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Oneness vs. The 1% with Vandana Shiva | Global Living Room

A Global Living Room Recap || May 27, 2021

Author of “Oneness vs. The 1%” Vandana Shiva shares her inflection points as she unravels her journey through the 1970s until now. Her insights justify her fight against centralization and the importance of understanding nature based and indigenous technologies. Having seen and been active in women-led movements she touches on ecofeminism and the women’s economy. Our disconnect with nature and our greed is evident and Vandana has plenty of examples to prove from her life experiences.

Technology as a tool, not a religion

Vanadana’s book “Ecology and Politics of Survival” looks at technological polarization and how technologies function. She throws caution at how the big tech companies are rolling out tools that are no longer assessed as a tool by people who will use it.

“Technology elevated to a religion is the problem, because then you don’t ask questions.”

“In a kidney bean is all the evolution of the past and the future. The beauty of this is it can fix nitrogen nonviolently. The alternative to this was burning fossil fuels at four hundred degrees centigrade to burn and fix atmospheric nitrogen. We are no more looking at technology as technology. We are looking at it as a fundamentalist religion.”

“We recognize technologies are tools and we also recognize that there are many kinds of tools to do the same thing. My lovely father would always say never depend on one technology alone, don’t depend on the electricity alone because you don’t know where it’ll go. So keep the lantern, keep the candle. And we were always equipped with 20 ways of having a light.”

“The roles of tools are: 1. Tools should be assessed 2. We should be allowed to participate. 3. We should have pluralism, just like in any human constructed issue. 4. If we don’t know its impact, we should take precaution.”

Who is technology for?

“If they say the more science and technology you have, the less poverty you have. Why is it that with every new technology, the big trawlers will make the fishermen poorer, the chemicals will make the farmers poorer?”

“We have become blind to the fact that the amazing green leaf is technology. And yet, because we ignored this, we went to the dead carbon molecule and felt so smart because we could drill and we could mine and we could extract. We never took the assessment of what climate change is.”

“We have become blind to nature’s technologies.”

Bringing back ecofeminism and indigenous knowledge

Vandana stresses that there isn’t one economy. There are in fact multiple parallel economies, such as the nation’s economy, women’s economy, indigenous people’s economy, and the economies of regeneration and technology. The way we look at the human and natural capital needs to change.

“Biodiversity is what I’ve given my life for, for the intrinsic worth of species, the amazing expression of a beautiful universe, and now they say, no, it’s just an asset on a portfolio and there’s human capital and there’s natural capital and the human capital will be assessed in mortality and morbidity.”

“One of the beautiful slogans that came from the women-led Chipko movement was “what do the forests bare?” Although the official slogan said “timber and profits”, the women kept saying that the forests bare soil, water and pure air. Soil and water are the basis of the infrastructure of life. And part of the contemporary tragedy that we are living through in India is that, you know, we are the land that gave the deep breathing and Pranayam to the world. And it is a lack of oxygen that is killing people now.”

“Gandhi said, “We will be free when we make our cloth”, but he didn’t think of a mill like the mills of Lancashire and Manchester. He got an old woman to teach him how to spin. And he learned how to use a spinning wheel, and then he supplied it to the whole country and he said it’s because it’s small, it’s powerful because it can be in the hands of the poorest woman who now becomes the fighter of India’s freedom. And when every woman from the smallest hut will rise, this freedom can’t be crushed. The empire cannot rule us. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Who has the right to nature?

Many new technologies are promoted for profits and not because they’re better for nature or better for humanity. A question to ponder upon is who then has the right to nature? 

“I started the seed bank, but I didn’t invent the seed.”

“We have laws in India that say seeds are not inventions and therefore not patentable.”

“Don’t take patents of living systems which you cannot invent, don’t take patents on seeds and don’t take patents on essential medicines if they’re good for humanity. They should be available to all.”

Read more about this in Vanadana’s book “On Patents, Myths and Realities”, where Vandana cites the late former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who said “Profiteering from life and death is a crime. It is genocide.”

When will freedom come?

In 1984, violence erupted in Punjab when the Bhopal disaster took place with a pesticide plant leak. Vandana’s book “The Violence of the Green Revolution” was born from her need to know the truth behind the protests.

“The year 1984 made me focus on agriculture totally in a way, redefining my trajectory. Until then, I was working on rivers and forests and then I said, but the orphan of the ecology movement is agriculture.”

“The agriculture we have today that is called modern or industrial is basically an agricultural war. It’s a continuity of IG Farbin, it’s a continuity of Hitler’s chemicals. And they are just repackaged to be agrichemicals rather than extermination chemicals. They don’t let countries make democratic decisions for the protection of the environment, biodiversity and their people, so growing food, in my view, is the place to reclaim life, reclaim help, reclaim freedom.”

“Food is where we begin to protect the Earth and create the economy of care for the earth, for our communities, for our own bodies.”

The beautiful economy of care

“First, give up the belief that the world is dead, the world is just a machine to be manipulated. And move to being part of a very beautiful living, vibrant earth. And once we know every plant, every microbe in our gut, every animal is sentient. You start to handle it gently, you start to become awake to its technologies and you start to treat it with respect.”

“Economy of care means that we reclaim autonomy and our unity with each other and in the art of giving abundance. It means the consciousness of how you relate to the consciousness of your place in the web of life. And out of that consciousness flows the beauty of the way of care is needed and the rest of it is taken care of by the complex web.”

The takeaway

No technology can change the fact that humans are an equally important part of the ecosystem of nature. Humans affect nature and nature affects humans. We are co-dependent and linked through our atoms and interconnected web of networks at large. It’s when we learn to co-operate and co-create is when we will truly be in harmony. 

I asked myself what’s a nonviolent way to do this work? And that’s where the nonviolence of the leaf and the seed and the women’s knowledge came alive to me. And I really do believe that creative, constructive action that comes from unity with a living world, that comes from co-creation. The most powerful action is the highest level of consciousness, and that is what we have to cultivate much more carefully, much more lovingly.”

Read more about Vanadana Shiva’s Navdanya, an organization that rejuvenates indigenous knowledge and culture. It has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering, defended people’s knowledge from biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalisation. Navdanya has so far successfully conserved more than 5000 crop varieties including 3000 of rice, 150 of wheat, 150 of kidney beans (rajma), 15 of millets and and several varieties of pulses, vegetable, medicinal plants etc. Link: Navdanya (Nine Seeds)

Vandana Shiva is a modern day revolutionary, one of TIME’s seven most influential feminists in the world, often referred to as the Gandhi of Grain, she’s a physicist, activist, food sovereignty advocate, eco feminist and author of 30 books. She has founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy (RFSTN), an organization devoted to developing sustainable agriculture and also Navdanya, an Indian-based non-governmental organisation which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving. She’s also one of the world’s most leading thinkers and eloquently blends her views on the environment, agriculture, spirituality and women’s rights and the powerful philosophy. Her latest book is “Oneness vs. The 1%” about the widespread poverty, social unrest, economic polarization that has become our lived reality as the top one percent of the world’s seven billion plus population pushes the planet in all of its people to the social and ecological brink. She holds a MSc honors in Physics, a PhD in Quantum Theory and takes pride in doing PhD in biodiversity and ecology from the mountains!