Real Food: Why Biodiversity Can Save Our Bodies & Planet
Have we declared war on the Earth?
According to Vandana Shiva, a renowned physicist, philosopher, and eco feminist, this is indeed the path we are treading. It’s a bold statement, but one that might not be foreign to you, especially in the midst of a growing environmental movement. Most of us nowadays have heard about climate change. We’ve heard about the melting ice caps and the rise of greenhouse gases. We’ve seen pictures of activists hanging off oil rigs and polar bears floating on diminished chunks of glaciers. The environment is in a state of crisis, we are well aware. And yet what does it all mean? How did we get here?
In the latest episodes of Sages & Scientists on The Chopra Well, Vandana Shiva discusses agriculture, biodiversity, sustainability, and the importance of making peace with the Earth. For Shiva, this is a systemic issue, intrinsic in the very ways we think about nature. To address this, we must first turn to the food on our plates.
Shiva emphasizes that industrial farming is at the core of environmental degradation. This long-outdated form of agriculture, to which we have ascribed for roughly 200 years, wreaks havoc on the environment. Shiva refers to the overuse of pesticides and herbicides, as well as genetic modification of crops, as forms of violence against the Earth. This in turn translates to violence against people, against all species, against democracy, and against science itself. Reconstituted soy flour will never replace lentils, no matter how cheap or easy to produce. Chemical pesticides derived from war technology will never make our crops more abundant nor our bodies more hearty.
And yet, as Shiva relays, companies like Monsanto increasingly overpower rural farming efforts around the world and impose a framework of thinking rooted in industrial agriculture. According to Shiva, 95% of the cotton in India is owned by Monsanto. It is little wonder the country has witnessed an increase in suicides by cotton farmers who are quickly falling into debt, unable to compete with the industrial giants. These are some of the issues that inspire Shiva to put her scientific training to use as an environmental activist.
In 1984, Shiva founded Navdanya, a non-governmental organization dedicated to conserving biodiversity, organic farming, and the rights of farmers. She went on to establish Bija Vidyapeeth, or Earth University, where people gather on a property in Northern India to learn organic farming and sustainable practices. But for Shiva, organic farming is just the tip of a long, complicated struggle for cultural and economic freedom. We can begin making peace with the Earth, she says, by shifting our current framework of thinking toward one that recognizes and appreciates the diversity on our planet. Varieties of plants, landscapes, climates, animals, and cultures…this is the real tapestry of which we are a part.
The future may depend on this shift toward biodiversity, and our bodies certainly won’t complain. Think of it this way: Would you rather sit down to a bowl of wholesome lentil dal or a serving of reconstituted soy flour mush?
Let us know in the comments below!
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