Vandana Shiva is an eco-feminist and author based in India.

Q: How did you get interested in the environment?

Vandana Shiva: My father was a forest conservator in the Himalayas, and my mom had become a refugee during India’s partition and opted to become a farmer. I couldn’t imagine life without the land or the forests. But it was the mid-1970s that really made me consciously committed. I’d gone back to my favorite places before heading off to Canada to get my physics Ph.D. I just wanted to walk in my favorite forests, and swim in my favorite rivers. But the forests were gone and the rivers were gone.

Q: What was your reaction to the Copenhagen conference on global warming?

Vandana Shiva: Copenhagen was destroyed to protect corporate rights. Citizens’ rights were destroyed, but most importantly the Earth’s rights were ignored. However, a beautiful thing came out of it: Bolivia put the rights of Mother Earth as the organizing principle of the future of humanity. This is the kind of shift we definitely need. We are undergoing a tectonic shift. To the extent that the possibilities are open for organizing life differently, it’s a very, very hopeful time.

Q: What are Mother Earth’s rights?

Vandana Shiva: She has a right to continue to provide. If we defend her right to have water and soil and biodiversity, we will have food and water. All human concerns are ultimately predicated on her rights.

Q: You’ve done a lot of work against Monsanto and its genetically modified organisms.

Vandana Shiva: Monsanto’s use of GMOs is an attempt to establish a dictatorship over our food system and our seed system—and not just in India. In the United States, most farmers don’t have a choice. They have to buy GMOs. We need to think very deeply about reclaiming our seed sovereignty and reestablishing food democracy. It’s probably the most important political challenge facing any society anywhere in the world today.

Q: How do you do that?

Vandana Shiva: I try to create community seed banks of seeds that are not genetically modified, that are not patented. Everyone should have the right to have a garden with their own seeds. Every farmer should have a right to have seeds that are not genetically modified and not patented. In terms of food democracy, one example is this amazing gardening movement that has emerged all over. Another is the movement on campuses to get rid of junk food. These are all steps toward establishing food democracy. It has to be one meal at a time, one family at a time, one school at a time, one seed at a time.

This is an excerpt from Vandana Shiva’s interview in the Dec/Jan issue of The Progressive magazine, “Saving the Earth.” To read the full interview, as well as the entire special issue, simply subscribe to The Progressive for just $14.97—75% off the newsstand price, by clicking here.

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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