Dr. Vandana Shiva
“I’m so happy to join the Forum 2021 on Sacred Food and Blessed Earth. We have forgotten that food is sacred and what we have forgotten is that sacred food comes from a blessed earth and goes back actually to bless the earth. It’s not that humanity does not know how to do the work of earth care, of land care. For sixty thousand years Aboriginal people who were called “Bushman” farmed the continent of Australia and left it richer in biodiversity. Ten thousand years, where ever you look, my land in India or the Chinese or the First Nations across the Americas or the Africans, 10,000 years, we cultivated the land, grew the biodiversity, increased the biodiversity, left the soils more fertile, very often left more water because good farming and earth care actually regenerates, conserves, recycles every system from the biodiversity to the soil, to the seed, to the water and the sun. So sunshine falling on the leaves of our plants gives us so much abundance, but we’ve kind of forgotten this beautiful technology of nature and the blessings of photosynthesis, the blessings of biodiverse intense farming.
All our cultures, and I think this moment, this Forum should be the rising of the diversity of cultures, which have left the earth more blessed by realizing that we are part of the earth, we are not separate from the earth, by realizing that our duty to live on the earth and to eat is basically a duty connected to food. In the diversity of cultures, that India’s is, there is an overarching ecological principle, ecology, the science, the karma of food, have shaped both our ancient agricultural traditions, ten thousand years and the amazing principles of Ayurveda based on eating right. Either way that is a food science, because it’s a science of life. From the ancient texts we find every learning that is today being confirmed by contemporary science, just a few thousand years behind, beautiful text says the web of life is a food web. Food is the preserver of life. Food is the source of creation because what flows through the diversity of life forms, what flows between the biosphere and the atmosphere is nutrition. It is food. And what is indeed “Anna” gives rise to all beings, “Anna” is food in Sanskrit. It is from “Anna” that they obtain the necessary sustenance for living and having lived into “Anna” they merge at the end. The teachings […]do not negate food. This is the inviolable discipline for the one who knows because water is indeed “Anna”. And jyoti, fire, energy is the partaker of “Anna”, fire is enshrined in water and water in air, that is, “Anna” is enshrined in “Anna”. It’s a web of life, it’s a food web. All beings are formed of “Anna”. “Anna” arises from the rain. The rains arise from the sacrifice of growing food and the sacrifice comes from the right action. That is right livelihood.
Why did our cultures farm in the same place rather than degrading lands and occupying others and occupying others lands? Occupation carries on. We are growing GMO soil, burning the Amazon, displacing Indigenous people who have farmed the forest for thousands of years. We are growing palm oil in the rain forest of Indonesia. And the predictions are in terms of how in 10 years time there will be no forest left.
The three principles that I have learned in these 40 years of trying to understand good farming and of course resist the agriculture that has devastated my land and that agriculture that is not worthy of the name agriculture, because agriculture means the culture of the land, the culture of the land means protecting the land. It means living as inhabitants of the land, living with a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of giving. The three principles are biodiversity. It’s only commercial plantations of colonialism, the industrial agriculture and mono cultures of industrialism that has destroyed biodiversity.
In all pre-colonial cultures food is about biodiversity and food is not just about animal crops. It’s about trees and it’s about animals and it’s about herbs. And it’s about our wild uncultivated plants. We are working with women this year to remember the amazing foods people ate, 10,000 species of plants. And we’re working with the purest women in tribal areas, small farmers. Small plants, which will survive and grow and regenerate if you do not harm them, are flourishing again, and during the COVID lockdown, it is the gardens that women have grown. It is the wild uncultivated plants that came out again that have kept people going.
The second principle is the law of gratitude. The law of giving, the law of return, the law of recycling, the law of saying thank you to Mother Earth. She gives us so much, a tiny bit of an amazing gift of organic matter, which I call living carbon, which has also been forgotten by the fossilized mind of the Fossil Age. Just 200 years of a mistake. The fossilized mind has no idea there’s living carbon, but living carbon is life. The carbon dioxide meeting the sunshine in the green leaf gives us not just oxygen, but carbohydrates. And we are at this moment, we have to move from the hydrocarbon logic to the living molecule that is created by the plants through nourishment. And we’ve created all kinds of chemicals to destroy that capacity, to destroy the biodiversity, to destroy the potential of good food. We have deprived food of its nourishment, down by 90% in industrial agriculture, where the chemicals rob the soil of nutrition and depleted soils create nutritionally depleted food and nutritionally depleted foods loaded with toxins are hurting our gut microbiome and most chronic diseases are related to the system.
And the third principle, which I become more and more aware of, is the principle of all living systems. Contemporary scientists are waking up to this, that living systems organize themselves. Mechanical systems are managed from the outside. That’s why the word autopoiesis, the self-organization, allopoiesis is external. Allopathic medicine is external. Ayurveda is the body rejuvenating to build its own capacities, to heal and get stronger. If you look at the industrial agriculture, 50% of the greenhouse gases come from the industrial globalized system. I’ve written a book called “Soil Not Oil” on this. About 75% of the destruction of the soil and water come from the industrial globalized system. My book, “Who really feeds the world?” has the data from the United Nations. About 80% biodiversity is gone because of chemicals, we’ve sprayed and 93% of cultivated crops have disappeared because we are doing monoculture commodities that are not food.
I often say this is anti-food because food is that which nourishes us food that takes away our health is not food. 75% of the chronic diseases come from industrial food that has posed as food. It is a proven source of illness. So eating is where we can start healing the planet, healing our communities, healing ourselves and food can be the unifier of all the divisions that have been created by colonialism based on race, by capitalist patriarchy dividing us from the earth, trying to make women look like less because the minute you look at the world through food and the earth and through Sacred Food and the Blessed Earth, the Indigenous People who were called backward become the leaders. Women who were called non workers, unthinking beings, become the leaders. Small farmers turn out to be the providers of food. They feed us. 80% of the food we eat comes from small farms. Only 20% of food we eat comes from industrial globalized agriculture. And yet industrial agriculture is using 75% of the land and they want the remaining 25% of the land.
Why? The regenerative agriculture is using only 25% to give us 80% of the food. And they keep insisting you need industrialization to feed the world. The figures tell you that is not true, but food is not just stuff, food is not just commodity. Food is not just a weight. Food is not just the amount you put into a container ship. Food is the flow of life. The quality determines the flow. If I’m growing Roundup ready crops, I will kill the pollinators. I will kill the BT toxins, the soil organisms. I will totally destabilize a web of life and that is like biological catastrophe, including the climate catastrophe. Eating provides us an opportunity to return to the earth. Eating provides us an opportunity to return to our sacred being, eating provides a sort of opportunity to address climate catastrophes because all the research is now soil. That by the rupture of the natural cycle by chemical fertilizers and carbon cycle by fossil fuels, can be totally replaced by stopping the fossil fuels and stopping the synthetic fertilizers.
And in Navdanya, we have shown we grow more food by shedding fossil fuels, by shedding chemicals, but by intensifying biodiversity, instead of chemicals, intensifying the creativity of people to co-create with nature, rather than the chemical warfare that is destroying the earth, our health and displacing the farmers. But the sad thing is while we are, we realizing that the Indigenous alternative, the women’s alternative, the small farm alternative is what feeds the world. Those who have destroyed the land, destroyed the farm have given us climate change are getting ready for a farming without farmers. And this will be the debate at the Food Summit. It will be the debate in New York. Biodiversity erosion. The day you don’t spray biodiversity thrives. On our farm we have six times more pollinators. We have in one square foot, 12 uncultivated crops and medicinal plants – one square foot. That is the abundance Mother Earth is wanting to give to us.
And we keep creating scarcity through violence. Our water levels are up 70 feet and wherever ecological biodiverse organic farming has been practiced, desertification gets reversed. Droughts have a solution through drought resilience because the soil gets organic matter, which turns the soil into a sponge 0.5% organic matter gives us 60 pounds in liters per hectar. That’s how California should be addressing the drought and just stop the fires. We need to stop spraying the forest to create commercial mono culture plantations because every farm in the forest, every brought in species in the forest is basically a resilience against Pines. And the management of the system was known in Australia, was known in North America and yet we trivialize the knowledge of Indigenous People. And so casually we say wildfires. These are not wildfires. I call them Roundup fires, I call the colonizing fires.
And of course, when we intensify biodiversity, we have more health because biodiversity is the biodiversity of our soil, our plants and about gut microbiome. And this is the health continuum. And within a week, doctors say, give up chemical food eat organic, eat diversity, within a week your gut can be healed. Within a week the soil can be healed because we have underestimated the power of living nature. We have overestimated the arrogance of colonizing man. We have not seen the solutions that are there through human history, there are all over the world today being practiced in every nook and corner. And that’s why we must return to cultures of the earth to return to the earth. There is no other way. We will be able to reclaim sacred food and our blessed earth. We can return to the earth in our minds for our hearts, with our hands. To cultivate the future does not condemn us to the futility of our own extinction because this is what the industrial system is pushing us to. If industrial agriculture went from 20% of the food to 30 to 35% of the food we’d have a dead planet, hungry people, and very, very sick survivors for a short time.
But spreading seeds of freedom, growing gardens of hope, weaving garlans love in times of unfreedom, hopelessness and hate, we can create the possibility that humans and other species have a future. Taking small steps to cultivate another future is in our heart, hands. And when millions of heads and hearts and hands join together, there is a resonance. The world is about resonance. Harmony is about resonance. The foundational existence of the world is vibrations. We have to now unify what positive vibrations of regenerating the earth and through this new possibilities get created not by human arrogance, but by co-creation with the earth in humility and love. The brute power that is destroying life on earth is the power of greed, of violence, of domination, of manipulation, of mastery and pagentry and intellectual property rights. We have other powers, nature has her powers. When we align with nature’s powers, the impossible becomes possible. The certain energy of collapse becomes the possibility of regenerating another part, the parts to return to the earth as members of one family in abundance, in health and wellbeing. Thank you.“
Transcript of Dr. Vandana Shiva keynote address at FORUM2021
Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer and science policy advocat, is the founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (India) and President of Navdanya International. Trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, she completed her Ph.D. on the ‘Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory’ from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. In 2011 she founded Navdanya International in Italy and is Chairman of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, co-founded with the then President of the Region of Tuscany. Recipient of many awards, including in 1993 the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, and named among the top five “Most Important People in Asia” by AsiaWeek in 2001. Shes is a prolific writer and author of numerous books and serves on the board of the International Forum on Globalization, and member of the executive committee of the World Future Council. More on Vandana Shiva