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Beyond Development: An Evening with Dr. Vandana Shiva

A review of the evening, written by current MA student Mari Del Mar Turato

“The development of life in any being, the life process of Self-organization, self-regulation, self-governance is free. Because self-organization is free, self-regulation is free…even though every wheat seed will give you a wheat plant and more wheat seeds, you don’t need to keep telling your wheat seeds don’t become a carrot. It is free to become itself..it is free to become itself entirely.” Those were the opening words of Vandana Shiva, Indian scientist, ecofeminist and activist, in her talk to over 200 people at Totnes Civic Hall on how food development and economic growth are dangerously affecting the planet. It was a story on how the global economy has used concepts originally from the life sciences to fuel control and dependency.

She explored with the audience the challenges of her early stages as an activist when she joined the Chipko movement along with other women to protect the Forests in the Himalayas. Her motivation came from the fact that she saw how the explorers could only see the profit they could get out of that land and not the diversity of life. Being recognized as one of the most influential activists of our times, Vandana pointed out the dangers of the Green and Blue Revolution, of the devastating impact of monoculture agriculture principles on the lives of thousands of indigenous farmers. In India alone, over 250,000 farmers have committed suicide because of debt and bankruptcy.

Not only are farmers impacted by this dehumanised food system, everyone is paying a high price. The present mindset of efficiency is killing the natural process of self-regulation and self-organization so deeply rooted in Nature’s way. The economy should be able to integrate with life but instead it is trying to dominate it and impose its rules. It is creating deficiency in people’s diet in order to present solutions that will bring profit to big corporations. Instead of 10,000 varieties of rice, you have one, the most profitable. This approach is destroying bio-diversity, intoxicating the soil and making diversity disappear. “Ecocide and Genocide are two sides of the same coin” according to Vandana.

But there is hope. The fact that people are getting more aware of this present scenario and that they are feeling empowered to act, is bringing hope and opportunity to create a more sustainable and resilient future. NGOs and civil society are trying to create solutions to bring back the Diversity of Life. Patents have been stopped, seeds have been spread and boycotts have been made in order to show that there is another way to live our lives in alliance with Nature. Free seeds, free people.

Finishing with a quote from Rumi, Vandana gave her audience a rousing call to action, “In this earth, in this earth, in this immaculate field, we shall not plant any seeds, except for compassion, except for love”.

About Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva is an Indian physicist, philosopher, feminist and tireless environmental activist. She was involved in the women’s campaign against the destruction of the Himalayan forests, the famous Chipko movement, and now works in the movement to protect biodiversity and prevent the patenting of seeds in India. She has a PhD in the Philosophy of Science and has written many books including Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development, Monocultures of the Mind, Biopiracy, Water Wars and most recently, Soil Not Oil. In 1993, she won the Alternative Nobel Prize (the Right Livelihood Award). In 1984, she founded Navdanya, an organisation which works for organic farming methods, biodiversity, the Earth and India’s small farmers. Bija Vidyapeeth, Navdanya’s residential course centre, was inspired by Schumacher College.