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The way ahead

The way ahead: Five thinkers' views
Click below for a view on the future of the planet
 Intro Ernst Weizsacker Ernst Weizsaecker Vandana Shiva Vandana Shiva
Bjorn Lomborg Bjorn Lomborg Julian Morris Julian Morris Satish Kumar Satish Kumar

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva
"Sustainability of living processes"

Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor and writer. She is based in India, where she campaigns for sustainable agriculture and against trade liberalisation.

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Preferred mode of transport:
My legs. I have designed my life for the last 20 years so that I can walk from where I sleep to where I work.

Biggest environmental “vice”:

Most recent major consumer purchase:
A cappuccino. But I like to live my life so that my loved ones give me the things I need as gifts and I give them the things they need. Frankly a society built around consumerism is hell.

What is most important about sustainable development?
Recognising that we are going down a very serious road towards non-sustainability, which threatens the very possibility of our survival as a species on this planet.

Is there a conflict between reducing poverty and protecting the planet?
No. Poverty has been created by processes that appropriate resources from people - who then become poor. When people’s land is taken away because of indebtedness, or damaged by chemicals, or when they are displaced to build large dams, or when Indian peasants are driven to sell their kidneys and commit suicide by the global seed and pesticide companies’ attempts to turn them into a market – those are the sources of poverty and of ecological destruction. The two have the same root and the same solution.

Consumption – how much is too much?
This issue is usually reduced to what happens at the end of the consumption chain. The problem is that more and more resources are being used up in the production chain, which is increasingly taken over for maximising profits not maximising need or welfare. Instead of simply turning potatoes into chips, we have this amazing system where we mash up the potatoes, reconstitute them into chips and then transport them 2,000 miles. Economic value is added at each level, but ecological and health value is taken away. It is the chain of production plus consumption that is too heavy for the planet.

Technology: threat or saviour?
The best and most evolved technologies are those that do not destroy the very base on which we live. There are crude technologies, like pesticides. These are very primitive instruments compared to diversity in the field, or resilience in our ecosystems – the really sophisticated systems in which human ingenuity matches nature’s intelligence to create the best solution. Unfortunately, in the current paradigm, it is the size and the violence of the instrument that is defined as the sophistication of the technology.

Inequality: an inevitable evil?
There are societies that prioritise justice and equity and create it through the policies they make, and there are societies that encourage inequality. Equity is a result of policy, and policy is a result of politics.

What should we do?

  • Land reform. Repopulate our rural areas because giant urban areas are the biggest guzzlers of resources on the planet.
  • Write off patents on life and get rid of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement, under which companies are able to patent lifeforms such as rice varieties.
  • Get rid of WTO free trade agreements on agriculture. I think food needs to be seen as an ecological, cultural, ethical and democratic issue – it cannot be defined by global corporations trading in commodities and working out their profits.
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