TEDxMasala – Dr Vandana Shiva – Solutions to the food and ecological crisis facing us today.

TEDxMasala – Dr Vandana Shiva – Solutions to the food and ecological crisis facing us today.

September 11, 2019 76 By Ewald Bahringer


Translator: Hélène Vernet
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman So I could actually have spent
all my life in this city and being a Mumbai girl if I had stayed on at the BARC,
the Bhabha Atomic Research Center. Why did I go back
to my hometown, Dehradun? And why do I do what I do today? It’s a combination of the fact
that I learned a lot from women in my region in the Himalaya. Peasant women, never been to school, top biodiversity experts, change the policies of this country,
the policies that used to say, “The most important product
of the Himalaya is timber.” They changed it to “The most important
product of the forests of the Himalaya is soil and water and pure air.” This was the movement Chipko, and in the 70s,
I got involved as a volunteer. And can you imagine
just the deepest love for the forests bringing about a change
through a totally nonviolent movement? It opened my eyes to another way
of looking at the world, and I learned two lessons then: First, that Nature is not out there;
we are part of it. And second, that protecting
Nature is not a luxury. Our Prime Minister still needs to learn
few lessons from women like that who thinks “environmentalism” is a problem
because it interferes with growth. It’s not a problem because the very foundation
of every economic activity is the rivers and the land
and the forest and the biodiversity. All the top leaders are gathered
right now in Cancún, trying to figure out how to avoid
disastrous climate change, but the lobbies that have caused climate
change are preventing it from happening. If you just look at what’s happening
in the area of food, and it’s delightful
to be here with you all, opposite a kitchen – very rare! It’s very rare to have food for thought
and food for the body in the same space. So congratulations to the organizers
for choosing this venue. Now, what’s the reality
of food in India right now? First, it’s that on different
approximations, between half to three-quarters
of this country isn’t eating enough. At a global level,
a billion people are going hungry. Another thing unprecedented
in our long, long history: in one decade from 1997 to 2007, 200,000 farmers have committed suicide. A million children are dying every year
in this country for lack of food. And there are studies done
in Maharashtra, in Thane, which show that in the tribal
areas before 1991, before the new economic policies, there wasn’t dramatic hunger,
but now there is. We are giving 1.3 trillion rupees –
that’s bigger than our defense budget – as subsidies for poisoning our soil,
for synthetic fertilizers. You add up all these things
that seem to be different aspects – some people look
at children’s malnutrition; some people look at climate change; some people look at land –
it’s all interconnected. And it’s all interconnected
through a very perverse way of thinking that we have inherited
from a highly patriarchal form of thought. Capitalist patriarchy gave us, first,
the assumption that Nature is dead, when it’s very much alive; the first error we need to correct,
and women are correcting it. Second, you have to declare Nature dead
to establish man’s empire over Nature, always “man’s” empire over Nature. That means all species
can be exterminated, people can be dispossessed. It was actually called by Bacon
“The birth of masculine time.” Literally they shaped a way of thinking
that would be a masculine mold, but it obviously robbed
the men of half their brain and women of all of their thinking, till now we have a resurgence
of a holistic thought: inevitable consequences of fate, a mechanistic view of the world that could not see interconnections,
that could not see cycles. The second thing I love about this space
is the circles, not linear benches. We’re all sitting in circles. Now, if only we could think
in terms of circles and cycles! We just had a performance
about the rivers. Yesterday I was in IIT Kanpur to discuss the whole issue
of the cleaning of the Ganga, which as you know,
the government is finding very difficult in spite of spending millions –
they can’t get it right. But they can’t get it right
because they’ve broken the cycle. The cycle of our nutrition
that should go back to the land is today going as pollution to the rivers. If only we corrected that
through good town planning, good sanitation, we’d have no problem of soil infertility, and we’d have no river pollution either. Another very, very important problem, that that kind of mechanistic thought
becomes blind to diversity. I have called this
the “monoculture of the mind,” and this starts to do a number of things. You destroy food systems,
and you say you’re growing more food. If you were growing more food, there
wouldn’t be a billion people starving. If the Green Revolution
had given us more food, half of India wouldn’t be starving today. The monoculture of the mind
has succeeded in transforming this country from a land of abundance and pulses
and all seeds and cereals and millets into a land where we are importing daals, and we are now making fake daals. I noticed all of you have Apple computers. So Apple gave us iPod. It gave us iPad.
It gave us iPhone. And the government’s giving us
an “iDaal,” which is not a daal. It’s basically soya bean
reconstituted and colored yellow. Now, if we’re going to try
and fake ourselves on food, the point is we can fake
the supermarket shelf, we can fake the consumer,
but we cannot fake the body, and I know we will hear
a lot more about this from Vidya Venkat, who has spent a lifetime trying
to talk about the truth of no-nutrition. We use ten units of inputs
to produce one unit of food. How inefficient can it be? And then, we are creating scarcity, scarcity by turning seed –
for which one seed gives a thousand. And the reason the millets, which are the “forgotten foods”
as we call them in Navdanya, the reason they are called “millets” is
because each seed gives a million seeds. That’s all that is shared between
the family of crops called the “millets.” We now have brilliant ways
to prevent multiplication of seed: genetic engineering, terminator seed, patenting, which makes it illegal
for farmers to save their own seeds. That is behind the farmer suicides: the high-cost seed, high-cost chemicals,
debt and indebtedness then leading to the suicides we witness. So how are we changing
this genocidal and ecocidal system that is both destroying
the land, the water, the biodiversity, the lives of our farmers,
the lives of our children? First, by recognizing one simple thing, that biodiversity is not a problem. The diversity of species, that is the base
on which we produce our food. You kill the soil organisms,
you won’t have food. You kill the bees and the pollinators,
you won’t have food. And the beauty of it is
each of us can be the change we want to see in the way food is grown. Today, industrial farming is giving us climate change, water pollution, water waste. It has destroyed biodiversity. We used to eat 8,500 crops;
we are eating 8 commodities. It’s destroying, of course,
the farmers and public health. But eating is an ecological act. Eating is an ethical act. Eating is a political act. And eating is an agricultural act. The separations that have been made between those who grow the food
and those who eat the food – If only that link could be closed the way we are trying to close it
in a loop in Navdanya, miracles start to happen, miracles like the paradox that the more you eat biodiversity,
the more you grow it. But if you don’t eat the millets,
who will grow it? If you don’t ask for the authentic daal,
it won’t be grown in this country. And we’ve seen, the way the government is going, we’re not going to get
clean, honest policies for a while. It depends on citizen action
to make the change. The other thing that agriculture
connects to all of us is the fact that in the act of eating, you are actually becoming
partners with the farmer. There is a very false way
of thinking that’s saying that agriculture is something
that can be forgotten, you know. And they have another linear line:
agriculture, industry – and we are living, we are working
in a space that used to be a factory – and then services. But show me a person
who is in a software company who has stopped eating. You still need the food, and the fact of forgetting
about agriculture, forgetting about our field farmers,
forgetting about the seed, forgetting about the soil is at the root of the huge
food and agrarian crisis. You are privileged, you don’t suffer it. But the producers are the worst
sufferers of the food crisis. I can’t go into detail
about how that happens. All I can do is invite you to join this revolution for life
that women are leading. Food after all is life, and every one of us
eats two or three times a day; the greedy might eat many more times. But every time you eat,
you can make a massive change. You can throw your weight behind ecosystems,
behind diversity, behind farmers, or you can throw your weight
behind greed, behind super profits, behind ill health that is killing
both this planet and people. Make your choice. It’s easy.
We’ve done it. And it’s just a matter of eating right
and thinking holistically. Thank you. (Applause)