- The Asian Century, Sustainable Growth and Climate Change: Responsible Futures Matter ed. by Moazzem Hossain, Tapan Sarker, and Malcolm McIntosh
This book is an edited volume based on an international workshop at Griffith University’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise (APCSE). The workshop aimed to look at Asia’s developmental challenges. The subject matter is a pressing one as Asia could produce over half the global output by mid-century and see massive improvements in its standards of living (ADB 2011). This volume will appeal to both policymakers and academics as it adds a specific Asian context to the voluminous body of knowledge on sustainable development (see Parnwell and Bryant 1996).
The volume covers a broad range of topics in its twelve chapters, including social issues arising from property rights (especially with regards to agricultural land ownership); population growth and poverty reduction; the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); policy directions for energy security; long-term fiscal policy; agricultural adaptation programmes to deal with environmental change; public health policy; sanitation; decentralization and poverty reduction; migration; sustainable mining; and sustainable business practices.
The book is divided into three sections: the first identifies the future socio-economic issues that will affect the development of the Asian century; the second zeroes in on specific policy matters; and the third sums up the challenges that need to be surmounted for the Asian century to come to fruition. However, like many edited volumes, this volume reads better as a collection of individual cases rather than a cohesive thematically arranged picture of the issues around achieving the Asian century. This is not necessarily a weakness since sustainable development is such a contentious topic that there is no consensus on how it should be carried out, let alone be organized coherently. Instead, each chapter of the volume provides an in-depth study on its own that relates to a different issue in a particular socio-economic context. The depth of analysis gives the policymakers insights into the factors that need to be taken into consideration when planning long-term developmental policy.
While organizing an edited volume is inevitably challenging, one potential suggestion would have been to structure the book along the framework of the MDGs, which lists the end-goals to be achieved to sustainably develop the global south. For example, chapters could be grouped under the overarching theme of poverty reduction. This is would make it easier to relate M. Hossain’s chapter, which tussles with poverty reduction in relation to burgeoning population growth, and Tjoe’s chapter, which deals with it in relation to [End Page 428] Indonesia’s decentralization. Although the book was printed before 2013, further research on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals in Asia would contribute further to this field.
Using the MDGs as an organizing framework would also point to environmental challenges in an Asian century. In the introduction, M. Hossain posits that Asia is in a “unique position to face the challenges of global warming” due to its diverse geographic and economic features. With this assessment and the inclusion of climate change in the title, one would expect more content on climate-related problems and policies. Although Chakrabarty and Chakravarty’s chapter does a good job of analysing how poor farmers in India require adaptive programmes to teach them to make the necessary changes to farming practices to deal with weather changes, more chapters on climate change policies would be useful since this is a phenomena Asian countries will have to increasingly take into account.
Given Asia’s diversity, the book could do with more comparative case studies, especially to discuss the broad themes that affect almost all Asian countries such as intra-migration of labour (as covered in M.I. Hossain, Khan and Short’s Chapter 9 on Bangladeshi migrants to Malaysia); or public health (as covered by Chan and Keith’s chapter on China). Even though the book is based on a workshop, comparative case studies give a more multi-dimensional perspective on the different conditions and policies that...