Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vandana Shiva urges "Time to End War on the Earth" in Sydney Peace Prize speech

Dr. Vandana Shiva, recipient of this year's Sydney Peace Prize, urged the cessation of war on the earth (in the form of unsustainable environmentally destructive genetically modified, pesticide-intensive industrial agriculture); the end to the commodification of every aspect of life; and the promotion of "Earth Democracy" in her Nov. 5 acceptance speech:

When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits - limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.

A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth's resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about "blood for oil."  As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.

The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto's herbicides - ''Round-Up'', ''Machete'', ''Lasso''. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ''Pentagon'' and ''Squadron''. This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.

The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.

The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.

Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers...

Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.

Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases - obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites...

The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.

The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.

The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?

I believe that ''earth democracy'' enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures - a just and equal sharing of this earth's vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth's resources...

We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia's laws for maintenance of the earth's ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?

People's need for food and water can be met only if nature's capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.

Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.
Find out more about Dr. Shiva's book, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace here at South End Press.

In "The Corporate Killing Fields" published at Asian Age in July of this year, Dr. Shiva reveals that pesticides kill 220,000 people every year and shows that " ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs."

Read more about Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India, here.

See Sarah Ruth van Gelder's great 2002 interview with Dr. Shiva about the "earth democracy" at Yes! Magazine:
There is, I think, a spontaneous resurgence of thinking that centers on protection of life, celebrating life, enjoying life as both our highest duty and our most powerful form of resistance...

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