Manu V Mathai
Areas of Interest & Expertise
- Sustainability and the global South
- Political economy of production-consumption systems
- Energy policy, renewable energy and nuclear power
- Decentralization and local governance
- Human development and capability approach
- Critiques of ecological modernization theory and green growth
- Alternatives to development and development alternatives
- Technology, environment and society studies
- Critical development studies
How to achieve well-being for all, on a planet that has finite ecological (energy and material) space? This is the overarching question that informs my research and teaching. I am particularly interested in the political economy of Development as expressed in energy policy and governance, energy technology or infrastructure choices and their implications for justice in human well-being outcomes on a finite planet. Building on this analytical endeavour, is work studying and advocating development alternatives as well as alternatives to Development.
My ongoing work has three broad strands: 1) developing and advancing a political economy knowledge and action agenda for sustainable production-consumption systems; 2) research on the notion of “sufficiency” in response to questions of justice in the context of finitude; and 3) case studies of “alternative” (vikalp) energy projects.
I welcome collaborating with individuals and groups who value co-producing knowledge and action. I am presently part of the Future Earth Knowledge and Action Network (KAN) on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production, serving on its steering committee, and a co-chair of this KAN’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production. I am also a founding member of the newly formed the Flourishing Bengaluru Collective, which is conceived as an intervention in urban governance.
I have been a Research Fellow (Assistant Professor) at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Science, Technology and Society and Public Policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. While pursuing my PhD, I was a Research Associate at the University of Delaware Centre for Energy and Environmental Policy. Prior to that I was a Project Assistant on the World Bank and von Hügel Institute project “Responding to the Values of the Poor” and a Research Assistant with Environment Support Group, Bangalore.
My interdisciplinary training includes a BSc (Environmental Science, Chemistry and Zoology), from Bangalore University, MSc (Wildlife Science) from the Wildlife Institute of India, MPP (International Development and Environmental Policy) from the University of Maryland and PhD (Energy and Environmental Policy) from the University of Delaware.
Sustainability in Practice
What are the ways in which sustainability can be put to practice through development perspective?
Energy, Environment and Social Change
How is the physical phenomena of energy related to a sociological process like development?
Ecology and Development in India
The history and socio-economic impact of development interventions on ecological systems.
Exploring Sustainability in the Indian Context
An online and interdisciplinary course with many instructors that offers an introduction to sustainability within the context of development in India.
Working Paper Series
Lessons from Dharnai, “India’s First Fully Solar Powered Village”: A Case StudyManu V Mathai (2022)
Publications and Writings
- Mathai, M. V. and Stevis, D. (2022) Degrowth in Movement(s): Exploring Pathways for Transformation, Review of Radical Political Economics. https://doi.org/10.1177/04866134211045140
- Mathai, M. V. (2013). Nuclear Power, Economic Development Discourse and the Environment: The Case of India (First ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203100141
- Dale, G., Mathai, M.V., & Puppim de Oliveira, J.A. (Eds.). (2016). Green Growth: Ideology, Political Economy and the Alternatives. London: Zed Books Ltd. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350220553
- Martin, M.A., Boakye, E.A., Boyd, E., Broadgate, W., Bustamante, M., Canadell, J.G., Carr, E.R., Chu, E.K., Cleugh, H., Csevar, S., Daoudy, M., Bremond, A., Dhimal, M., Ebi, K.L., Edwards, C., Fuss, S., Girardin, M.P., Gkavovic, B., Hebden, S., … Zhao, Z.J. (2022). Ten new insights in climate science 2022. Global Sustainability, 5, E20. 10.1017/sus.2022.17
- Mathai, M. V., Isenhour, C., Stevis, D., Vergragt, P., Bengtsson, M., Lorek, S., Mortensen, L. F., Coscieme, L., Scott, D., Waheed, A., & Alfredsson, A. (2021). The Political Economy of (Un)Sustainable Production and Consumption: A Multidisciplinary Synthesis for Research and Action. Resources, Conservation & Recycling. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105265
- Mathai, M. V., Puppim de Oliveira, J., & Dale, G. (2018). The Rise and Flaws of Green Growth. APN Science Bulletin, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.30852/sb.2018.359
- Mathai, M. V. & Narayan, P. S. (2017). The Paris Climate Change Agreement and After. Current Science, 112(6), 1099 – 1100. https://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/112/06/1099.pdf
- Mathai, M. V. & Kartikasari, K. (2015). Institutional Framework for Low-Carbon Urban Infrastructure Investment: Some Evidence and Lessons from DKI Jakarta, Indonesia, Journal of Comparative Asian Development, 14(2), 319 – 349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15339114.2015.1059056
- Gasparatos, A., von Maltitz G.P., Johnson, F.X., Lee, L., Mathai, M., Puppim de Oliveira, J.A., & Willis, K.J. (2015). Biofuels in sub-Sahara Africa: Drivers, impacts and priority policy areas. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 45, 879 – 901. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.02.006
- Ahmad, S., Mathai, M. V. & Parayil, G. (2014). Household Electricity Access, Availability and Human Well-being: Evidence from India. Energy Policy, 69, 308 – 315. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2014.02.004
- Gasparatos, A., Lee, L., von Maltitz, G., Mathai, M.V., de Oliveira, J. A. P., Johnson, F. X., & Willis, K. J. (2013). International and the National Policy Interventions for Catalyzing Biofuel Sustainability in Sub-Sahara Africa. Environmental Policy and Law, 43(4−5), 216 – 221. https://environmentalpolicyandlaw.com/categories-energy-article2
- Mathai, M.V. (2009). Elements of an Alternative to Nuclear Power as a Response to the Energy-Environment Crisis in India: Development as Freedom and a Sustainable Energy Utility. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 29(2), 139 – 150. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0270467608331185
- Mathai, M. V. (2018). Approaching Sufficiency in the Global South. In Leida Rijnhout and Riccardo Mastini (Eds.), Sufficiency: Moving Beyond the Gospel of Eco-Efficiency. Brussels: Friends of the Earth Europe. https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/resource_use/2018/foee_sufficiency_booklet.pdf
- Dale, G., Mathai, M.V., & Puppim de Oliveira, J.A. (2016). Introduction. In Dale, G., Mathai, M.V., & Puppim de Oliveira, J.A. (Eds.) Green Growth: Ideology, Political Economy and the Alternatives. London: Zed Books.
- Mathai, M.V. (2012). Towards a Sustainable Synergy: End-Use Energy Planning, Development as Freedom, Inclusive Institutions and Democratic Technics. In Ilse Oosterlaken and Jeroen van den Hoven (Eds.). The Capability Approach, Technology and Design. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology Book Series. (Vol. 5, pp 87 – 112). Dordrecht: Springer. https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789400738782#aboutAuthors
- Mathai, M.V., & Parayil, G. (2012). Toward Equity and Sustainability in the “Green Economy.” In Jose A. Puppim de Oliveira (Ed.). Green Economy and Good Governance for Sustainable Development: Opportunities, Promises and Concerns, Tokyo: UNU Press. http://collections.unu.edu/view/UNU:1538#viewMetadata
- Mathai, M. V. & Parayil, G. (2018). The Persistent Nucleus: Atoms, Power and Energy Policy Discourse in the Anthropocene. Working Paper Series, No. 12. Azim Premji University. http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.16112.89602
- Alfredsson, E., Bengtsson, M., Brown, H., Foxon, T., Isenhour, C., Lorek, S., Mallee, H., Mathai, M. V., Mortenson, F., Rijnhout, L., Stevis, D., Waheed, A., Vergragt, P. [in alphabetical order] (2018). The Political Economy of Sustainable Consumption and Production. https://sscp.futureearth.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2020/06/Political-Economy-WG-scoping-paper-final-draft.pdf
- Mathai, M. V. (2021). Knowing Sufficiency. Session Title: Will a Sustainability Transition Be Sufficient? Sustainability Research & Innovation 2021. Brisbane.
- Mathai, M. V and Isenhour, C. (2020). The Political Economy of (Un)Sustainable Production-Consumption Systems. Sustainable Consumption & Social Justice in an Urbanizing World. Sustainable Consumption Research & Action Initiative Virtual Conference.
- Mathai, M. V. (2018). Effecting Alternative Development: Imagination and Practice. The Third International Symposium on Development and Governance in the BRICS. Sao Paulo.
- Mathai, M. V. (2018). “Sustainable Structures of Living Together” for Imagining Degrowth in Energy Policy. First North-South Conference on Degrowth. Mexico City.
- Mathai, M.V. & Parayil, G. (2014). Power, Nuclear Power and the Environment: Normative and Policy Dilemmas Confronting South Asia and Beyond. Center for South Asian Studies, University of Hawaii.
- Mathai, M.V., Parayil, G., & Suwa, A. (2013). A Framework for Developing Governance Indicators for a Low Carbon Societies Context in Asia: Transition or Continuity? Semi-plenary II, Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference. United Nations University, Tokyo.
- Jani, O., Byrne, J., Mathai, M. V., Kumar, A., & Buch, V. (2009). A Sustainable Photovoltaic Roadmap and Policy Initiative for Gujarat, India. 18th International Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference and Exhibition, Kolkata, India.
- Scoltes, F., & Mathai, M.V. (2005). The Capability Approach as a Response to the Environment-Development Crisis. Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA) Strategy Workshop, University of Maryland, College Park.
- Mathai, M.V. (2004). Exploring Freedom in a Global Ecology: Sen’s Capability Approach as a Response to the Development-Environment Crisis. 4th International Conference on the Capability Approach: Enhancing Human Security, University of Pavia.
- Mathai, M.V. (2003). Case Studies: Observations on Operationalizing Sen’s Capability Approach. 3rd Conference on the Capability Approach: From Sustainable Development to Sustainable Freedom, University of Pavia.
- Future Earth, The Earth League, WCRP (2022). 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2022. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7228926
- Chandran, R., Chong, N.S.T., Doll, C.N.H., Lee, L.Y., Mathai, M.V., Nguyen, K. and Parayil, G. (2013). Bytes Beyond Borders: Strengthening Transboundary Information Sharing on Wildlife Crime through the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS) Initiative. Policy Brief (pp. 8). United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies.
- Gasparatos, A., Lee, Y. L., von Maltitz, G. P., Mathai, M. V., Puppim de Oliveira, J. A., & Willis, K. J. (2012). Biofuels in Africa: Impacts on Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity and Human Well-being. United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies.
- Byrne, J., Kurdgelashvilli, K., Mathai, M.V., Kumar, K., Yu, J‑M, Zhang, X., Tian, J., Rickerson, W. (2010). World Solar Energy Review: Technology, Markets and Policies. Newark, DE: Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware.
- Roe, A., Mathai, M.V., Boekhold, van B., Kasper, D., & Kuholski, K. (2008−2009). Knowledge of Power – Energy Education Series. Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, Newark, DE. [A set of four presentations, a workbook and a board game, covering energy basics, efficiency and conservation.]
- Roe, A., Mathai, M.V., Byrne, J., Lake, K., & Gunter, B. (2006). UHELP Responds to Community Health and Environmental Needs. Newark, DE: Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware.
- Prepared by Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP). (2005). Cooperation in Sustainable Energy Technology Development: U.S. Activities in South and Southeast Asia. Country-by-Country Reports.
- Mathai, M.V. (2020, November). Locating COVID-19 between Ecology and Economics. SouthAsiaDisasters.net, Vol. 190. All India Disaster Mitigation Institute. http://www.aidmi.org/sub-images/publication/190%20COVID-19%20Impact%20in%20India.pdf
- Mathai, M.V. & Ramesh, M. (2020, May). Wilderness Conservation and a Flawed Imagination of Nature. The Bastion. https://thebastion.co.in/politics-and/environment/wilderness-conservation-and-a-flawed-imagination-of-nature/
- Mathai, M.V. (2020, April). Coronavirus: Virus of prejudice. Deccan Herald. https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/coronavirus-virus-of-prejudice-820257.html
- Mathai, M.V. (2020, April). COVID-19 Pandemic: An Opportunity to Restructure India and the World’s Political Economy? The Wire. https://thewire.in/political-economy/covid-19-pandemic-an-opportunity-to-restructure-india-and-the-worlds-political-economy
- Mathai, M.V. (2018, July). In India, the Discourse of Environmental Governance Is Always Rooted in the Future Tense. The Wire. https://thewire.in/environment/in-india-the-discourse-of-environmental-governance-is-always-rooted-in-the-future-tense
- Mathai, M.V. (2013, June). Will the Environment Survive International Relations? Our World 2.0. http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/will-the-environment-survive-international-relations/
- Mathai, M. V. (2013, April). Nuclear Power at What Cost? Economic & Political Weekly, 48(15), 17 – 20.
Mathai, M.V. (2012, June). Green Economy at 40. China Dialogue. http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4989-The-green-economy-at-4-
- Mathai, M.V. (2012, January). Green Economy and Growth: Fiddling While Rome Burns? Our World 2.0. http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/green-economy-and-growth-fiddling-while-rome-burns/
- Mathai, M.V. (2011, May). Fukushima and India: Lessons in Sobriety. Janata, Vol. 66. No. 14.
www.yusufmeherally.org/news-events/janata_issue_may_8_2011.pdf (Also in Hindi in the April (2011) special number on nuclear power of Samayik Varta)
- Mathai, M.V. (2007, Jan/Feb). Energy Infrastructure and Democratic Space: A Case for Decentralization. IEEE USA Today’s Engineer Online, Opinion. https://www.academia.edu/3813659/Energy_Infrastructure_and_Democratic_Space_A_Case_for_Decentralization
- Mathai, M.V. (2005, March). Voices of Power and Whimpers of Values: A Challenge to Animating the Capability Approach. Maitreyee. http://www.hd-ca.org/Maitreyee_March_05.pdf
- Mathai, M.V. & Mahesh, A. (2003, April) The Road to Starvation. IndiaTogether. http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/apr/agr-drought.htm
- Saldanha, L. F., Mathai, M.V., Rao, B. S., & John, R. (2000, September) White Elephant in a Green Forest. IndiaTogether. http://www.indiatogether.org/campaigns/kudremukh/kudreport.html
Training workshop and edited volume on “Green growth: Political ideology, political economy and policy alternatives.” Funded by Asia Pacific Network — Global Change Research (APN-GCR) Scientific Capacity Development (CAPaBLE) Grant.