In this compelling and rigorously documented exposition, Vandana Shiva demolishes the myths propagated by corporate globalisation in its pursuit of profit and power and shows its devastating environmental impact.
Shiva argues that consumerism lubricates the war against the earth and that corporate control violates all ethical and ecological limits. She takes the reader on a journey through the world's devastated eco-landscape, one of genetic engineering, industrial development and land-grabs in Africa, Asia and South America. She concludes that exploitation of this order is incurring an ecological and economic debt that is unsustainable.
Making Peace with the Earth outlines how a paradigm shift to earth-centred politics and economics is our only chance of survival and how collective resistance to corporate exploitation can open the way to a new environmentalism.
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About the Author
Vandana Shiva was one of India's leading physicists and is now a leading environmental campaigner, the winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize and the author of several books, including Soil not Oil (2008), Earth Democracy (2005) and Stolen Harvest (2001).
Read an Excerpt
1 Eco-Apartheid as War
WHEN WE THINK of wars in our times, our minds automatically turn to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the bigger war is the on-going war against the earth. In fact, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya can be seen as wars for the earth's resources, especially oil. The war against the earth has its roots in an economy which fails to respect ecological and ethical limits – limits to inequality, to injustice, to greed and to economic concentration. Even though both economy and ecology have their roots in oikos, our home, the planet, the economy has separated itself from ecology in our minds, even as the intensity of exploitation and dependence on nature has increased.
The global corporate economy based on the idea of limitless growth has become a permanent war economy against the planet and people. The means are instruments of war; coercive free trade treaties used to organise economies on the basis of trade wars; and technologies of production based on violence and control, such as toxins, genetic engineering, geo-engineering and nano-technologies. Here we have just another form of "weapons of mass destruction" which kill millions in peace-time by robbing them of food and water, and poisoning the web of life. Tools of war have become the tools of economic production. The tragic bombing in Oslo on July 22, 2011 used six tonnes of chemical fertiliser; the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai were fertiliser bombs; the bombings in Afghanistan are, likewise, based on synthetic fertiliser.
The present global "war" is the inevitable next step for economic and corporate globalisation driven by a handful of corporations and powerful countries that seek to control the earth's resources and to transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about "Blood for Oil"; as they unfold we will see that they will be about "Blood for Land", "Blood for Food", "Blood for Genes and Biodiversity", and "Blood for Water". By extrapolation, the rules of free trade, especially the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture, are just another kind of weapon in the food wars. Biodiversity and genes have been called the "green oil" of the future; water is frequently referred to as the "oil" of the twenty-first century. Oil has become the metaphor and organising principle for corporate globalisation for all resources in the world. Wars and militarisation are an essential instrument for control over these vital resources, along with free trade treaties and technologies of control.
Every vital, living resource of the planet that maintains the fragile web of life is in the process of being privatised, commodified and appropriated by corporations. Every inch of land that supports the life and livelihoods of tribal and peasant communities is being grabbed, leading to land wars. Every drop of water that flows in our rivers is being appropriated, leading to water wars. Biodiversity is being reduced to "green oil" to extend the fossil fuel age, ignoring the intrinsic worth of life on earth, and ignoring also the rights the poor have to biodiversity to meet their daily needs. Forests were already commoditised by commercial forestry; now their ecological services are being commoditised for a so-called "green economy". Green is supposed to be the colour of life and the biosphere but, increasingly, green symbolises the market and money, and a green economy could well entail the ultimate commodification of the planet. Green is also becoming the colour of the militarisation of the resource-grab taking place in order to fuel limitless growth. Militarisation is the shield for corporate globalisation, both nationally and globally. At the national level, militarisation is becoming the dominant mode of governance, whether through laws regarding Homeland Security in the US or Operation Green Hunt in India. Economic growth is literally flowing through the barrel of a gun. As people resist ecological destruction and appropriation of their resources, the war against the planet also becomes a war against local communities and people struggling for justice and peace. South African writer, David Hallowes, in Toxic Futures refers to the Pentagon preparing for "fourth generation war" against "non-state enemies", i.e. ordinary citizens. As he reports, in South Africa, the urban poor have found themselves "under armed assault from the state" (p. 47). As land becomes "real estate", even the polluted dumpsites that the poor make their homes are grabbed by developers. And as people are removed they are told, "You are just people from the dumpsite. You are just scrap."
In his essay, "The Robbery of the Soil", Rabindranath Tagore dramatically describes this war against the earth:
The temptation of an inordinately high level of living, which was once confined only to a small section of the community, becomes widespread. The blindness is sure to prove fatal to the civilisation which puts no restraint upon the emulation of self-indulgence ...
When they had reduced the limited store of material in their immediate surroundings, they proceeded to wage various wars among their different sections, each wanting his own special allotment of the lion's share. In their scramble for the right to self-indulgence, they laughed at moral law and took it to be a sign of superiority to be ruthless in the satisfaction, each of his own desire. They exhausted the water, cut down the trees, reduced the surface of the planet to a desert, riddled it with enormous pits and made its interior a rifled pocket, emptied of its valuables.
Not only is corporate power converging with state power for the great resource grab, corporate-state power is emerging as militarised power to undemocratically impose an unsustainable and unjust agenda on the earth and its people. That is how the war against the earth becomes a war against people, against democracy and against freedom. After two decade of corporate globalisation, we now have evidence of its ecological and social costs. A deregulated financial economy gave us the financial crisis; a deregulated food economy has given us a food crisis; a deregulated mining economy has turned every mineral-rich area into a war zone.
The economic crisis that began in 2008, and still continues, forces us to raise questions about the contradiction between a model based on assumptions of limitless growth and a reality with ecological, social, political and economic limits. Thomas Friedman, till recently a supporter of globalisation and the ideology of limitless growth, asked this question:
Let's today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question – What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What is it telling us, that the whole growth model we created over the last fifty years is simply unsustainable, economically and ecologically, and that 2008 was when we hit the wall – when Mother Nature and the market both said "no more"?
Despite warnings, the failed model continued to be pushed with trillions of dollars of bail-outs and with further liberalisation, expanding mining for coal and iron ore and bauxite. Protests erupted everywhere – from the coast of Orissa where on June 23, 2011, I met children and women who faced twenty battalions of police sent to clear the land for the mining company, POSCO, to build a giant steel plant, to the squares of Madrid where on July 26, 2011, I met the indignados of the M-15 movement. "Who are we? We are the people who have come here freely as volunteers. Why are we here? We are here because we want a new society that gives more priority to life than to economic interest." The M-15 states:
Today the world is united, both at the level of the forces of destruction of life, and of the defence of life. This contest, taking place in every local globally, has pitted greed for resources and profits against life – in nature and society. There is, of course, the danger that as ecological, economic, cultural and political spaces are robbed from people who become uprooted, they will be pitted against each other. This is particularly tragic in the case of Africa as her resources and land are grabbed, her people are displaced, and thousands leave their motherland to cross the Mediterranean. Instead of seeing displacement and dispossession of people as a consequence of the economic war against the earth, these refugees are criminalised.
And racist and fascist forces are waiting to capitalise on displacement by making people view immigrants as the cause of their unemployment and economic insecurity, thus diverting attention from the economic structures which work for corporations and against people and the earth. The political conflicts that are triggered as people lose their resources and livelihoods are converted into markets for arms and militarisation.
Peace with the earth, a survival imperative
Making Peace with the Earth bears witness to the wars taking place in our times against the earth and people. It also tells the stories of struggles to defend the earth and people's rights to land and water, forests, seeds and biodiversity. It outlines how a paradigm shift to earth-centred economics, politics and culture is our only chance of survival. The stories are from India, because India is my home and the ground of my experience. I also focus on it because it is seen as the poster child of the success of economic globalisation, with high growth rates. This book explores what lies beneath the growth – the ecological, economic, social and political costs that are systematically externalised and made invisible. It shows how the growth miracle is based on a kind of war, how it has deepened inequalities and eroded democracy; how it is destroying the rich biodiversity and cultural diversity of our land through ecological destruction and the imposition of monocultures; how millions lose their livelihoods so that a handful of global corporations and billionaires can control markets and resources. "The India Story" is the story of India Inc. and Global Inc., the story of the new Indian oligarchs and billionaires – the Ambanis, the Lakshmi Mittals, the Anil Agarwals, the Ruias, the Tatas, the Adanis and the Jindals.
However, this story hides two other "India Stories". One is the story of those who have paid the price through the theft of their resources and destruction of their livelihoods to create concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. It is the not-told story of India's seed sector being taken over by Monsanto and of the 250,000 farmers' suicides, of how India's food security system is being dismantled to create markets for Cargill and Walmart. It is also the story of other ways of thinking, of being, of producing and providing that have been subjugated in this war against the earth. The neoliberal model of economic globalisation is based on the assumption that there is no alternative, but there are alternatives everywhere. There are alternatives in indigenous cultures and local economies which people are defending with their lives on the line. Alternatives are emerging as a response to peak oil and climate change, and alternatives are emerging where people face economic closure. Detroit is emerging as a garden city from the ruins of a city where automobiles were produced. I took some seeds to Punjab where indebted farmers are committing suicide today – Navdanya has requests for seeds to start 3,500 more gardens. The story of these alternatives is the story of making peace with the earth.
Humanity's choice: destructive or creative
We have moved out of the Holocene Age that began ten thousand years ago at the end of the Pleistocene. It derives from the Greek words "holos" (whole) and "kainos" (new). This age provided the stable climate which gave us the conditions for our cultural and material evolution as a human species. According to scientists we have entered a new age, the Anthropocene age, in which our species is becoming the most significant force on the planet. Current climate change and species extinction are driven by human activities and our very large ecological footprint.
Climate catastrophes and extreme climate events are already taking their toll – the floods in Thailand in 2011, in Pakistan and Ladakh in 2010, forest fires in Russia, more frequent and intense cyclones and hurricanes, severe drought and flooding are examples of how humans have destabilised the climate system of our self-regulated planet. Humans have driven 75 per cent of agricultural biodiversity to extinction because of industrial farming, and between three to 300 species are being pushed into extinction every day.
There are planetary wars taking place with geo-engineering – creating artificial volcanoes, fertilising the oceans with iron filings, putting reflectors in the sky to prevent the sun from shining on the earth as if the sun was the problem, not man's violence against the earth, and the arrogant ignorance in dealing with it. In 1997, Edward Teller , a Hungarian-born American theoretical physicist, co-authored a white paper, "Global Warming and Ice Ages: I. Prospects For Physics – Based Modulation of Global Change," in which he advocated the large – scale introduction of metal particulates into the upper atmosphere to apply an effective "sunscreen". The Pentagon is looking to breed immortal synthetic organisms with the goal of eliminating "the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement". What is being done with the climate is also being done with the evolutionary code of the universe, with total disregard for the consequences. Biodiversity is our living commons – the basis of life and of commons. We are part of nature, not her masters and owners; claiming intellectual property rights on life forms, living resources and living processes is an ethical, ecological and economic perversion.
The destructive Anthropocene need not be the only future, we can shift the paradigm. We can look at the destructive impact our species has had on the planet's biodiversity, ecosystems and climate systems and make that shift. An ecological shift entails not seeing ourselves as outside the ecological web of life, it means seeing ourselves as members of the earth family, with the responsibility of caring for other species and life on earth in all its diversity. It creates the imperative to live, produce and consume within ecological limits and within our share of ecological space, without encroaching on the rights of other species and peoples. It is a shift that recognises that science has already made a paradigm shift from separation to non-separability and interconnectedness, from the mechanistic and reductionist to the relational and holistic.
At the economic level it involves going beyond the artificial and even false categories of perpetual economic growth, so-called free trade, consumerism and competitiveness. It means shifting to a focus on planetary and human well-being, to living economies, to living well rather than having more, to valuing cooperation rather than competitiveness. These are the shifts being made by indigenous communities, peasants, women and young people in the new movements like the Indignants in Europe and Occupy Wall Street in the US. This is the creative and constructive Anthropocene of Earth Democracy, based on ecological humility in place of arrogance, and ecological responsibility instead of the careless and blind exercise of power, control and violence. For humans to protect life on earth and our own future we need to become deeply conscious of the rights of the earth, our duties towards her, our compassion for all her beings. Our world has been structured by capitalist patriarchy around fictions and abstractions like "capital", "corporations" and "growth" which have allowed the unleashing of the negative forces of the destructive Anthropocene. We need to change that. We will either make peace with the earth or face extinction as humans even as we push millions of other species to extinction. Continuing the war against the earth is not an intelligent option.
Paradigm wars: eco-apartheid and wars in the mind
On April 20, 2011, the UN General Assembly organised a conference, "Harmony with Nature", as part of the celebration of Mother Earth Day. I was invited to address the gathering, together with Peter Brown of McGill University; Cormac Cullinan, an environmental attorney from South Africa; Riane Eisler, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics; and Mathis Wackernegal from the Global Footprint Network. The UN Secretary General in his report on the conference has elaborated on the imperative of the "route back to the future" which involves "reconnecting with nature".
Excerpted from "Making Peace with the Earth"
Copyright © 2013 Vandana Shiva.
Excerpted by permission of Pluto Press.
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Table of Contents
PART I: Wars Against the Earth
1. Eco-Apartheid as War
2 The Great Land-Grab
3 Water Wars and Water Peace
4 Climate Wars and Climate Peace
5 Forest Wars and Forest Peace
PART II: Food Wars: Food Crises, Food Justice,Food Peace
6 Hunger by Design
7 Seed Wars as Wars Against the Earth
8 Hunger via Corporate-Controlled Trade
Conclusion/Beyond Growth: Making Peace with the Earth