Ecology Is Permanent Economy

The Activism and Environmental Philosophy of Sunderlal Bahuguna

By George Alfred James

Subjects: Environment And Religion, Philosophy, India And South Asian Studies, Biography, Asian Studies
Paperback : 9781438446721, 278 pages, January 2014
Hardcover : 9781438446738, 278 pages, July 2013

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Encounter
2. The Childhood of an Activist
3. Going Underground
4. The Short Career of an Activist Politician
5. Meeting Mira Behn
6. Marriage and the Parvatiya Navjeevan Ashram
7. Embracing the Trees
8. Modes of Chipko Resistance
9. A Permanent Economy
10. Chipko Ecology: Shallow or Deep?
11. Srinagar to Kohima: An Educational Mission
12. Protesting the Tehri Dam
13. Social Ecology, Religion, and the Tehri Protest
14. Against the Tide: Bahuguna’s Philosophy of Life, Religion, and Nature
Appendix 1: Some Critical Dates in the History of Modern India and the Activism of Sunderlal Bahuguna
Appendix 2: Arguments of the Petitioners in the Public Interest Litigation against the Tehri Dam
Selected Bibliography

Explores the nonviolent philosophy and environmental activism of India’s Sunderlal Bahuguna.


For decades, Sunderlal Bahuguna has been an environmental activist in his native India, well known for his efforts on behalf of the Himalayas and its people. In the 1970s, he was instrumental in the successful Chipko (or "hug") movement during which local people hugged trees to prevent logging for outside concerns. He was also a leader of the long opposition to the Tehri Dam. In both conflicts, the interests of outsiders threatened the interests of local people living relatively traditional lives.

George Alfred James introduces Sunderlal Bahuguna's activism and philosophy in a work based on interviews with Bahuguna himself, his writings, and journalistic accounts. James writes that Bahuguna's work in the Indian independence movement and his admiration for the nonviolence of Gandhi has inspired a vision and mode of activism that deserves wider attention. It is a philosophy that does not try to win the conflict, but to win the opponent's heart.

George Alfred James is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas. He is the author of Interpreting Religion: The Phenomenological Approaches of Pierre Daniël Chantepie de la Saussaye, W. Brede Kristensen, and Gerardus van der Leeuw and the editor of Ethical Perspectives on Environmental Issues in India.