How to Address Humanity's Global
Challenge Corporate Power, Embrace True Democracy
by Vandana Shiva
Editor's note: the following
remarks were made this September at a conference on "Confronting
the Global Triple Crisis -- Climate Change, Peak Oil, Global Resource
Depletion & Extinction," in Washington DC. For more information,
visit the International Forum on Globalization's website.
Before I came here I was very fortunate
to join the group of scientists and religious leaders who made
a trip to the Arctic to witness the melting of the icecaps. An
entire way of life is being destroyed. You've seen the polar bears
losing their ecological space, but the highest mobility in that
part of the world is the dog sledge. And they can't use it. They're
locked into their villages because the ice is now too thin to
travel on it. But it's still there and therefore not good enough
for them to use boats.
The same melting is making the Himalayan
glaciers in my region, the Ganges glacier, recede by 30 meters
a year. In twenty years time, the Himalayan glaciers will have
reduced from 500,000 square kilometers to 100,000 square kilometers.
And given our rainfall patterns, in the hot summer season when
we have a drought, it's only the melting of the glaciers that
brings us water. So we're talking about one-fifth of humanity,
twenty to thirty years from now, having no water in the grand
rivers around which the grand civilizations of Asia have been
And where did this start? All this feels
so timeless, but it started with humanity getting at the fossil
fuel, which was never supposed to be touched But that model carries
on. And globalization now is industrializing every activity of
every human being's life across the planet. For me, globalization
is really expanding the use of fossil fuel.
And so while on the one hand, when we
talk climate change, we're talking about reducing emissions, the
entire economic model is based on increasing emissions. It is
based on increasing emissions by destroying small-scale peasant
farming and introducing large-scale industrial agriculture. It's
increasing emissions by making every one of us dependent on our
everyday needs to come from China.
Everything today is being made where it
can be made most cheaply, which means where sources can be exploited
the fastest and workers can be exploited the highest. And at one
level, that's what's being reflected in China's double-digit growth
and India's nine percent growth. It's basically converting our
resources into commodities, to be sold around the world.
But that conversion requires the wastage
of human beings on a scale we've never seen. In India right now,
the relocation of industry for example; industry like steel that's
shutting down in Europe and America, is relocating to India. Automobile
companies that are shutting down in the West are moving to India;
they're talking about making 50 million cars in India annually.
Only four percent of India will ever own them. The rest will either
be exported or that four percent will have eight cars rather than
two. Already my landlord has five in a family of three. Those
cars need minerals, they need steel, they need iron ore mining,
they need aluminum, they need bauxite mining. And every inch of
the land in India is today serving a global, fossil fuel economy
that's on fast forward.
It needs land; land grab is the biggest
resource crisis. Land you can't create, you can only exhaust.
But peasants are saying we will not move. That's what they said
in Nandigram, 25 were shot dead and they refuse to move. In Dhandri,
where women were raped and attacked and refused to move. In place
after place, the tribals, the peasants in India are saying this
our land, this is our mother, and this is where we will be. And
when the money for compensation becomes bigger and bigger-- I
love this action-- the Nandigram peasants sent a letter to the
chief ministers to say, "How much is your mother for sale.
How much will you take for her? Because this land is our mother."
And the globalization of agriculture has
really become genocidal. It's hugely responsible for increasing
greenhouse gases, whether it's from the nitrogen fertilizers of
the fossil fuel in the mechanical energy that's used, or in the
long distance transport and food miles. But on the ground it's
killing people. Long before it will kill us through climate change,
it's killing people, physically killing people.
150,000 farmers have been pushed to end
their lives in India because of Monsanto seed monopolies. Monsanto
was collecting 2,400 rupees as royalty for a kilogram of Bt cotton
seed that they were selling for 3,200 rupees. They're in the courts
right now; we've challenged them, we've joined one of the state
governments. They're saying we have a right to this monopoly and
we're saying our country has never given you this right. They
assume they got it in the United States and therefore they have
it everywhere, whether the law allows it or not.
Or Cargill, wanting to grab India's wheat
market, having signed an agreement through the Bush Administration
withRight here in this city, decisions about agriculture are being
made here, in Washington. A two-year old agriculture agreement.
So Cargill eventually got India's wheat markets opened up. And
the international wheat price is $400; Indian farmers are getting
$200. And this double price is ultimately a subsidy that we are
giving in addition to the subsidy your farm bill is providing
to these corporations.
Retail: India is a huge, huge land of
bazaars, of huts, of markets. Every street is a market. Hawkers
come down in the morning, get us our vegetables to our doorstep.
Of course, that's not very good for Wal-Mart so they're manipulating
zoning laws, shutting down hawkers, shutting down businesses in
town, so that we will have a Wal-Mart model. But that means 100
million people out of retail and we don't know how much more carbon
emissions, while Wal-Mart talks about going green
So here you have globalization adding
to emissions and it needs to be a continued part of our work.
And you've got false solutions that were laid out by Jerry [Mander].
But the false solution that I think we need to pay particular
attention to is the dominant solution in terms of carbon trading.
Because at the philosophical level, at the world-view level, it's
the second privatization of the atmospheric commons. The first
privatization was putting the pollution into the atmosphere beyond
the earth's recycling capacity. Now with carbon trading, the rights
to the earth's carbon cycling capacity are gravitating exactly
into the arms of the polluters. The environmental principal used
to be the polluter must pay. Carbon trading is transforming that
into the polluter gets paid.
[Sir Nicholas] Stern, who did the Stern
Review, has clearly said it is an allocation of a full set of
property rights to the atmosphere. And PricewaterhouseCoopers
-- who was very notorious in trying to privatize, with the World
Bank's help, Delhi's water supply, and we defeated them two years
ago in that project -- has said that trade in carbon emissions
is equated with the transfer of similar rights such as copyrights,
patents, licensing rights, commercial and industrial standards.
One of the things we have always said
in [the International Forum on Globalization] is that the enclosures
of the commons is one of the deep crises of resource depletion.
Once resources move out of common management and public care,
they will get further degraded. And if you really look at the
clean development mechanism, it's all about dirty industry; it's
about HCFC plants being accelerated, new plants being set up in
China and India. The biggest recipients of CDM credits in China
and India are plants that are depleting the ozone layer. Sponge
iron plants coming up in the tribal belts of India, in Chhattisgarh,
Jharkhand, and Orissa. And clean seems to have become such a confusing
word. We would have thought that we know what clean is. And suddenly,
everything dirty is clean.
Including nuclear. Nuclear, not just as
nuclear power, but nuclear as strategic use of nuclear power.
I don't know how many of you have followed that the United States
signed an agreement with India. Now it isn't really that United
States signed an agreement with India because you did not sign
that agreement and I did not sign that agreement. Our Prime Minister
came at the same time that they handed over our agriculture. Monsanto,
Cargill, and Wal-Mart, who sit on the board of the agriculture
agreement, they also signed this nuclear agreement.
Which has led to the Hyde Act; section
103 of the Hyde Act calls for securing India's full and active
participation in U.S. efforts to dissuade, isolate, and if necessary,
sanction and contain Iran if it proceeds with its nuclear program.
Iran has been mentioned 15 times in a bilateral agreement.
So the nuclear agreement with India is
definitely not about clean energy; it is about something bigger.
And in India, right now while I'm here, we are having the biggest
democratic mobilization against this agreement. First of all because
Parliament did not clear it and second, because we don't want
to be a client state of the empire -- we want our non-alignment
defended -- and thirdly we don't want $100 billion market created
for the defense industry in the United States. After all, you
are going to have a big mobilization tomorrow against the war.
And we don't want to be a part of U.S.'s wars without end. We
are, after all, the land of Gandhi, the land of nonviolence, the
land of peace, the land of ahimsa.
We have to begin with solutions where
we are, while we defend our democratic rights. I work primarily
on agriculture. The globalized, industrialized agriculture is
a very big part of the pollution that we are dealing with, a very
big part of the crisis we are facing. But ecological, bio-diverse,
local agriculture is part of the solution. Both in reducing emissions,
in increasing absorption of carbon, and most importantly, providing
the adaptive capacity to deal with climate chaos. This year in
Navdanya, the movement I started for seed saving, we started saving
seeds that can deal with the drought, that can deal with the floods.
We've been saving seeds that can deal with the cyclones and hurricanes
and distributed those seeds after the tsunami. Those seeds are
available, they merely have to be saved and distributed rapidly
enough before Monsanto comes up with yet another false solution;
that without genetic engineering and seed patents we will not
be able to respond to climate change ...
I just want to end by saying that we have
basically two options. We have the option of letting the remaining
resources of the planet be fought over viciously through militarized
power or we can move rapidly to the ability to rebuild our ecosystems,
share the limited resources the planet can provide us, and create
good lives while doing it. But to do that, we'll have to get out
of many reductionisms.
The first reductionism being the reductionism
of energy. We've suddenly moved to thinking of energy as something
we can consume, not as something we generate. And I think that
generative concept of energy -- we call it shakti in India
-- is something we have to reclaim, because the solution to pollution
and wasted people is bringing people back -- deep into the equation
of how we produce things, how we work the land, how we shape community,
and how we exercise our democratic rights and rebuild our freedoms.
And of course, we'll have to get out of
the mindsets that treat the laws manufactured by the market as
immutable and unchanging. And the three concepts that are constantly
referred to as something that can't be touched are: economic growth.
You can't make any change that will touch the nine percent growth
in India, the ten percent growth in China. You cannot interfere
in the unregulated market -- even though every step of trade liberalization
is an interference in the market, every step of creating an opportunity
for Cargill and Monsanto, is an interference in the market. And
the third false sacred, is unbridled consumerism ...
The problem of climate chaos to me and
the problem of appropriating the resources of those who need those
resources for ecological security and economic security, is ultimately
a question of ethics and justice. And that issue of ethics and
justice can only be addressed if we recognize some very basic
facts and reorient our practices of what we eat, what we do on
our farms, our homes, our towns, our planet.
We need to reinvent our eating and drinking,
our moving and working, in our local ecosystems and local cultures.
Enriching our lives by lowering our consumption, without impoverishing
others. And above all, we need to subject the laws that govern
production and consumption to the laws of Gaia; the laws of the
planet. The laws of a planet that can give forever in abundance
for our needs if we do not allow the narrow minded, mechanistic,
reductionist, greed based system of industrialism, capitalism,
globalization to make us imagine that to be inhuman is the definition
of being human.