Vandana Shiva is relentless in her pursuit towards a cleaner,greener environment.Anindita Ghosh spoke to one of the world’s most famous environmental activists
While Vandana Shiva has been called an ‘environmental hero’ and named one of the seven most powerful women on the globe, she has he fair share of vociferous detractors.But Vandana didn’t get where she is by
being a people-pleaser. “My entire life has been shaped by the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—I protect the environment because I really believe that we are part of the earth family. There is a high right now and, in the high, the value of nature and the value of the environment are being forgotten. But I don’t give up faith and I don’t give up hope.” Brought up in the green idyll of Dehradun, Vandana became a volunteer with the Chipko Movement in the 1970s and that spurred her to a deeper probing of environmental concerns. She found that a voice raised in dissent could make a difference, and it’s a lesson she hasn’t forgotten. “My study in 1982 led to the closure of mines in Mussourie and made me realise that even a small contribution in the field of environment could have a huge impact.”
Leading the organic charge
Credited with having started the organic movement in India, Vandana founded Navdanya, an organisation to protect native seeds and promote organic farming and trade in 1987. It supports local farmers, and conserves and markets endangered crops and plants. Vandana has also, through her academic papers and books like Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest, Monocultures Of The Mind,etc, taken on international agricultural giants like Monsanto. “I have fought against the bio-piracy of neem, basmati and wheat and against the assumption that corporations can pick up what we know and say that they have invented it.We won all three cases.” Vandana famously proved a link between Monsanto’s Bt cotton— a genetically modified variety—to the rise in farmer’s suicides in Maharashtra. “Monsanto came to India illegally and the evidence of that is the case I fought against them in 1998-99.Farmers were falsely promised higher yield and a reduction of pesticide costs,” says Vandana.
For nature, from nature
In all her years as an untiring environmental crusader, Vandana’s determination to save the environment has not dimmed, much to the irritation of the large entities she loves to take on. “Our present government talks about
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam but is removing forest protection laws that came out of the Chipko Movement, which was my birthplace for environmental activism.”
She is a staunch proponent of agro-ecology as opposed to chemical and industrial agriculture.“My new book Who Really Feeds The World, based on 10 years of research, is about how 70 per cent of food comes from small farms and only 30 per cent comes from large-scale industrial farms.” As she points out that Big Agriculture has caused environmental, health and social problems, it’s clear that Vandana isn’t daunted by the fight ahead.