IN CONVERSATION WITH DR VANDANA SHIVA – WHAT WOULD CLIMATE JUSTICE LOOK LIKE IN OUR FOOD SYSTEM?
Shaheda Aziz, Food Coordinator & Therapeutic Gardener, Wen speaks with Dr Vandana Shiva.
Dr Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer and science policy advocate, is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Navdanya, and Bija Vidyapeeth “Earth University” in Uttarakhand, India.
Dr Vandana Shiva a warm welcome. Thank you so much for being with us and we are so honoured to have you. My name is Shaheda Aziz, I work for Wen, Women’s Environmental Network we’re a charity based in East London working on issues that link gender, health equality and the environment.
We work in partnership with many grassroots organizations linked with policy work your work has inspired and informed Wen’s work throughout and your pioneering eco-feminist principles has led the way for many of us to follow. We are so grateful to have you with us.
The topic of our Wen Forum this evening is what would climate Justice look like in our food system and we would like to ask you firstly why is climate Justice connected to food justice and why is it crucial to have an intersectional feminist lens when thinking of these issues?
First greetings to the Women’s Environmental Network. I don’t think you will know that in 1988 when my book Staying Alive was published it was Wen that organised a big conference around it in London, so it’s good to be back.
So how is climate Justice linked to food and how it is linked to gender? I wrote a book in the lead up to the Copenhagen Summit because I could see that the boundaries that had been most ruptured were the biodiversity boundary, were the boundary of nitrogen and where did this come from?
The chemical monocultures of the industrial agriculture model and the figures there at that time – I had assessed that 45 percent greenhouse gas emissions come from an industrial corporate agriculture shaped by capital patriarchy, shaped by powerful corporations, shaped by rich men. Fourteen percent of it comes from the actual production which includes fossil fuel use for synthetic fertilizers, fossil fuel use for mechanization and getting rid of work on the fields and farms spraying of glyphosate, also based on fossil fuels.
About 18 percent comes from destroying forests for the limitless appetite of growing commodities which don’t feed us; soya bean in the Amazon, palm oil in the Indonesian rainforest and then you have another 15 to 20 percent to destroy food and degrade it with ultra processing, with transport with huge amounts of packaging and waste. I’ve done studies that show 75 percent of the waste is related to food packaging.
And ultra processed food is 75 percent of the chronic diseases – so the same system that is destroying the plant itself is destroying our health and destroying women’s knowledge, women’s work, women’s sovereignty and that’s why I started the Navdanya movement. To keep food sovereignty and seed sovereignty in women’s hands.
The data is so clear, that women-centered food and agriculture systems are able to draw down so much carbon because they grow biodiversity on small pieces of land which is where real food comes from and that drawdown could help us to get 30 gigatons out of the atmosphere, if we stopped using fossil fuels and industrial agriculture. I prefer to see industrial agricultures, a model shaped by violence, shaped by violent thinking, shaped by greed
Thank you. Our second question Dr Shiva is what does climate Justice look like nationally and locally and how do we get there?
Dr Vandana Shiva – I come from South Asia, the region that has very little contribution per capita to the climate havoc and yet is the most vulnerable of all regions of the world. The Himalayas is the third pole. We are the longest coastline affected both by sea level rise, coastal erosion, storms, cyclones – which are increasing in intensity and frequency. In the Himalayas we are losing the snows the glaciers are melting. And when melting glaciers combine with the fragility that has been created, with limitless dam building, just building roads everywhere without taking consideration about the mountains and their rights – what we have is disasters like the 2013 disaster which washed away 20 to 30,000 people.
2021 disaster was to be 200 people, including destroying the home of the woman who rose first for the Chipko movement, Gaura Devi in a village raining.and right now entire towns are sinking. And in the Bay of Bengal the 1999 Super Cyclone killed 20 to 30,000 people, but
since then the governments have become extremely well prepared to face these disasters and the communities and women I work with are finding their own paths of resilience.
Saving the seeds that can tolerate the salt that comes with the cyclones, the floods that come with incessant rain. And in these seeds of resilience lie the ability to deal with these disasters. But you can only deal with the disasters if you create social resilience. And that’s why (we need) community seed sovereignty/community food sovereignty – with women playing the leadership role, both because they’re the only ones who hold this knowledge as well as they are the ones who retain the best of humanity – in terms of resilience as well as in terms of renewal, regeneration and rejuvenation of every kind.
Thank you so much. In your documentary The Seeds of Vandana Shiva we see your son following in your footsteps. What did you have to do differently to raise him, if anything, in this patriarchal capitalist world we live in.
I think most importantly, just give him absolutely unconditional love and let him flourish on his own terms as a human being, because capitalist patriarchy makes people shape men in a patriarchal way and women as dependent on patriarchy. And when you live as human beings men and women you live your best potential so I gave him the freedom to choose his path including when I had a very difficult custody battle and I let him decide where he wanted to go.
I challenged the laws that were allowing his father who had left me, but wanted to keep control of me through him and treat him like an object. And I said he’s not an object he’s a human being, he’s an agent and and I managed to change India’s laws with that Supreme Court challenge. He lived through all of it so you know he’s had huge feminist education throughout and most importantly I have always trusted him to make the right decisions.
I think if men could make free choices they would be far more womanly, they would be far more feminist, they would be far more sharing and equitable about their relationships.
That’s wonderful thank you. So our last question for this evening is we heard that in your trailer of your film earlier you are GM company Monsanto’s worst nightmare. Where do you find this mighty formidable courage?
Well you know I know Monsanto is big and they had a huge agenda of destroying every seed of the world – having no farmer with any seed, owning the last seed, changing laws everywhere. For me just the celebration of life, the freedom of biodiversity and the seed to evolve is such a fundamental truth and that that’s where I get my strength to defend the freedom of the scene, the freedom of the farmers to save and exchange seed and every lie that the corporations tell to me is still a very very weak attempt to own the world. So my struggles and my strength comes from love for life, love for freedom, love for the biodiversity that makes our life. And an absolute intolerance to untruth, falsehood especially when it comes from powerful corporations and powerful people.
Thank you so much again Dr Vandana Shiva for joining us tonight and we’re really happy that we could have this time with you. We do have copies of your book at our event and you can get your copy um it is at the Forum tonight I have mine. Thank you so much Dr Vandana.
Thank you to all of you who have gathered, my love and all my strength. Thank you.