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GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD WORKS Using Science to Save the Planet: An Interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva (In Hindi)   

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Earth-loving viewers, welcome to Good People, Good Works. Our show today features Dr. Vandana Shiva.

For more information about Dr. Vandana Shiva and Navdanya, please visit www.navdanya.org

A native of India, Dr. Shiva is a renowned environmentalist who has been working tirelessly for years to help preserve our planetary home. She has been internationally recognized for her eco-accomplishments, including having received the Earth Day International Award from the United Nations and the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” She is also a best-selling author, with such books to her name as “Soil Not Oil,” “Earth Democracy,” and “Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development.”

In 1987, Dr. Shiva, who is a vegetarian, started Navdanya, an organization that promotes peace, harmony, justice and sustainability by seeking to protect the biodiversity of our ecosphere. The organization’s mission statement is as follows: “To protect nature and people's rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food.”

In an interview with Supreme Master Television in Delhi, India, Dr. Shiva shared her perspectives on the significance of conservation through ecologically sound farming practices.

Dr. Shiva (f): I was originally a nuclear physicist and then a quantum physicist. But for the last 35 years, I have dedicated my life to protecting the Earth.

Dr. Shiva (f): […]I started two institutions. First, a public interest research body called The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. I wanted science to work for people and to work for protecting the planet. So I created this independent ecological research body. In 1987, I started Navdanya which both means “nine seeds” as well as “the new gift.” Nine seeds have a very deep cosmic significance in India because they relate to planetary balance, growing nine crops in your field and shows that you have biodiversity in your field, you’re protecting the Earth. But the diversity of crops also means a nutritional balance for our body. So all the way from the universe to our bodies, it’s about harmony, peace and balance.

HOST: Over the past 29 years, Navdanya’s membership has grown to more than 70,000 farming families in thirteen Indian states. In Uttarakhand state alone, 60,000 farmers have converted to organic farming through the efforts of Navdanya. To date, the Navdanya has trained over 200,000 farmers in this method of agriculture. Through seed banks, Navdanya has conserved over 2,000 indigenous varieties of rice, 50 types of native vegetables, as well as many different kinds of tree species and medicinal plants.  

Dr. Shiva (f): I started to save seeds in 1987 through Navdanya, because I watched how hundreds and thousands of our crop diversity was being destroyed for chemical agriculture, for genetic engineering. I’ve watched how 200,000 varieties of rice that India used to have were reduced to a handful, how the 1,500 varieties of wheat we used to have were reduced to one or two grain varieties. Nowhere in the world do citizens want to eat genetically engineered food with bacteria genes and viral genes and cancer genes. Everyone wants healthy food that’s good for the mind and good for our body. 2:55

Dr. Shiva (f): I protect the diversity because I see us as one part of the Earth family. These are our relatives. Plants, animals, microbes, they’re all part of the large Earth family.

HOST: Climate change is a reality that affects all of us and immediate action is needed to mitigate its effects.

Dr. Shiva (f): The calculations are there from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that if the current trends continue, by about 2050, half of the species of this planet will have disappeared. That’s a very, very large extinction. Species are disappearing in the sea as the oceans get warmer. As the oceans become more acidic, coral reefs are dying. I have watched my own mango orchard killed by an extreme frost last winter. As we get too little rain or too much rain, too much cold or too much heat, biodiversity suffers. The planet, this magical planet, is the planet it is with the life it has, because of the ability to regulate the temperature within a certain balance. Our pollution is taking it beyond that zone within which life can survive on this planet. And climate change is of course a threat to the species of the planet. But we are one among the species, we are threatening our own survival.

HOST: Our precious rainforests are being felled to raise crops, particularly to feed cattle, with little thought being given to the ultimate consequences.

Dr. Shiva (f): It’s being grown by cutting down the Amazon, it’s being grown by cutting down the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. Not only is that leading to emissions of about 18% because the forests as they’re burned, they are creating additional greenhouse gases, but the biggest problem is these are the lungs of the planet. These are the highest sources of absorption of carbon dioxide. These [are] the regulators of the climate’s temperature, rainfall, winds and climate patterns. And if the Amazon goes, we will not have our lungs, we will not have our liver, we will not have our heart. There is another way in which food is connected to climate change. In my calculations, industrial agriculture that is globalized is contributing to about 25% of climate change. And in addition, it’s giving us bad food.

We can only solve the food crisis by producing food sustainably, producing food locally, and ensuring that people and democracy have control over the food system

Dr. Shiva (f): When climate change is talked about, people usually only think of the gases that are emitted from cars or power plants. But a large part of climate change is related to the way we are growing food today. Industrial food, food grown with chemical fertilizers that are derived from fossil fuels, they use oil to produce. Then when they’re put in the soil, the nitrogen oxide moves into the atmosphere and creates climate change, because it’s 300 times more lethal than carbon dioxide. We are creating climate change by our own farms. What this means is food now being grown, it should not be grown.

HOST: Growing organic food has innumerable benefits for our Earth and betters the health of society.

Dr. Shiva (f): The best food is food grown organically; the best food is food grown locally, according to our tastes and our cultures; and the best food is food grown without fossil fuels. If we were to move agriculture to organic ecological farming, it’s the only way to grow food that is a sacred input to into our sacred bodies. If we were to make that shift to growing the kind of food that we deserve as human beings, we could reduce climate change emissions by 25% while protecting the farmers, while protecting biodiversity, and while protecting our health.

HOST: Crops, as they are currently grown, are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Organic farming brings stability to the ecosystem.

Dr. Shiva (f): One final issue about the links between food and climate change. Systems that contribute to climate change are also more vulnerable to climate change. If you get one storm, you can have a disruption of the entire food supply. If you get one drought, if your soils are fertilized with chemical fertilizers, they cannot withstand the drought. That’s why we need biodiversity, that’s why we need organic farming, both to reduce our impact on climate change and to be able to adapt to it better. But the wonderful thing is, it simultaneously resolves the food crisis.          

HOST: Dr. Shiva is very much in favor of traditional seeds and local foods. She feels genetically modified organisms upset the balance of nature. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a spore forming bacterium, the genes of which have been introduced into such crops as corn, potato, and cotton in the name of warding off insects.
Dr. Shiva (f):
Bt toxin is a toxin. A Bt toxin crop is not a higher yielding crop. It’s a toxin-producing crop. Herbicide-resistant crops are resistant to herbicides, therefore you can spray them with higher doses of glyphosate. That’s more toxins in our farms, not more food. To date, there is not a single GMO (genetically modified organism) that has produced more food than comparative crops.

Dr. Shiva (f):Genetically engineered seeds are not solving hunger. They are not bringing prosperity to our farmers. And agriculture without GMOs is a peaceful agriculture. GMO-free agriculture is a prosperous agriculture. GMO-free agriculture is the only way humanity should move into the future.

HOST: The harmful effects of a meat-based diet on our environment and on other beings are enormous.

Dr. Shiva (f): I am myself a vegetarian. I just think it is tastier. We know from all the figures that eating less meat or eating no meat creates a smaller footprint on the planet. Seventy percent of the food grain today is not eaten by human beings, it’s eaten by factory animals. We would relieve those factory animals from torture, and we would save that grain for feeding the hungry.

HOST: Our Earth is very unique and the only planet we have. Awareness of its current fragile state is key to making the right decisions to assure the planet is here for future generations.

Dr. Shiva (f): I think everyone of us has a role to play to protect the planet. We are not separate from it. We are part of it. We are its children. We are children of the Earth Mother, Terra Madre. In all our cultures, we have seen the Earth as our mother that has nourished us. We need to remember again that this mother, we have forgotten, neglected, abused, polluted, is wanting our care, wanting our embrace, wanting our attention. Let’s give her attention in everything we do, what food we eat, how we move around, what cars we drive, how we live.

HOST: Our sincere thanks to Dr. Shiva for her ceaseless conservation work to promote biodiversity, organic farming, and a cleaner environment. May everyone on this planet always have enough to eat through sustainable agriculture and a meat-free diet.

For more details on Dr. Vandana Shiva, her organization Navdanya and her publications, please visit: www.navdanya.org

Books by Dr. Vandana Shiva:
Soil Not Oil
Earth Democracy
Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development
Available at: www.navdanya.org