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Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is a physicist, campaigner and adviser to the International Forum on Globalisation. This speech was given at the "Restore the Earth" conference, Findhorn foundation, April 4, 2002.

There are on the one hand very large numbers of people who love the earth and who care for it, then there's a tiny minority who have been struggling for about five centuries to banish it from our lives. A few centuries ago the problem was a living earth, so they had to create a dead earth. With the dualistic split they killed the living earth in their minds: now they want to kill the real earth.

The media have been told not to call the Johannesburg meeting the Earth Summit - so that's our first challenge, to bring the earth back. I believe this is a last gasp effort from the system to eradicate the earth from their logic. The free market ideologists believe that the green movement is a new kind of religious fundamentalism: they do not recognise the limits of the earth. They say that when the land is exhausted we can drain the oceans; that since the price of some commodities is getting lower, no harm is being done; that the green movement is a danger to the human future.

But despite their green revolution, famine returned last year to India for the first time since 1947. The problem is not that people are not growing food, but that the system has shifted to one where everything has to be bought ... so that when people go to buy food, it is four times more expensive than when they produced it themselves. Costs of production are shooting up - the burden of pesticide costs on Indian farmers has increased by 6000%. And this is not unconnected with the fact that the seed and pesticide industries are now one and the same. Recall that there are still a million children being born in Vietnam due to Agent Orange. 20,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 3 years due to these rising stresses.

Any system that is based on violence to the earth is also based on violence towards people. Read The Agricultural Testament by Sir Albert Howard, who went to India early last century to introduce chemical agriculture. He was an economic botanist who found no pests or soil degradation. I found, he said, no diseases of note and such diversity that I decided to throw away my pesticide gun and learn from the farmers. The agricultural systems he saw were, he said, almost as sustainable as the primeval forest. Our Indian cultivation in the past was never exclusively for humans, we tried to maintain the wild under agricultural conditions, and that was therefore good for humans.

The seeds that are wedded to chemicals are wonderful for the seed industry and create permanent markets for agrochemical. The South African President Thabo Mbeki said last year at the World Economic Forum that he wanted every African to have a colour TV, a fridge and a car... He is acting as a salesman for the car industry, along with all the others. The fact is that we all know that the lifestyles of the north must now become a thing of the past.

When Monsanto came into India in 1998 we produced postcards asking Monsanto to quit India. The pressures are such that farmers are now getting so desperate as to sell their kidneys to pay off debts. We are repeatedly told that if this reorganisation of world markets does not happen, the world will starve. The Johannesburg summit will be used to sell biotechnology to Africa. But the reason we have malnutrition is that the sources of nutrition have been destroyed by pesticides and that our farmers have been impoverished by the huge costs of production.

Agribusiness has built a system with three levels of profit, when they sell the chemicals, when they buy the products cheap and when they sell them expensive. The drive to introduce markets to public goods continues to spread. The more you pollute water, the more you can create markets in water. We campaign against water privatisation again because of the pesticides. Now the companies that did this are saying let's turn this problem into an opportunity.

We had to fight the patenting of Basmati rice, and of the Neem tree. 99% of patents connected to life are basically piracy. Our universities have been teaching students that life is about chemicals: it is only our grandmother's
'universities' that have kept alive the knowledge that is it really about diversity and life. The simplest way to pest control is to plant companion plants that keep them away.

The laws of creation are the ways we have all lived until recently. Now we are being taught that the laws of creation say we should get rid of all diversity with pesticides, that farmers should become bonded labourers. We got a critical ruling in the 1980s under Article 21 of our Constitution that gives the right to life to every citizen, such that when commerce starts to destroy their life support systems, commerce must stop.

For us earth restoration goes hand in hand, in fact it is the same project as, giving back to citizens the right to control what goes on in their place, on their land. Natural rights to ecosystem health and space for human survival is serious politics in India, not just good spirituality.

World leaders are now competing to attract pollution that comes with resource intensive, energy intensive heavy industries, which are moving to the third world. One US think tank put out a recent report saying it was a mistake to assume that there was no substitute for water... ! Presumably they think we can replace it with Coke. The Economist said that members of FoE and Greenpeace should be handled like terrorist group members. Anyone coming in the way of profit is being declared evil.

On 5th April tribal leaders from throughout India are coming to Delhi to debate the way the Constitution recognises their lifestyles, the way they live and the way it is changing to brush aside any rule but that of profit. Anyone who interferes in the profit drive is a fundamentalist, a terrorist. Amazing things have happened in India, through seed saving we have recovered 20 or 30,000 seed types - but we used to have 200,000. Basically the life of this planet is being privatised. We have saved these seeds to keep them free for farmers, for everyone. We have done studies now on how the new genetically manipulated seeds have no life support system - all they encourage is pests. You just have to be hospitable to the diversity of life and you get your pest control for free, your fertilisation for free, and this is why the multinationals are working against this.

They want to pit these two issues one against the other - to make the human look like the opposite of nature, and anyone who opposes this is declared wrong. Farmers in Orissa cannot cultivate any more because UK tax money is being used by the Department for International Development to privatise irrigation water, increasing its price by tenfold. Western consultancy firms take a huge part of the aid and we end up doing the hard work to sell to private firms that which was ours in the first place. After the Andersen events we should make sure that firms like that, who are not even able to account for money properly, don't get to tell us how to organise natural resources.

In our earth democracy movement we use simple but profound slogans: water belongs to all, therefore privatisation is not on; we didn't invent our brothers and sisters in the natural world, therefore patenting is not on. The reason globalisation is not sustainable is not just that it takes away the lives of our citizens, but that it takes away the ability of all of us to live in community. It turns economics negative so we can't live on the land, it turns politics negative, identity negative.

We need earth restoration not just for restoration of democracy and our survival, but also to deal with the kind of violence that has been unleashed. We are fighting to restore the kind of identity that is rooted in the land and that says: I belong to this place. We are trying to replace those systems of fear, greed and hatred, the dominant features of the human condition right now. We have to make this shift.

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