Saturday, February 7, 2009

feminist spotlight: vandana shiva

If you've spent any time at all talking to me, or reading this blog, you have heard or suspected my admiration for physicist and environmental/women's activist Vandana Shiva.  This past summer I had the honor of hearing Shiva speak and meeting her on the farm of the organization she organized, Navdanya (see post).  Find out more about Navdanya by clicking on the link to your left, under favorite links.  

Ah yes, herein lies one of the primary reasons for my journey to India!  

I first learned of Shiva's work in my ecofeminism course in fall of 2006.  I learned about her involvement in the movement and was left with a nagging curiosity about what she was currently up to.  It also helped that she was a scientist by training, and an activist by nature... something I definitely could identify with and deeply admire.  

Vandana Shiva started the organization Navdanya in response to growing concern over international corporate pirating of India’s cultural knowledge and threats to biodiversity.  Located at the base of the Himalayan foothills in Dehradun India (where I spent summer 2008), Navdanya seeks to promote peace, harmony, justice and sustainability through conservation, renewal and rejuvenation of biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and cultural heritage.  Through their dedication to preservation of seed, food, and water sovereignty as common resources, Navdanya is committed to resisting seed patents promoted by the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Through rejection of non-sustainable agricultural techniques such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemically based farming systems, Navdanya creates a living democracy based on an economy of compassion and cooperation rather than profit and exploitation.  

Her first book, Staying Alive, was one of the first of its kind to make the claims and connections between the oppression of women and the oppression/exploitation of nature and natural resources.  Shiva has devoted her life to defending common resources for public good and been facilitator/participant in many of India's grassroots environmental movements.  Most notably the Chipko movment, which is often cited as the model for ecofeminist action/protest.

I could go on for years about my love for this incredible woman and her work, but I'll allow you to explore and look further into things on your own.  Might I recommend, that if you decide to read any of her work (which, warning, it can be a bit dry at times when she's being technical) I suggest you begin with Earth Democracy, which outlines her philosophy and views behind her activism and tireless efforts.  I'd then move on to Ecofeminism, which Shiva wrote with Maria Mies, followed by Stolen Harvest.  While I've also read her book on water, Water Wars, I find other scholars better at introducing and confronting the topic and data.  Shiva's book is interesting and useful, but not nearly as revolutionary and thought provoking as some of her pieces.

Ok I'm done gushing now... unless further provoked (feel free to do so)!

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