Environmental Heroes: Vandana Shiva

Photo via Common Ground Media/ITVS.

Photo via Common Ground Media/ITVS.

“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to
remember that the planet is carrying you.”
― Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a champion of the ecology movement. She’s written books, participated in think tanks, and appeared in documentaries. 

Criticisms of Monocultures and GMs

One thing I find inspiring about Shiva’s work is her constant hopefulness in the face of huge opposition. She has taken on such behemoths as the Green Revolution, which is a controversial ongoing movement to use genetically modified plants and fertilizers to produce huge crops. Politically, the seeds can put small farmers in a bind. A downside of the newer technology is that the seeds are patented and must be bought again each year. Many farmers can’t afford this.

Inspiring and Empowering Women

Shiva has identified herself with the Ecofeminism movement, and is both criticized and lauded for her continued support of women as creators of environmental change. Women are often portrayed as more connected with nature then men. This mysticism aside, Shiva also has some interesting sociological insights on women’s role in ecology.

In this interview with Yes!, I like how she calls attention to how gender roles can give women a unique perspective on the environment they live in. Indian women in the 1970’s would gather firewood and water from the environment every day. These women were realizing the bad effects of the logging industry much more quickly than the male loggers, who were more removed from the land.

“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.”
― Vandana Shiva

Respect for the Earth

Shiva also believes in a human spiritual connection with nature and the earth. She invokes both science and poetry in describing the forest as a source of life and inspiration. I identified with this, since I’ve certainly felt the peace of being in a natural setting. According to Shiva, nature has a balance that humans should not attempt to bend to our will completely. These sorts of ideas are often criticized as romanticized nonsense.  However, Shiva blends this earth-centric spirituality with scientific knowledge (Shiva has a PhD in physics and philosophy) and revolutionary zeal.

Ecology in the Spirit of Shiva

If you want to do some ecological good deeds in the spirit of Vandana Shiva, why not join a community garden? You’ll get to eat tasty vegetables that you helped grow. You’ll get to enjoy working with the soil and learning about plants from your own experience. Dr. Shiva would approve of the localized and small-scale food production style.

Further Reading

Vandana Shiva on food security in India

Vandana Shiva on Genetically Modified foods

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