Alumni Updates: Ruth Pinto
On graduating from my Masters in Environmental Policy – for which I received the Ravi Sankaran-Inlaks Fellowship – I started working as a Research Associate at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). This was my first move to an Indian city for work. As a social scientist with a strong interest in the politics of biodiversity conservation and rural development, I normally found myself in rural and forested areas. Despite my aversion to city living, this was one job I couldn’t turn down.
ATREE is a leading conservation and environmental research institute in Asia. I’m part of a novel research project investigating environmental governance and rural reactions to green economy initiatives in India and East Africa. These initiatives are market-based, often aiming to integrate ‘nature’ into wider free market systems. They tend to claim win-win outcomes for both people and the environment. Examples include payment for ecosystem services schemes, biodiversity offsetting and ecotourism. These initiatives are fairly new in India, and their social, economic and ecological consequences have yet to be explored. We also research the varied forms of governance within these initiatives, as well as how they influence rural production systems.
In particular, I’m interested in the discourses and policies that bolster such initiatives and how they interact with land control and distribution. Land is being redistributed worldwide to address climate change, and green economy initiatives are increasingly popular. I’m currently drafting a Doctoral proposal to explore the impacts of these discourses and policies on indigenous peoples’ land rights. Indigenous land rights have recently begun to be framed as a strategy for climate change mitigation. I intend to investigate how this new framing is impacting land reform in Asia.
Apart from enjoying what I do, what motivates me is the hope that such research will result in more socially just policies and initiatives. I also appreciate the opportunities for self-development at ATREE and through the Ravi Sankaran and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation networks. These opportunities and experiences have shaped and deepened my interest in pursuing a research career focusing on environmental justice issues.