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“We need to transition [India]… the question is how?” – Economist Chaitanya Talreja – Sentientism Episode 127

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism podcast.

Chaitanya is Assistant Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in the Centre for Regulatory Policy and Governance. He has a PhD in Economics. Chaitanya’s research interests include economic development strategies in the global south, structural change, economic development and regulatory policy, urban economics, and non-anthropocentric strategies/alternatives to anthropocentric value systems in progress and conservation including food systems research (and maybe Sentientist Economics?)

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is also on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

01:42 Chaitanya’s Intro

  • Economics as a way to improve the world

03:45 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in a #sindhi family in India
  • #pakistan , #india & partition
  • Having a #hindu temple at home
  • An #atheist father “he didn’t believe in all those things” who turned to religion after a difficult time
  • “I don’t believe in god”
  • “Religion has always been a tool to marginalise different sections of the society”
  • Rejecting faith
  • Degree, masters, PhD… “questioning things… critical thinking”
  • Before then, unthinkingly accepting what had been told
  • “The way you think has real impact on society”
  • “There are several ways of living life and one has agency”
  • Evidence & reason, ethical & systemic critiques of religion
  • “It’s a very hard task to grasp reality”
  • “I would rather… analyse things around me as they are”
  • #pluralism
  • Naturalistic views of relatedness & interconnectedness
  • Finding a balance between defeatist humility & arrogant hubris

22:54 What Matters?

  • Being sensitive, as a child, to humans & non-humans
  • Growing up in a patriarchal society
  • “Not cheating, working hard… stopping at red lights”

26:49 Who Matters?

  • Sindhis typically eat meat, but father said “I always felt it was not the right thing to do”
  • Buying meat from a public slaughterhouse “I did not feel comfortable but I used to love it [eating meat]”
  • Family gatherings centred around #meat “everyone around me was relishing… & my father was telling me this is not the right thing to do”
  • Fighting about eating meat at 4-5 years old
  • Visiting the #slaughterhouse “this is where it comes from”
  • #sentience & the dangers of human-defined moral scope
  • Collective agreements about moral communities “It shouldn’t just be about my morals”
  • #animalrescue dilemmas re: animals consuming animals
  • Easy & hard ethical choices
  • Ethical & epistemological humility
  • “We shouldn’t be using these moral trade-offs to avoid having a moral scope”
  • The boundaries of sentience… oysters, #bivalves & #invertebrates

43:40 A Better Future?

  • #Hindu nationalism, #castediscrimination #secularism
  • #utopia vs. pragmatism
  • “A world that is more kind & compassionate”
  • Animal Law studies in Hyderabad “There are developments happening”
  • Animal ethics “are not in the mainstream”
  • #hindutva & the #bjp
  • Hinduism, the sacredness of cows & the use of cow products (milk, dung, urine)
  • Purity & #caste systems
  • “India is the largest buffalo beef exporter”
  • “It’s a political device to marginalise sections of Indian society”… #dalit #muslim #adivasi
  • Even vegetarian Hindus consume many animal products
  • “Hinduism… doesn’t actually talk about animal rights”
  • “…the dominant politics is harming the marginalised humans & also the non-humans”
  • #socialjustice “We can talk about humans & non-humans”
  • The Tamil movie #jaibhim, eating rats & the oppression of #indigenous groups
  • Oppressed people are capable of thinking about non-humans too
  • #intersectionality & the #vegan movement
  • #speciesism
  • #vegan in Indian context, individual change & systemic change
  • Seeing caged hens slaughtered every day
  • “A woman selling fish from the sea. Can I have a conversation with them about non-humans?”
  • #transition “economics, politics, sociology… we should have tools from all these fields”
  • “The fact that we need to transition is not in question… the question is how”
  • “Create more livelihoods without causing harm”
  • Handling resistance to change
  • Asking the right questions about transition (vs. #veganism )
  • Thousands of transition paths?
  • #SentientistEconomics ?
  • “There have to be incentives”
  • Choosing to be optimistic 🙂
  • “Even in places of high learning people are oblivious to this idea”
  • Growth, Eco economics, neo-liberalism
  • Kindness & compassion “our aim is not just to consume & produce”
  • “Maybe #sentientism can help us further this idea of changing the way we study economics”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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