October 15, 2010
WOOSTER, Ohio — In order to achieve peace in South Asia, there must first be a movement to end man’s assault on nature, according to environmental and social activist Vandana Shiva. Speaking at the third session of the Wooster Forum on Wednesday night (Oct. 13) in McGaw Chapel, Shiva said, “We have to realize that human rights are predicated on the rights of the earth. We must live within nature, not outside of it.”
A native of India and the author of more than a dozen books, including Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (2008) and India Divided: Diversity and Democracy Under Attack (2005), Shiva described the current state of the environment as “climate chaos” rather than global warming because of the difficulty in predicting the changes that are taking place. “We’re talking about severe ecological destabilization, not in the future, but right now,” she said.
Shiva blamed much of the problem on globalization, which she said is having a “huge impact on sustainability” in a region that has significant biodiversity. “Just about every ecosystem is represented in South Asia — deserts, mountains, tropical forests — and the changing climate conditions have exposed the vulnerability of the region,” she said.
Shiva also noted that globalization has led to a form of social injustice because those who have done the least in terms of creating the problem are the ones affected most. “It’s a real paradox,” she said. “The people who help to produce the food are the ones who are going hungry. The government is failing in its duty to bring food to the people.”
Industrial farming is exacerbating the problem because of its reliance on chemicals and its inefficient use of water for irrigation. Policy decisions, including the movement by many governments to take land from peasant farmers and redistribute it among corporate agricultural entities has further complicated the situation to the point where it has become a crisis.
There is an alternative, however, and Shiva suggests that a return to organic farming with an emphasis on biodiversity would strengthen the viability of the region. “We have to make a choice in South Asia and around the world,” said Shiva, who helped to found Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers in India. “Are we going to assume that we can continue growing and expanding, or are we going to realize that we need to live within certain limits?”
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