sources prove the expanding economic development of India is far outpacing its ability to control the resulting environmental impacts.

Pinto 2008:
The production of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is one of the fastest growing global manufacturing activities. Rapid economic growth, coupled with urbanization and a growing demand for consumer goods, has increased both the consumption and the production of EEE...The same hypertechnology that is hailed as a ‘crucial vector’ for future modern societal development has a not-so-modern downside to it: electronic waste (e-waste)...This new kind of waste is posing a serious challenge in disposal and recycling to both developed and developing countries. While having some of the world's most advanced high-tech software and hardware developing facilities, India's recycling sector can be called medieval.The dumping of e-waste, particularly computer waste, into India from developed countries (‘green passport’ according to Gutierrez), because the latter find it convenient and economical to export waste, has further complicated the problems with waste management. All this has made e-waste management an issue of environment and health concern.

Changing Priorities

The environmental degradation of India resulting from rapid economic development can be alleviated by reordering the priority of environmental issues.  While it may be unrealistic to expect nations to cease all activities which damage the environment, prioritizing environmental protection redirects the focus of economic development as one which includes initiatives to preserve the environment.

Beder 2002:
In theory economic growth might be achieved without additional impacts on the environment but this would mean many activities with economic growth potential would have to be foregone and this will not happen whilst top priority is given to achieving economic growth. The incorporation of the environment into the economic system ensures that it will only be protected to the extent necessary to ensure it is able to continue to supply goods and services to the economic system...The limits to growth advocates of the 1960s and 70s tended to avoid the social implications of aborting economic growth in low-income countries and the issue of which nations were responsible for most resource use.  The sustainable development advocates of the present similarly want to avoid the ethical issues by falling back on economic calculus to make decisions as if values can be determined by doing the sums correctly. They also avoid the distributional issues by advocating economic growth for all in the hope that this will solve the problem of equity. On top of this the sustainable development approach makes further environmental degradation inevitable. It is apparent there is a need to go beyond these two failed approaches and find a third one which embraces the ethical dimension. This will involve getting beyond the current preoccupation of governments with economic growth as the overriding priority for all nations at all times. Our endeavours need to be focused on new ways of achieving a reasonable level of comfort in all nations, without the environmental damage normally associated with economic development.

Some believe that it is time to incorporate new ways of measuring economic progress which does not ignore the value of environmental integrity and sustainability.

Powell 2012:
If India is asked to consider the cost of growth in environmental degradation and social exclusion, it is likely to respond that more growth and more technology are the solution. However, the Indian Government’s optimistic view of economic growth as a means to social inclusiveness, providing dignity and a decent quality of life for all, and ecological sustainability, is flawed. At the same time, the Western idea of sustainable development is equally untenable. It endorses the false promise that an expanding economy can be fully compatible with environmental sustainability. In my view, the values of social inclusiveness and ecological sustainability will be properly prioritized only when economic growth ceases to be a proxy for development or progress.

Environmental Justice

One interesting possibility for Con lies within the concept of environmental justice.  We are arguing for what is the best interest of the Indian people.  Extending the concept of civil rights to environmental issues, it is unjust to discriminate against those people which are impoverished, undeveloped or living under weak structures of governance by exploiting their resources and damaging their environments with environmental wastes or hazards.

Massey 2004:
Protecting the environment is sometimes viewed as a luxury -- something people care about only when they have plenty of leisure time and disposable income. In practice, low-income communities and minority ethnic groups often bear the most severe consequences of environmental degradation and pollution. In this module, we explore questions related to the distribution of pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. Our discussion is centered on environmental justice: the recognition that minority and low-income communities often bear a disproportionate share of environmental costs – and the perception that this is unjust.

We can certainly claim those nations which take advantage of the disadvantaged to promote their own economic development at the expense of the environment should alter their priorities as a matter of moral duty and to reduce injustice.

Schlosberg 2004:
Wenz argues that it is important to understand different peoples’ interpretation or principles of justice – this helps us to understand others...Such engagement is related to the necessity of combining recognition with participation in achieving environmental justice. Wenz developed what he calls a ‘concentric circle’ theory of environmental justice, where we give moral priority to those closer to us – family for example – and less priority for those further away – foreigners, or other species. This makes sense because we engage more with those closest to us. The problem with such a theory is that it is difficult to identify with and argue for justice for those away from the centre of our own circles.

Specific to India, the source explains how economic globalization threatens cultural identities related to food production.  Destruction of a way of life is intrinsically linked to environmental changes in biodiversity brought on by monolithic corporate intrusion into the cultural identities of disadvantaged cultures. It can be argued this is not in the best interest of the majority of Indians.

Schlosberg 2004:
The principal point here is that part of the injustice wrought by the WTO is a lack of recognition, and so a destruction, of various cultural identities, including cultures’ ties to the land. Vandana Shiva applies this same critique to the related issue of the globalisation of the food production system. Shiva has spent much of the past few years criticising the links between economic globalisation and cultural threats, specifically by examining the development of the global food supply system and its effects on local communities...globalising the food supply destroys local production and market practices, and local cultural identity suffers...Another important cultural injustice of the globalisation of the food system is the destruction of the current localised culture of farming, to be replaced by a singular, corporate, and highly-engineered process. Local seed banks, for example, are seen as saving not just biodiversity, but cultural diversity as well; but these banks are replaced with monocropping of seeds owned and controlled by multinational seed corporations. The complaint is that it is not just a livelihood that is to be destroyed (and a sustainable one at that), but various regional peoples’ and cultures’ ways of life. In this view, globalisation creates ‘development’ and ‘growth’ by the destruction of the local environment, culture, and sustainable ways of living.

The Con Position

I have laid out a basic framework which addresses the harms of neglecting environmental priorities and have shown how altering the current priorities allows us act within the best interest of the Indian people. I think it can be useful to realize nothing in the resolution specifies that India must prioritize one over the other although that is the assumption.  It is certainly the government of India which establishes policies which promote economic development but we can make a case that external globalization pressures are driving economic policy and so it is the economic development of countries such as the United States which is ultimately being served.  It may not be an easy argument to make given the inherent assumptions in the resolution but properly presented in could be an approach that many teams are not prepared to answer.  While the Con could take a very loose stance and claim they are not advocating significant changes in the policies of economic development, rather a recognition that protecting the environment is important, I think the position is weak and will be difficult to win. I personally think it is very reasonable to stand on the idea that re-evaluating environmental protection and factoring sustainability into the calculus of what constitutes development is a strong idea. The basic idea is, a country does not achieve the status of "developed" if it fails to attain a sustainable environmental future.


India: Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges
An Analysis of Physical and Monetary Losses of Environmental Health and Natural Resources (In Three Volumes) Volume I; World Bank
June 5, 2013

Pharmaceuticals Sold In Sweden Cause Serious Environmental Harm In India, Research Shows
February 7, 2009
University of Gothenburg

The Indian Mining Sector: Effects on the Environment and FDI Inflows
Report to the OECD/OCDE Global Forum on International Investment
Pradeep S. Mehta; 2002

Indian J Occup Environ Med. Aug 2008; 12(2): 65–70.
E-waste hazard: The impending challenge
Violet N. Pinto; 2008

Sharon Beder, ‘Economy and environment: competitors or partners?’
Pacific Ecologist 3, Spring 2002, pp. 50-56.

Is India’s Economic Growth Sustainable?
Do traditional measures of economic growth and progress emperil the sustainable use of our natural resources?
Lydia Powell, September 13, 2012

Environmental Justice: Income, Race, and Health
Global Development And Environment Institute; Tufts University
Rachel Massey, 2004

Reconceiving Environmental Justice: GlobalMovements And Political Theories
Environmental Politics, Vol.13, No.3, Autumn 2004, pp.517 – 540

Sunday, March 23, 2014

PF April 2014 - Economic Development vs Environment in India - Pro Position

Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.

For part one of this topic analysis, click here.


Economic growth is key to helping developing countries such as India to lift itself out of poverty and emerge as a partner in global prosperity.  As stated by the UK Department of International Development:

Economic growth is the most important means of raising people’s incomes and reducing poverty in the developing world – it creates jobs and opportunities for poor people to support their families and build more stable futures.

When developing nations adopt a global approach to economic development, they can reduce the need for economic aid. This benefits not only the people of the developing country but the global economy as well. Department Minister, the Right Honorable Justine Greening elaborates by way of example:

The facts are compelling – wherever long-term per capita growth has been higher than 3%, we have also seen significant falls in poverty. Look at China – in 1981, 84% of China’s population lived under $1.25 per day. By 2008, this proportion had fallen dramatically to 13%. This was principally driven by the tenfold increase in per capita GDP over the period. Look at Vietnam – a three fold increase in per capita GDP resulted in poverty levels falling from 64% in 1993 to 17% in 2008. DfID used to have major country programmes delivering aid in both countries. Now our relationship is significantly different – it’s no longer aid, it’s turning to trade. The shift has happened. As the Indian Finance Minister said of his own country, “Aid is the past Trade is the future.” Economists may argue about many things, but not about this.

World Bank 2013:
Between 2005 and 2012, India lifted 137 million people out of poverty. Poverty declined by 2.2 percentage points per year, as the poverty rate (based on the national poverty line of US$1.17 (PPP) per person per day) fell sharply from 37 percent to 22 percent during this period. Compared with 1994-2005, when poverty fell at a rate of 0.7 percentage points per year, the later episode represents a significant increase in the rate of poverty reduction. At this pace, accelerated progress against poverty since economic reforms began in earnest in the early 1990s signals the emergence of a (statistically) robust new trend. Poverty decline has been widespread, with both rural and urban poverty rates falling to 26 percent and 14 percent in 2012. 

We can look at other examples of how economic development has resulted in dramatic health benefits for the people.

Ferrara 2012:
Moore and Simon report, “Just three infectious diseases – tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrhea – accounted for almost half of all deaths in 1900.”  Today, we have virtually eliminated or drastically reduced these and other scourges of infectious disease that have killed or crippled billions throughout human history, such as typhoid fever, cholera, typhus, plague, smallpox, diphtheria, polio, influenza, bronchitis, whooping cough, malaria, and others.  Besides the advances in the development and application of modern health sciences, this has resulted from the drastic reduction in filthy and unsanitary living conditions that economic growth has made possible as well.  More recently, great progress is being made against heart disease and cancer.

And eventually, as living and economic conditions improve, people tackle the wider issues which effect their lives, such as environmental protection.

Ferrara 2012:
Moreover, it is economic growth that has provided the resources enabling us to dramatically reduce pollution and improve the environment, without trashing our standard of living.  Moore and Simon write that at the beginning of the last century, “Industrial cities typically were enveloped in clouds of black soot and smoke.  At this stage of the industrial revolution, factories belched poisons into the air—and this was proudly regarded as a sign of prosperity and progress.  Streets were smelly and garbage-filled before the era of modern sewage systems and plumbing.”

Prioritizing Economic Growth

To make the link between economic growth and environmental protection, I will refer to a U.N. Commission study known as the Brundtland Report. It was observed in the 1980's during a time of economic cutbacks and austerity, programs which enhances the quality of life, such as environmental programs were among the first to be cut.

The decline of the 1980s has aggravated pressures on the environment in several ways:
  • Austerity measures and general recessionary conditions have brought sharp declines in per capita incomes and increased unemployment. This forces more people back into subsistence agriculture, where they draw heavily on the natural resource base and thus degrade it.
  • Austerity programmes inevitably include government cutbacks in both the staff and expenditure of fledgling, weak environmental agencies, undermining even the minimal efforts being made to bring ecological considerations into development planning.
  • Conservation always taken a back seat in times of economic stress. As economic conditions have worsened in developing countries and debt pressures have mounted, planners have tended to ignore environmental planning and conservation in both industrial and rural development projects.

In the report, Geoffrey Bruce of the International Developmental Agency commented that poverty itself is a major impediment to environmental integrity.

Bruce 1986:
Small farmers are held responsible for environmental destruction as if they had a choice of resources to depend on for their livelihood, when they really don't. In the context of basic survival, today's needs tend to overshadow consideration for the environmental future. It is poverty that is responsible for the destruction of natural resources, not the poor.

It should come as no surprise that a drop in economic growth and poor economic conditions in general, foster conditions which reduce concern for environmental protection. Studies show that even in the poorest countries, people are concerned about the environment but they are not willing make sacrifices to improve it.

Havasi 2012:
We found – in line with our expectations – that global environmental issues seem uniformly important for every country, though in the two poorest countries (India and China), the proportion of those who could not answer the questions, was quite high. In poorer countries people are more concerned about local problems than in the rich countries, but they are right, as they really have local problems. We found furthermore that in poorer countries the intention to make monetary sacrifice to prevent pollution and actual environment friendly acts are less frequent, despite a higher level of threat perception, which shows that poverty and its consequence, the dominance of survival values overwrite the worry about environment.

Those familiar with psychology are no doubt familiar with Abraham Maslow's theories on the hierarchy of needs. At the most fundamental level are the physiological needs for food, water and shelter and then comes the fulfillment of safety needs, social needs, and self-actualization. Regardless of the fact people, regardless of their economic or social status are concerned with environmental protection, researchers, as seen in the previous sources, empirically demonstrate that individuals will default to sustenance over all other concerns.  While that may be intuitive, I have given some evidence to support your intuitions.

Cooperative Views

Often, in such debates, the side which favors environmental protection will argue the environment can be saved without sacrificing economic development.  Basically, they will say we can have economic development and green initiatives at the same time or we can advance the economy while adopting sensible policies which promote environmental protection.  Often the opposition will argue that each can be given equal priority. Conversely, Pro can argue that economic development and environmental protection can coexist only if economic development is given the highest priority and thus it becomes necessary to establish a brightline for testing prioritization.  For example, if the argument is made every form of economic development results in environmental harm, would it be acceptable to stop economic development entirely in order to protect the environment?  If the answer is no, then economic development has the higher priority.

Another position for Pro is economic development and environmental impacts are not linked in a significant way.  By decoupling the economy and the environment it is argued there is no need to not prioritize economic development.  For example, the evidence suggests that population growth and environmental impacts are much more closely linked than economic development.

Lakshamana 2013:
Population pressure naturally leads to overexploitation of natural resources like land, air, and water, and often results in contamination and exhaustion of scarce resources India’s landmass is only 2.4% of the global total, but it is currently home to 16.7% of the world’s population. Although the northern, western, and eastern regions have registered growth rates below the national average, they exhibit a high degree of environmental degradation. There are various reasons for this. Population characteristics, i.e., the proportion of poor, middling, and rich, seem to have distinct effects on the process of degrading the environment (National Council of Applied Economic Research 2011). Higher population density adversely affects environmental quality (Costantin & Martini 2007).
India in particular is vulnerable to the environmental impacts of population pressure arising from too many individuals surviving in a relatively small physical area.

Bhattacharya and Innes 2006:
Population growth impacts the state of the environment and, in turn, the state of the environment affects population growth (Dasgupta, 2000). Population growth may increase the exploitation of open access environmental resources; alternately, it may increase the demand for marketed environmental resources, such as forest products, thus raising the prices of environmental goods and potentially spurring increased natural resource supplies. In the other direction, environmental deterioration may increase the demand for children to fetch water and fuelwood or manage livestock (Dasgupta, 1994) or, by worsening individual and public health (and thus raising child and adult mortality), to provide economic support to the household (Sah, 1991; Wolpin, 1997). Fusing these forces is the "vicious cycle" theory -- modern Malthusianism -- that conjectures a reinforcing downward spiral wherein population growth depletes the environment, spurring yet more population growth, and so on.

Solvency Through Growth

Finally, in keeping with the idea that environmental degradation in India may have causes unrelated to economic development, we can further promote that idea that economic development ultimately provides the mechanisms of solvency for environmental damage.  I mentioned before the concept of the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC), which claims an inverse relationship between environmental impacts and economic development.  We argue on the Pro side of the debate that economic development ultimately improves the environment.  One very compelling reason for this (and I leave it to you to find the evidence) is that technological advances will reduce the impact on the environment as we develop alternative, cleaner energy sources or devise technology for reversing the damage already present.  When coupled with the idea environmental impacts are unrelated to economic development we can prioritize economic development as a means for alleviating crushing poverty and advancing technologies which will solve environmental impacts.


India Development Update; October 2013
The World Bank Group

Investing in growth: How DFID works in new and emerging markets
Organisation: Department for International Development
Delivered on:11 March 2013 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)
The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP

Economic Growth, Not Redistribution, Most Benefits The Poor, Working People, And The Middle Class
Peter Ferrara

Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development; Our Common Future
United Nations 1987; Chairman: Gro Harlem Brundtland

The Place of Environment-Related Values in the Value-System. A Cross-Country Analysis
VirĂ¡g HAVASI; University of Miskolc, Hungary

Population, development, and environment in India
C.M. Lakshmana; Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Population Research Centre, Nagarabhavi, Bangalore, Karnataka 560072, India
(Received 7 July 2013; accepted 6 November 2013)

Malthus v. Boserup: An Empirical Exploration of the Population-Environment Nexus in India
Haimanti Bhattacharya and Robert Innes; University of Arizona
(Draft: August 2006)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

PF April 2014 - Economic Development vs Environment in India - Definitions

Resolved: Prioritizing economic development over environmental protection is in the best interest of the people of India.


I understand the NFL wants to place a focus on central Asia, but seriously, how many times do students need to debate development versus environmental protection? Especially, when there are so many other compelling issues in the region.  Here is a quick review of related articles and I strongly suggest you simply look at the links, read the articles, review the sources and cards, and have fun.

LD Jan/Feb 2014 Environmental Protection vs. resource extraction

The following links are not directly related but may provided some good cards or ideas.
LD Nov/Dec 2011 Moral obligation to assist the needy
PF Jan 2014 - Developmental aid in the Sahel
PF Oct 2012 - Moral obligation to mitigate climate change

The following resolutions from the past covered similar debates.

Past PF topics:
October 2009: Resolved: When in conflict, the United Nations should prioritize global poverty reduction over environmental protection

Past LD topics:
January/February 2004 - Resolved: a government’s obligation to protect the environment ought to take precedence over its obligation to promote economic development
November/December 2001 - Resolved: a lesser developed nation's right to develop ought to take priority over its obligation to protect the environment
March/April 1990 - Resolved: development of natural resources ought to be valued above protection of the environment.
March/April 1983 - Resolved: protection of the environment should take precedence over the development of natural resources.


prioritizing (prioritize)
Merriam Webster - "to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first".

From Google:
Designate or treat (something) as more important than other things
Determine the order for dealing with (a series of items or tasks) according to their relative importance.

Having just recently debated an extremely similar LD resolution, we learned the word 'prioritize' can be very important.  On the one hand, we have the idea that prioritize means things should be done in sequence.  So, in this resolution we should first focus on economic development and when we have reached some level of development we can focus on environmental protection.  On the other hand, according to some definitions of prioritize (like the Merriam Webster given above), we do not act sequentially, rather we can do both at the same time while placing greater importance on economic development.  This means we pursue both ends but when the two come into conflict such that it forces us to choose, we must defer to economic development since it is the greater priority.  Under the definition of prioritize which suggests a first, do this, then, do this definition, it is important to remember that a threshold or brightline must be provided which establishes the point at which it is time to shift the focus from economic development to environmental protection.

economic development
A document posted on the Cornell University website gives several definitions for the term "economic development".  This snippet is one such definition:

Typically economic development can be described in terms of objectives. These are most commonly described as the creation of jobs and wealth, and the improvement of quality of life. Economic development can also be described as a process that influences growth and restructuring of an economy to enhance the economic well being of a community...The main goal of economic development is improving the economic well being of a community through efforts that entail job creation, job retention, tax base enhancements and quality of life. As there is no single definition for economic development, the re is no single strategy, policy or program for achieving successful economic development. Communities differ in their geographic and political strengths and weaknesses. Each community therefore, will have a unique set of challenges for economic development.

One can take from this definition and others is the idea that that economic development has no universal definition, since the objectives are determined by the community under consideration.  Given this, it does not follow that the objectives of economic development for the United States will carry-over to India or even more developed areas.

Merriam Webster - above. In the context of prioritization, a thing should be considered more important than another.

environmental protection
For this definition, I look first to the Merriam Webster dictionary:

the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded; the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival; the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community

the act of protecting; the state of being protected

to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction; defend; to maintain the status or integrity of especially through financial or legal guarantees

A composite definition is provided by the OECD (see here):
Environmental protection refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media. It may consist of:
(a) changes in characteristics of goods and services,
(b) changes in consumption patterns,
(c) changes in production techniques,
(d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities,
(e) recycling, and
(f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.

best interest
Defining "best interests" is not so easy.  We think we know what it means, and we can even go forward with a default understanding of the term but it could prove risky.

The so-called Business Dictionary gives the following definition:

Authority delegated for taking any action or step the delegatee thinks to be the most advantageous to the organization, under the circumstances. This power is conferred usually where it is impossible to anticipate every eventuality, or where the need for rapid decisions or quick response is critical. It is normally given for a short period, or until the time adequate information is available to formulate specific directions or guidelines.

I suppose one could claim many things are in the best interest of India or more properly the people of India.  However, since this explodes ground for the Con (they could literally say, any of hundreds of things should be prioritized in the best interest of the people) the resolution limits the debate to economic development and environmental protection. These are the priorities even if one can reasonably argue that infrastructure or health outcomes or defensive capabilities or population growth should be prioritized.

people of India
While it may seem obvious what "people of India" means, I think it is worth mentioning we need to make a distinction between people of India and other groups such as government of India or businesses of India or poor of India.  Thus we can define the people of India as the citizens of the nation of India. We must also be aware that India is one of the most populated nations on earth with over 1.2 billion people according to the World Bank and the unchecked population growth puts an enormous stain on the nation's economy and environment.

Another BRIC in the Wall

I recall in February of 2009, we debated a resolution which proclaimed that on balance the rise of the BRIC economies has had a positive impact on the United States.  You may know that BRIC was an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China.  India is considered one of several rising economies which either benefits or threatens the U.S. depending on one's point of view so, generally, one may consider India to be a potential economic powerhouse and certainly the most important economic power in southern Asia. As reported by Dev Lewis in 2012:

“India Shining” has been the unofficial slogan for India since the turn of the 21st century. India averaged 8% annual GDP growth in the three years before the recent global financial crisis. Armed with population strength of more than a billion people, India is now the 11th largest economy in the world. According to data, from India’s Planning Commission, rapid economic growth has contributed to a decline in the poverty rate with 37.2% in 2005 to 29.8% in 2010, a drop of 40 million people in the absolute number of the country’s poor. Per capita income doubled during those five years. Internationally, India has also become an important actor. Forming the ‘I’ in the BRICS group of nations, India plays a very important role in the leadership of the emerging markets and developing nations. India boasts a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, pioneering the global IT services industry, and has a global Diaspora that are leaders in various fields. On paper, India’s potential is immense, with approximately 500 million people between the ages of 18-25; its best years seem to be ahead.

Environmental Concerns

Because of the huge strain of population growth and an exploding rate of economic development, as expected, India is experiencing setbacks in every facet of environmental integrity.  Air and water pollution, loss of forests and habitat, and huge issues in solid waste management are elements of the environmental degradation of the Indian subcontinent.  A very good article can be found on Wikipedia here.

In the Jan/Feb 2014 LD topic (see reference above), I presented evidence for a concept known as the environmental Kuznets curve and while not everyone debated the "Kuznets curve" directly, I noted many cases which carried the conceptual idea the degree of environment protection of nations is more or less proportional to the level of economic deveopment.  This is basically expressed as nations which are undergoing development are generally poor at protecting the environment but eventually as these nations achieve a certain level of sustainable development (i.e. they are considered "developed nations") they focus more and more on environmental issues.  Thus the prioritization of environmental concerns lags economic development only for a period of time and then the priorities shift.  These arguments, of course, favor the Pro which makes the Con side all the more difficult to defend.

We shall discuss these ideas more fully in the next articles of this analysis.

Monday, March 3, 2014

LD Mar/Apr 2014 - Conditional Humanitarian Aid - What I Saw

The Background

With the exception of Congressional Debate and NFL Nationals, the high-school, competitive debate season in our state has officially ended.  Fortunately for the rest of you, our state tournament, though it began the last day of February, debated the March topic. Typically, I serve as a judge at our state tournament and will often jump categories between Policy, Public Forum, and Lincoln Douglas.  This year, I judged Lincoln Douglas exclusively.  Typically, the cases this early into a new topic tend to be under-developed and vulnerable and certainly I saw several examples of this even at this level of debate consisting of the best and brightest from our state. Every year, the state tournament will be the first time competitors will debate the March topic and it gets ugly, but every year we still manage to see some excellent debate from those most prepared and skilled.

The Value Framework

As can be expected the most common value debated on both AFF and NEG was justice, defined several ways.  Most common was the default Aristotelian definition, "giving each his due". A few alternate formulations of justice were variants of Rawlsian philosophy and some seemed to be "made-up" to serve the case being debated.  Amazingly, despite the variations of definitions for justice, debaters tended to accept the meanings and if both sides were valuing justice, the debate centered on the criterion only.  In two rounds, Affirmative debaters chose the value of morality (or moral duty) and this was the only time I saw clash over the value portion of the framework.  In the morality versus justice debates, the moralists claimed justice cannot be achieved without moral behavior while the advocates for justice argued that morality was vague or not applicable to international actions.

The value criteria tended to be only slightly more diverse.  There was a strong tendency on the Affirmative side to focus on human rights or autonomy at both the personal and national level.  Human dignity was often coupled with human rights and was supported by contentions dealing with dehumanization and cultural imperialism.  On the Negative side, utilitarianism themes were seen in several cases coupled with social contract theory and duties of governments to protect citizens, aimed mainly at corrupt or illegitimate states. Also, on the Negative there were several cases protecting human rights and again, arguments are made that political conditions serve to mitigate or solve the humanitarian crises arising from illegitimate governments.

The Observations

Many debaters presented observations aimed at limiting the scope of the debate.  Probably the most popular observation was the debate should only consider the actions of governments and thus excluded aid provided by NGOs. In nearly every case, observations were given by the Affirmative side.  A notable observation made by a Negative debater was the claim that refusal of political conditions does NOT mean, limited but sufficient aid will not be given.  This was interesting because often Negative debaters were forced to defend themselves against the claim that if the recipient government rejected the political conditions, aid would not be given.

The Affirmative Contentions

The contentions for the Affirmative are mainly related to the harms of political conditions (PC).  For example, PC is coercive and violates autonomy.  While it may seem the obvious rebuttal, states still have a right of refusal, the Affirmative will argue the choice forces a decision between life and death and so there is no real choice.  States are thus coerced into accepting the PC in order to survive. Another very common argument is that PC only benefits the giver and coupled with this is the idea suffering individuals are used as a means to achieving the ends of benefits for the giver.  Interestingly, this argument was used to support not only the morality value but also was common under the value of justice.  Another common theme on the Affirmative linked coercion or means-justified actions to formulations of dehumanization or imperialism.

The Negative Contentions

The Negative contentions took two tracks.  As expected, it was argued that unconditional aid fostered conflict and often failed to reach the intended victims and, of course, it was argued PC solved all of the harms, both in the near and long term by influencing lasting changes.  Claims of increased efficiency and effectiveness are prevalent, meaning more aid gets to the affected through PC.  The all or nothing scenarios setup by Affirmative debaters did cause problems from some Negative advocates.

The Assessment

The debates were generally balanced but I found I voted 3-2 in favor of Affirmative during the preliminary rounds.  Quite often, this resulted from the fact the Negative debaters tended to contradict themselves or more commonly failed to provide solvency links or links to their framework.  I had the opportunity to sit on judge panels for an octafinal and quarter final round and in both rounds I voted Negative.  As expected, the level of debate in the break rounds was excellent and cases tended to be much tighter with good warrants and links.  In one break round I voted Negative when the Affirmative value of morality narrowly focused on the responsibility of individuals toward other individuals and the moral obligation to relieve the suffering of others.  It was a compelling case but lacked any mechanism to ensure that merely attempting to fulfill one's moral duty (as in the drowning child scenario) would succeed in alleviating suffering.  This was offset by the Negative's well warranted contentions which showed empirically how PC aids the suffering.  The second break round was one of the best Lincoln Douglas debates I have seen in a while in which a justice/human rights framework was challenged by a justice/liberty framework.  The framework clash, favored the Affirmative in that I felt that liberty was subsumed by the broader criterion of protecting human rights however, the Negative very early built a case for evaluating the round on a framework which asked the judge to determine which side does the better job of protecting or maximizing human rights.  In the end, I concluded it was the Negative.

Good luck debaters.