Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is a prolific writer, ecofeminist, agricultural and water activist and a powerful political force internationally. But her work is not well known here in the states. Although Dr. Shiva’s PhD dissertation research was in quantum physics, her life’s work has been in the area of environmental policy focusing on agriculture and sustainable living. Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental hero in 2003, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia. In November 2010, Forbes Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe. Her books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind pose essential challenges to the dominant paradigm of non-sustainable, industrial agriculture. Through her books BiopiracyStolen Harvest and Water Wars, Dr. Shiva has made visible the social, economic and ecological costs of corporate-led globalization. 

In a previous post, I discuss the commons- the shared resources of humanity such as fresh water, sustainable soils, clean atmosphere, fish and wildlife. Shiva discusses the issue of what she calls fake-cheap. Everything that is very costly to the planet, to the commons, appears cheap to the consumer. For example, fossil fuels, chemicals, and GMOs are made to look like cheap food, but it is very costly in terms of the commons. And the cheap food is expensive in terms of human health. Cheap goods produced in slave factories by peasants in poor countries are truly costly in human capital and natural resources. I have discussed the cost of cheap coal, which affects coal mining communities in profound ways in terms of human health. Cheap isn't really so cheap in the long term. 

Shiva’s book Staying Alive dramatically shifts popular perceptions of Third World women and focuses on their importance to community and family. Women were left to do the work that was not considered to be important. But actually, women did the real things essential to life. They provided the water and took care of the family. They provided and cooked the food. Food connects us and creates community. Shiva focuses on water issues, sustainable food and seed, as well as cooking and community considered to be women's issues, but are really humanities issues. 

I see a similar problem with urban dwellers that give little thought to the fundamentals of life. They seem to forget that natural cycles of the planet provide us with the essentials of life, air, water, food and energy. We take these life giving essentials for granted.

Our culture, which values profits, exploitation and competition has been molded by powerful, self-serving males for centuries. Shiva claims what we need now are the values of women’s knowledge to learn to be better humans. How to live sustainability with nature rather than conquering it. How to care for each other and build community. How to share with each other rather than compete with our neighbors. Her solution is to teach young people how to work with their hands, hearts and heads which she claims is crucial to our real humanity. She encourages us to garden, build playgrounds, save seeds, cook and create community.