Prakash Kashwan is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic and Social Rights, Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He is author of Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico (Oxford University Press 2017). He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on global environmental politics, environmental and climate justice, contentious politics, political economy of development, south Asia in world politics, and quantitative research methods.
Professor Kashwan’s main expertise is to build bridges between disparate disciplinary and methodological domains for a deeper comparative understanding of the intersecting pursuits of social justice, environmental conservation, and climate action in different regions and political systems. The social scientific focus is on investigating the processes of political and institutional change. To this end, he has developed a novel political economy of institutions approach that helps synthesize insights from the scholarship on institutional analysis, policy studies, and critical social science research on justice and inequality. Professor Kashwan employs a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods in his research and scholarship, which stands on the foundations of a multi-disciplinary academic background (with a Bachelor of Science, a Master’s in Forestry Management). Moreover, his research and writings are shaped profoundly by over two-decades-long engagements with global and international environmental governance, including a pre-academia career in international development (1999-2005). In 2011, he was awarded a Ph. D. in Public Policy, under the mentorship of late Professor Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences.
Areas of Expertise (10)
Environmental Human Rights
Economic and Social Rights
Indiana University: Ph.D., Public Policy & Environmental Affairs 2011
Indian Institute of Forest Management: M.S., Forestry Management 1999
Jai Narain Vyas University: B.Sc., Physics, Mathematics, and Electronics 1996
- Earth System Governance Project
- Ostrom Workshop
- Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
- Climate Social Science Network (https://www.cssn.org/)
- Climate Justice Network (www.climatejusticenetwork.org)
- Academic Working Group (AWG) on International Governance of Climate Engineering
- The IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP)
Young Scientist Research Award (professional)
2009-2011 Young Scientist Research Award, International Foundation for Science (IFS), Stockholm. $10,500
Media Appearances (15)
Decolonizing Conservation with Prakash Kashwan
Upstream Podcast online
What if what we thought we knew about environmental conservation is wrong and it’s not the ethical and regenerative movement we thought it was? Turns out the philosophy and practices of conservation — pioneered by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir — are intimately intertwined with colonialism, imperialism, and racialized capitalism. And, unfortunately, this isn’t just a historical analysis — it’s a legacy that has continued well into the movement’s modern day configurations. In fact, things may have even gotten worse. This is according to a recent paper in the journal Environment titled "From Racialized Neocolonial Global Conservation to an Inclusive and Regenerative Conservation." In the paper, the authors outline the problems with mainstream conservation methods and policies — policies that impose artificial binaries between Indigenous communities and the lands they have stewarded, perpetuating patterns of extractivism and greenwashing and leading to countless harms inflicted onto these communities all in the name of 'wildlife preservation.' In this Conversation we’ve brought on the paper’s lead author, Prakash Kashwan, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic and Social Rights at the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut.
In Major Move, Global Coalition Pushes for Moratorium on Solar Geoengineering
Science - The Wire online
Through the initiative, the scholars are calling for an ‘International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering’. It is particularly opposed to the idea of spraying aerosols in the stratosphere to scatter some sunlight into space because, to quote from a paper some of the team members have published today delineating their position, the technology is “ungovernable in a fair, democratic and effective manner”. “Despite its potentially catastrophic effects, the advocates of solar geoengineering think of this as a technological adventure of sorts,” Prakash Kashwan, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and one of the members of the coalition, told The Wire Science. “Those who are committed to the goals of maintaining planetary integrity and avoiding a planetary-scale shock treatment must commit to an international non-use agreement.”
Climate justice: Do pledges ignore unequal emissions?
The study calculated each country's responsibility for "climate breakdown" by subtracting their total emissions from the amount they should have been entitled to. By accounting for changes in population size over time, and emissions embodied in goods traded across borders, the study found that even China, today the world's biggest polluter, is only just using up its fair share of emissions now. Previous studies had calculated smaller but still unequal levels of responsibility. "It's mind-boggling," said Prakash Kashwan, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut studying climate justice, who was not involved in the study. "The kind of inequalities that have brought us to the current climate crisis, they're unbelievable and they aren't talked about enough."
US pledges stronger climate action at Biden summit
World leaders in 2015 promised to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures in a bid to hold off the worst effects of climate change. But as recently as November, a United Nations report found their official plans to achieve this were "woefully inadequate." While more ambitious climate targets are "very encouraging indeed," said Prakash Kashwan, a professor of political science who researches climate justice at the University of Connecticut, big emitters like the US and EU should explicitly recognize the carbon debt they owe the rest of the world instead of using their domestic actions to cajole other countries. "Lead from the front by delivering actual emission reductions."
Geoengineering The Climate Just Became More Of A Real Possibility In The U.S.
Huffington Post online
A 2019 study in JGR Atmospheres showed that solar geoengineering risks disrupting rainfall in South Asia and much of Africa, which would threaten the only irrigation system on which billions of poor farmers rely. A 2020 paper in Geophysical Research Letters backed up the idea that geoengineering in any form would throw jet streams out of whack, possibly adding novel changes to the climate in tropic regions where half the world’s population lives. “The risks of climate change are already borne by the very same people who would bear the risks of solar geoengineering,” said Prakash Kashwan, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut. “So this risk-risk framework, the notion that there’s climate risk that will be offset by geoengineering, has a very different color depending on who’s talking about it and who you have in mind when you say ‘risk-risk.’”
Solar Geoengineering Should be Investigated, Scientists Say
Scientific American online
Prakash Kashwan, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut, said he felt the report could have better emphasized the seriousness of some concerns over others. Uncertainties about the impacts of solar geoengineering on global weather patterns have the potential to affect some regions of the world more severely than others, he pointed out. Some experts have raised concerns about potential effects of geoengineering on monsoon rainfall in parts of Asia and Africa, he said. More than 2 billion people around the world rely on these rainfall patterns to support their water and agricultural needs. These kinds of issues should be given special weight, Kashwan suggested.
Scientists Support an Idea Long Thought Outlandish: Reflecting the Sun’s Rays
New York Times print
The steps urged in the report to protect the interests of poorer countries — for example, accounting for farmers in South Asia whose lives could be upended by changes in rain patterns — could fall away once the research begins, according to Prakash Kashwan, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut. “Once these kinds of projects get into the political process, the scientists who are adding all of these qualifiers, and all of these cautionary notes, aren’t in control,” Dr. Kashwan said.
Solar Geoengineering Should be Investigated, Scientists Say
Scientific American online
Prakash Kashwan, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut, said he felt the report could have better emphasized the seriousness of some concerns over others. Uncertainties about the impacts of solar geoengineering on global weather patterns have the potential to affect some regions of the world more severely than others, he pointed out. Some experts have raised concerns about potential effects of geoengineering on monsoon rainfall in parts of Asia and Africa, he said. More than 2 billion people around the world rely on these rainfall patterns to support their water and agricultural needs. These kinds of issues should be given special weight, Kashwan suggested. "Some uncertainties are much more highly consequential for the global society, and especially for the poor and vulnerable," he told E&E News. Kashwan also reiterated concerns about potential political effects. While the report makes clear that geoengineering is not a substitute for climate mitigation, he suggests that this doesn't necessarily prevent policymakers from using it in that way. "The problem is the extent to which researchers are really helpless in deciding how research is used in the political system," he said. "That part has yet to be fully appreciated." Kashwan suggests that more dialogue might be warranted before funding a national research program, with greater input from both the international community and political experts who can weigh in on the ways that geoengineering research might affect political decisions.
Inter-ministerial panel for FRA: A giant step backwards, say experts
Down to Earth online
Prakash Kashwan, associate professor, department of political science, University of Connecticut said former prime minister Manmohan Singh had made it clear that the MOEF&CC and forest departments (FDs) could not be allowed to bring their vested interests in implementation and monitoring of FRA. “It is evident that now, the MoEF&CC and state FDs are acting in the interest of corporations and state agencies to exploit minerals and other natural resources at an extremely high cost to ecology, forest rights holders and the public at large,” he added.
‘Indigenous people have been effective stewards of biodiversity globally’
Prakash Kashwan is an associate professor in the Political Science department at the University of Connecticut, United States. His research, scholarship, and teaching focuses on climate justice, global climate governance, international and environmental policy and politics, and political economy of development. He speaks to Ishan Kukreti on his work, Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico....
A Fight for the Forest
The Hindu online
Objections to the FRA are often framed as an issue of wildlife conservation versus people’s rights, with no mention of these bigger players who might benefit from this framing. In a 2013 study, professor Prakash Kashwan noted how political this framing can be. He wrote that in 2006, well before the FRA implementation started, the Environment Ministry directed State governments to declare all existing Protected Areas as critical tiger habitats, so that they would not be controlled under this Act...
An Archaic Conservationists' Bias Haunts the Forest Rights Act
The Wire online
Prakash Kashwan, a scholar of the political economy of environment and development, argues that it could be a “result of the patronising attitude among many conservationists, which makes them argue that Adivasi lives in forests produce nothing more than poverty and misery. This mistaken belief allows them to make the rather presumptuous assertion that Adivasis should be brought out of the forests, which should be freed of all human interference...”
As Climate Risks Rise, Scientists Call for Rules on Solar Engineering
Voice of America online
Intellectual property around the technologies would not have to be in the public domain, "but it should be in the public interest," said Prakash Kashwan, a University of Connecticut political science professor and report author...
To predict the success of tree-planting schemes, look to villagers’ involvement.
National Academy of Sciences online
But not all communities in India and elsewhere in the Global South can exercise the kinds of land rights that the villages in this study do, notes Prakash Kashwan, a social scientist specializing in international environmental policy at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Additional predictive indicators related to social and economic inequality would further strengthen the framework proposed by these authors, he says. While the factors highlighted in this paper might manifest in different ways depending on location, studies like this one “give you a template,” Kashwan notes. And this, he adds, can help conservationists “figure out if a particular area will have viable restoration potential.”
Fortress Conservation. Outside/In
New Hampshire Public Radio. radio
Again, here’s Prakash Kashwan, at the University of Connecticut: So this model has been implanted right at the center of global agreements on biodiversity conservation, and there are global targets. So in 1990 we started with a humble target of getting 10% of the landscape under protected areas. And that target was met way before the anticipated deadline for that target. And that should raise red flags. NGOs, like the World Wildlife Fund, international groups like the World Bank… and local and national leaders across the globe have all embraced fortress conservation. And like every time before - the places that have been set aside for protection are not unoccupied. Prakash’s research shows that forested regions under environmental protection are home to somewhere between 750 million and 1 billion people.
Climate Change: The New Normal Is Not Yet HereScience - The Wire
Anji Seth, Mark Urban, and Prakash Kashwan
We waited with trepidation for the summary report from the international body of scientists that weighs the global evidence for climate change and its impacts every 6-8 years, and which was published earlier this month. Since the first report was published in 1990, the tone has changed from “Are we screwed?” to “How badly are we screwed?” Although the report reads like a disaster novel, what is new is the added confidence and clarity that what we do now matters most. If we stop emitting carbon dioxide, warming will stop fairly soon thereafter. This is good news – that we know the solution – but it presents us with a stark challenge and with a very short timeframe.
Hydropower projects are wreaking havoc in the HimalayasAl Jazeera
Prakash Kashwan and Neelima Vallangi
On February 7, a Himalayan glacier broke and caused a flash flood in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand. The avalanche smashed two hydroelectric dam projects and killed more than 200 people. A total of 205 people were reported missing in the disaster, but so far only 74 bodies and 34 separate body parts have been recovered from the debris. Local authorities have declared those still unaccounted for as “presumed dead” and initiated the process of issuing death certificates for them. Environmentalists who have been studying Himalayan glaciers for decades have linked this deadly disaster, like many others before it, to climate change, adding weight to the growing calls for aggressive climate action in the region.
Who Will Guard the Guardians? State Accountability in India's Environmental GovernanceEconomic and Political Weekly
Prakash Kashwan and Arpitha Kodiveri
Effective public accountability is a prerequisite for protecting India's environment and the environmental human rights of all Indians. However, the question of what factors promote the accountability of public institutions remains under-researched in India. The recent and ongoing attempts by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to undermine environmental regulations beg a fundamental question that has yet to be debated adequately: Who will guard the guardians?
American environmentalism’s racist roots have shaped global thinking about conservationThe Conversation
The United States is having a long-overdue national reckoning with racism. From criminal justice to pro sports to pop culture, Americans increasingly are recognizing how racist ideas have influenced virtually every sphere of life in this country. This includes the environmental movement. Recently the Sierra Club – one of the oldest and largest U.S. conservation organizations – acknowledged racist views held by its founder, author and conservationist John Muir. In some of his writing, Muir described Native Americans and Black people as dirty, lazy and uncivilized. In an essay collection published in 1901 to promote national parks, he assured prospective tourists that “As to Indians, most of them are dead or civilized into useless innocence.”
Rethinking power and institutions in the shadows of neoliberalism: (An introduction to a special issue of World Development)World Development
2019 Despite the recognition that institutions matter for international development, the debates over institutional reforms tend to obscure the role of power. Neoliberal models of development are often promoted in terms of their technical merits and efficiency gains and rarely account for the multiple ways that social, economic and political power shape institutional design and institutional change.
Time to Hold Powerful Forestry Agencies and Conservation Actors to AccountThe Wire
2019 During field research in Kanha National Park, Adivasi villagers shared what sounded like a joke: they claimed that tigers chased and circled by tourist jeeps often ran out of the core zone of the national park to find refuge in the relative tranquility of neighbouring forest villages....
Inequality, democracy, and the environment: A cross-national analysisEcological Economics
2017 This paper joins the debate on the relationship between inequality and the environment. Departing from the past contributions, which focused either on the theories of environmental behavior or on economic interests, this paper develops arguments about “political choice” mechanisms that help explain the linkages between inequality and national policymaking related to the establishment of protected areas. A cross-national analysis of the interactions between inequality, democracy and the legal designation of protected areas in a global sample of 137 countries shows that, ceteris paribus, the effects of inequality vary depending on the strength of democracy: in relatively democratic countries inequality is associated with less land in protected areas, whereas in relatively undemocratic countries the reverse is true. The highly significant effects of inequality undermine the democratic dividend in the arena of nature conservation.
Integrating power in institutional analysis: A micro-foundation perspectiveJournal of Theoretical Politics
2016 Studies of social dilemmas consistently report higher than expected levels of cooperation, especially in the presence of appropriate institutions. At the same time, scholars have argued that institutions are manifestations of power relations. The higher than expected levels of cooperation amidst widespread power asymmetries constitute an important puzzle about the linkages between power asymmetries and the outcomes of local institutional deliberation.
Governments, not people, tend to benefit from land conservationThe Washington Post
2016 The United States is celebrating the centennial of its National Park Service, kicking off a proud “second century of stewardship and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.”
Forest Policy, Institutions, and REDD+ in India, Tanzania, and MexicoGlobal Environmental Politics
2015 This article investigates forest policies and institutions surrounding REDD+ in three heavily forested countries: India, Tanzania, and Mexico. The comparative analysis leads to three key insights. First, each of the case study countries has multiple land tenure statutes that result in different distributions of the costs and benefits of forest protection for key stakeholders.