This woman wants to save India
At 15, the girl from the forest was tired of the trees. Vandana Shiva, a farmer's daughter from the Dehra Dun Valley at the foot of the Himalayas, wanted to go to the disco. To Delhi. Experience the adventures of which the girlfriends swarmed. In the India of the 60s no matter of course. Certainly not for a girl. But the parents, nature-loving academics with hippie ideals, packed the daughter in the car, rumbled over gravel roads to Delhi, let her spend a night in the bars.
The disappointment was great. "It was so boring!" Shouts Vandana Shiva, bursting into laughter at the thought of her first and only disco night. "My parents were amazed that I wanted to get back to the mountains as soon as possible - I grew up with tiger babies, exploring the jungle on elephants - more exciting than the wildest nightlife!"
For nearly 40 years India's most famous environmentalist has been fighting to ensure that the mountains of her homeland retain their magic.
The truth always depends on the perspective of those who ask for it
The weapons of the 57-year-old physicist: explosive studies, international campaigns, rousing speeches. Their opponents: multinational agribusinesses who want to industrialize agriculture with genetic engineering. Their allies: peasants, conservationists, globalization opponents and again and again - women. Why exactly those? "They suffer the most from environmental degradation," says Vandana Shiva. "When mining stopped the spring in my valley, it was the women who had to keep fetching water, and when it comes to catastrophes like those in Bhopal in 1984, where thousands died because pesticides emanated from a factory, the victims are cared for by women . " Because Vandana Shiva is convinced that the unequal burden sharing has to do with a misogynistic role distribution, so there is a combination of feminist and ecological goals, she even developed from their observations a theory: the "eco-feminism". In 1993 she received the Alternative Nobel Prize. "For my work," she says, smiling broadly, "that was very helpful."
Why exactly those? "They suffer the most from environmental degradation," says Vandana Shiva. "When mining stopped the spring in my valley, it was the women who had to keep fetching water, and when it comes to catastrophes like those in Bhopal in 1984, where thousands died because pesticides emanated from a factory, the victims are cared for by women . " Because Vandana Shiva is convinced that the unequal burden sharing has to do with a misogynistic role distribution, so there is a combination of feminist and ecological goals, she even developed from their observations a theory: the "eco-feminism". In 1993 she received the Alternative Nobel Prize. "For my work," she says, smiling broadly, "that was very helpful."
Vandana Shiva often smiles when she speaks. Her round face then knolls to the friendly Teddybärschnute. And as soon as their discussion partners come to the conclusion that the woman in the sari is very cute, but as an opponent but probably not to take seriously, she suggests: fires with numbers, facts, study results. Then again: teddy bear look. And the hall is raging. Like the beginning of the year in Bavaria. At that time, 3500 opponents of GMOs were hustling in a Rosenheim hall to cheer on the extra traveling crowds when it came to court in their speech with biotech giant Monsanto. Two months later, the federal government gave in to pressure from the demonstrators: The Monsanto genet maize strain MON 810 was banned. However, a GM potato belonging to the BASF group was allowed shortly after. Was that victory or defeat? Vandana Shiva smiles again. Then she says diplomatically: "It was an important step."
Her struggle is laborious, so she is used to it. For it is nothing less than the truth, and their opponents claim as vehemently as they do. Genetically manipulated plants, say the agrarian companies, help to quench the world's hunger. Because they bring higher yields, pests brave better. Studies have proven that. I have also done studies, Vandana Shiva replaces the Agrarian Giant. But not on experimental fields, but in the villages where you corporations your seeds sold: The yield is not higher. But the farmers now need more water. And they depend on you because they always have to buy new seeds. Since you imported cotton in India, more than 100,000 peasants have killed themselves because they went bankrupt. Why are you keeping this secret? The truth, Vandana Shiva learned early on, always depends on the perspective of those who ask for it.
As a student she got a gifted scholarship, was allowed to take courses at Harvard, planned to study atomic physics.Until one day you told her sister, a doctor, about the consequences of radioactive radiation on humans. "I fell off the clouds," she recalls. "I thought science meant knowing the whole truth, but the dark half was kept from us." Vandana Shiva began to be particularly interested in this dark side. Instead of atomic physics, she did her PhD in quantum theory - and supported the Indian Chipko women during the holidays: peasant women clinging to trees to prevent the forest and the water and soil from disappearing. "Who destroys nature," Vandana Shiva learned from them, "destroys his livelihood."
Vandana Shiva dreams of an earth democracy
Her weapon is the words: environmental activist Vandana Shiva.
Her professorship in Bangalore soon gave her up to conduct independent research. She set up a laboratory in her mother's cowshed, and as a field researcher she hired the Chipko women. With her help, Vandana Shiva investigated what she was really interested in: the effects of monocultures and genetic engineering on humans and the environment. Almost every one of these studies caused a sensation internationally. Vandana Shiva became a UN consultant and participated in international conferences. At one of these meetings in 1987, the representatives of the most important agricultural companies prophesied something unimaginable at that time: in 2000, there would only be a handful of seeds, the patents of which would belong to the corporations. "Did you investigate the consequences for the environment?" Vandana Shiva asked. "No," it said. "There is no time for that." Vandana Shiva realized that research alone was no longer enough. In 1991, with the support of Bread for the World, she founded Navdanya, a cooperative that was designed to stop corporate patent hunting and make farmers independent. The seed was kept in self-managed depots and distributed to farmers in the spring. It was the beginning of a unique large-scale project: there are now 52 seed banks in India, with the 500 varieties stored there farmers order their fields - without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or the purchase of GM seeds.
As often as possible, Vandana Shiva visits these fields. It then wanders through the sea of stalks, each of them a symbol of the triumph of the little ones over the big ones. It's the place she says she finds strength in her everyday life in airplanes and conference halls. A classic family life never had room in it, her ex-husband "eventually went his way," the son is now grown. But do the people around you, the plants and animals, not somehow belong to the family? "Earth Democracy" Vandana Shiva calls her concept of equal coexistence of all living things. Even climate change could be delayed, she says, her second powerful opponent, who also threatens to destroy the paradise of her childhood: melting glaciers, floods, drought. But Vandana Shiva is not intimidated. She is currently piloting strategies with the mountain farmers of Navdanya to enable survival in the Himalayas, despite all adversities, to preserve the ecosystem. It seems as if knowledge about truth is not only fear - but also a lot of courage.
To read more: How can we preserve the world for our descendants? Not only does Vandana Shiva address this issue as a council member of the World Future Council, which develops concepts for sustainability and intergenerational justice. Her new book also deals with the topic: "Life without oil, an economy from below against the crisis from above" (19.50 Euro, Rotpunktverlag)