What do you see as the greatest problem facing the planet today?
I see the greatest problem as blindness to the life of the planet; therefore, irresponsible destruction of the planet in every seed, whether it be for food or energy. Food is being produced through a system that is devastating the planet. In fact, what is being produced is not food, it’s not worthy of eating. It’s destroying our health and the health of the planet. Look at energy: why are we relying on coal, when we know there are more efficient alternatives that the earth provides, that won’t harm the planet and don’t violate people’s right in the abusive way that coal does.
What can we do to help challenge this problem?
In terms of ecological threat, at the 1992 Earth Summit the UN identified erosion and extinction of biodiversity, and climate change as the two problems facing our planet. But for both of those problems, that seem to be separate, the answer is ecological, organic agriculture everywhere; in a little pot in your balcony, in your backyard, in your community, on your farm. Why do I say that? Seventyfive per cent of the planetary destruction is coming from industrialised agriculture, whether it is ruination of water or soil, or loss of biodiversity. Forty per cent of all greenhouse gases are coming from a food and agriculture system that is industrialised.
So we are talking about destructive food systems as the single biggest ecological footprint on the planet; therefore, ecological systems in our everyday life become the single biggest solution for our planet.
Industry can see very well the growth in organic [agriculture]; when people all over the world – without any mastermind – take to the streets and march against Monsanto. So they only have one thing left: lies. Tell lies: as propaganda; through public relations; by destroying honest decision-making by government.
Maui [Hawaii] decided to go GMO free; Monsanto is suing them. Vermont got labelling laws passed; the corporations are suing them. Europe is GMO free; they are trying to pass a trade treaty so that GMOs will be forced on Europe. There is an undermining of democracy, human rights and the rights of the earth everywhere.
Each of us must be far more grounded in the reality of the earth and our lives. Each of us must be far more courageous in the rolling back of the juggernaut of deception that has been unleashed on the world, and we must stand our ground.
What’s the best way to do that?
By continuing to do the right things, like saving seeds and gardening, and talking to others: spread the infection of love for the earth, and the capacity to grow good food. It’s really about awareness of the earth, and her giving, and our capacity to work with her.
Is saving seed the key to some of these problems? How can we encourage it?
Absolutely. I started Navdanya, the seed saving movement in India, when I heard the corporations talk about how they wanted to own the seeds – through genetic engineering, patenting them, and making it illegal for farmers to save and exchange seeds. So the biggest duty we have is to save and exchange seeds. If you don’t know how to do it, find people who can teach you. Australia has a wonderful seed saving movement, started by Jude and Michel Fanton. There are seed savers everywhere today. Create groups of seed savers. You can make a commitment to one seed, and say ‘I will save a seed’. The beauty is both knowledge as well as seed are being shared. It grows through sharing.
Corporations are trying to prevent and criminalise the sharing of seed and knowledge, through patenting and intellectual property rights, which means they are criminalising life, freedom and humanity. That’s why we must say ‘No’; we will obey the higher laws of the earth, the laws of life. Life is about multiplication, reproduction and sharing; and we will continue to multiply, reproduce and share our seed and our knowledge.
How do you see the planet one hundred years from now?
There are two possibilities. A planet without human beings: it will continue, have other life forms, but will not be habitable for the human species; but the planet won’t miss us. Or we become stewards of the planet: we give up arrogance, the idea of domination and ownership; and we start living on this earth with love, harmony, intelligence, peace and, most of all, responsibility.
What do we need to do to make this happen?
Make a garden. At the personal level everyone needs to make a commitment: I will not poison the earth; I will not poison my body with chemical pesticides and GMOs. Therefore, I will take whatever small step that is possible for me to grow seeds that are not GMO; to grow at least something so that I can connect to the earth. I connect to the seed, I connect to life. That can be done in one pot, on a balcony in the city.
At a community level what needs to change?
[We need] community gardens everywhere: every school, every community space needs to become a garden. Not only because gardens are beautiful, or because gardens cultivate community, but they are the single biggest solution to the ecological destruction of the planet, and the destruction of hope, freedom and democracy among people. A garden allows you to cultivate hope. That’s why we talk about gardens of hope. A garden allows you to cultivate democracy and freedom, That’s why we talk about seeds of freedom.
The next level is every place that people can influence, beginning with local councils; they need to declare themselves as seed-freedom zones, organic zones, pesticide-free zones, GMO-free zones, and the larger you can expand this the better.
Is there hope for change?
Corporations control a very small part of the food and agriculture system; they destroy a lot, but they only provide thirty per cent of food. Seventy per cent comes from small farms according to the UN. We must [increase] our gardens and small farms to one hundred percent – [so that] all food [is grown] in ecologically sustainable ways and safe systems. This should be achievable.
What is the best way to connect with nature?
Save a seed and sow it in a bit of soil and see the miracle that happens.
For further information see www.navdanya.org/ and www.seedsavers.net/ Dr Vandana Shiva will be speaking on a Planet Talks panel with Paul Sutton and Tim Jarvis (hosted by Robyn Williams) at WOMADelaide on Saturday 7 March at 6pm. The discussion topic will be: Valuing Our Planet