Dr Vandana Shiva is an Indian physicist,
Environmentalist and recipient of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize. This is an
edited version of her speech at the Sydney Opera House.
Time to end war against the earth
November 4, 2010
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
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.
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. The high-cost feeds and high-cost chemicals are trapping farmers
in debt – and the debt trap is pushing farmers to suicide. According to
official data, more than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in
India since 1997.
Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and
ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our
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
When every aspect of life is commercialised, living becomes
more costly, and people are poor, even if they earn more than a dollar a
day. On the other hand, people can be affluent in material terms, even
without the money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are
fertile, their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry
traditions of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food,
and there is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.
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.
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.
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. Earth democracy protects the ecological processes that
maintain life and the fundamental human rights that are the basis of the
right to life, including the right to water, food, health, education,
jobs and livelihoods.
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.