The Life of Environmental Activist Vandana Shiva

The Life of Environmental Activist Vandana Shiva

Who is Vandana Shiva?

Vandana Shiva holds a dynamic personality with a wide array of recognition. She is an environmental activist, an Indian scholar, an alter-globalization author, and a food sovereignty advocate. Vandana is a reckoned face of Global Solidarity Movement and a scientific committee member. 

When and where was she born?

Vandana Shiva was born on the fifth day of November in the year 1952 and is currently standing at 66 years of her age. Dehradun is her birthplace. 

Her family background:

Vandana Shiva hails from an ambitious family, where her father was a forest conservator, and her mother functioned as a farmer due to her affection towards Mother Nature. 

Her educational background:

During her childhood, Vandana attended St. Mary’s Convent School (Nainital) and later studied at Convent of Jesus and Mary (Dehradun). She accomplished her graduation with Physics as her major subjects from Punjab University (Chandigarh) in 1972. Later, she completed her M.A. in Philosophy of Sciences from the University of Guelph (Ontario). She is a Ph.D. degree holder in Philosophy of Physics from the University of Western Ontario. Her thesis was inclined with Quantum Theory. Vandana holds an interdisciplinary research recognition under the fields of science and technology and environmental policy. Vandana is an alumnus of two significant institutes of Bangalore – Indian Institute of Sciences and Indian Institute of Management. 

Whom did she marry?

Vandana Shiva was married to Jayanta Bandopadhyaya who was a distinguished scientist of his era. However, the couple called for a split by approaching the supreme court for the custody of their child. 

Her professional journey:

In the year 1982, she stepped ahead with the introduction of RFSTE (Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology). With its introduction, Vandana stepped in with a national initiative for protecting living resources and focused mainly on promoting the culture of organic farming and fair trade culture. 

Vandana Shiva extended a helping hand to the genetic engineering movements launched in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and so on. In 1998, she was one of the leading faces of international women’s movement ‘Diverse Women for Diversity.’ This movement was for and by the women working under food, patents, agriculture and biotechnology sectors. 

In 2004, she entered into a collaboration with Schumacher College (U.K) to begin with Bija Vidyapeeth. This was an international institution inclined towards improving the sustainable living standards of Doon Valley. 

The main focus of her research foundation was inclined toward the domains of intellectual property rights, biodiversity, and challenging Neem, Wheat and Basmati biopiracy. 

In 1984, she began her contribution to the field of agriculture. She was one of the foundational faces for gender unit under the International Centre for Mountain Development (Kathmandu) and WEDO (Women’s Environment and Development Organization). 

Throughout her professional career, she has served in the chairs of governmental expert groups for legislation concerning biodiversity and IPR. She functioned in the role of governmental advisors in India as well as abroad and for various national and international NGO’s too. She was chaired for the Commission on the Future of Food which was set under the regulations of Region of Tuscany (Italy). Vandana Shiva also represented as Spain Scientific Committee Member and a Steering Committee Member Under Campaign of Indian People in opposition to the WHO. She has been active under the Government of Indian Committees for Organic Farming. Vandana Shiva actively participated in a project entitled as Stock Exchange of Visions (2007). 

She has served as visiting professors for University of Oslo (Norway), Schumacher College (U.K.), Mt. Holyoke College (U.S.), York University (Canada), University of Lulea (Sweden), and University of Victoria (Canada).

Vandana Shiva was interviewed for a wide array of documentary films such as Freedom Ahead, One Water, Roshni, The Corporation and so on. Due to her concerns for water issues, she appeared in films such as Ganga From the Ground Up and Flow: For Love of Water. 

Presently, Vandana Shiva chairs under the National Board of Organic Standards (India). She also works in close collaboration with the state governments of Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttaranchal.  

Her literary contributions:

Right from the year 1981, Vandana Shiva functioned in the position of a prolific writer. Here are her publications in chronological order of their year of release:

  • Social Economic and Ecological Impact of Social Forestry in Kolar (1981) 
  • Chipko: India’s Civilisational Response to the Forest Crisis (1986)
  • The Chipko Movement Against Limestone Quarrying in Doon Valley (1987)
  • Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Survival in India (1988)
  • The Violence of the Green Revolution; Ecological Degradation and Political Conflict in Punjab (1989)
  • Ecology, and the Politics of Survival: Conflicts Over Natural Resources in India (1991)
  • Biodiversity, Social and Ecological Perspectives (1992)
  • Women, Ecology, and Health: Rebuilding Connections (1993)
  • Monocultures of the Mind: Biodiversity, Biotechnology, and Agriculture (1993)
  • Ecofeminism (1993)
  • Close to Home: Women Reconnect Ecology, Health, and Development Worldwide (1994)
  • Biopolitics (1995)
  • Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (1997)
  • Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of Global Food Supply (2000)
  • Tomorrow’s Biodiversity (2000)
  • Patents, Myths, and Reality (2001)
  • Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit (2002)
  • India Divided (2005)
  • Globalization New Wars: Seed, Water and Life Forms (2005)
  • Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (2005)
  • Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed (2007)
  • Democratizing Biology: Reinventing Biology from a Feminist, Ecological and Third World Perspective (2007)
  • Cargill and the Corporate Hijack of India’s Food and Agriculture (2007)
  • Soil, not Oil (2008)
  • Staying Alive (2010)
  • Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (2011)
  • Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity (2011)
  • Making Peace with the Earth (2013)

Her writing language and genres of writing:

Vandana Shiva writes in English language and covers a wide array of non-fictional types. 

Vandana Shiva as an activist:

Vandana Shiva is a famous Indian face associated with the defense of biodiversity in agriculture. She has dedicated many years of her life till date, towards promoting biodiversity thereby concentrating more on the increase in nutrition and production. 

From 1984, she has been active in the field of agriculture, and her studies at UN University (inclined with agriculture) lead to the introduction of her work ‘The Violence of the Green Revolution.’ Along with her sister, Dr. Mira Shiva, she raised her voice against the over-use of pesticides and fertilizers leading to cancer conditions or kidney failures or coronary heart disorders. 

Vandana Shiva was an active participant of a campaign launched against the WTO TRIPS agreement implemented in the year 1994. In 1998, she voiced her opinion in opposition to the biopiracy of Basmati Rice and launched a campaign against the US Corporation Rice Tech Inc. 

One of her statements claimed Golden Rice as the most harmful species and labeled it as a Golden Rice hoax. She was the one to stand in opposition to the practice of soaring seed prices in India as many farmers were forced to commit suicide under debt. Vandana Shiva challenged the then existing tradition of neo-liberalization of Indian Agriculture. 

Her stand on eco-feminism:

Vandana Shiva played a leading role in the ecofeminist movement launched at the global level. She published an article in the year 2004 entitled as Empowering Women wherein she voiced in opposition to patriarchal logic of exclusion and backed a system run by women to bring in substantial changes in the entire scenario. Along with German anarchist, Maria Mies, Vandana came ahead with a book on Ecofeminism. 

Eco-feminism:

When was the book published?

Eco-feminism was co-authored by Vandana Shiva in conjunction with Maria Mies and was published in the year 1993.

What does the book cover?

Ecofeminism accounts for 20 essays focusing on exploring how global or international processes feeds gender disparity. Under a chapter titled as Feminist Research, Maria Mies introduces her self-researched article about methodological guidelines for feminist research. 

Both the co-authors – Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies believe that the women’s movement gave a pace to the progression of science and technology. They support that fact that the success of women’s movement is no longer distinguished from the struggle for the preservation of biotic factors of this planet. To them, ecofeminism equates with the concept of the spiritual-material aspect. 

Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies present a thought-provoking analysis of patriarchal oppression and ecological destruction by blending their North-South perspectives. According to Vandana, the increasing underdevelopment ratio of women goes hand in hand with their asymmetric participation. Under this type of participation, they own the cost of effort investment without reaping the benefits. As patriarchal system prevails, it is the male section to exert ownership and control over land and in turn, is responsible for women oppression and destruction of Mother Nature.  

Throughout the text, the authors criticize the prevailing theories of the economy and conventional women emancipation concepts. 

Central idea:

Vandana Shiva believes that women own a unique connecting link to the edge of biodiversity. According to her, women are best to possess the custody of earth-health as they are loaded with sufficient knowledge about the heterogeneity of life. Under the patriarchal mindset, women tend to incline themselves with subsistence work, and thereby the responsibility of safeguarding natural resources relies on her. As they are multi-taskers, their role and contribution towards biodiversity conservation and utilization are critical. 

Moving further, Vandana claims that as capitalism proceeds ahead with the fragmentation of the environment and in specific, farming, women’s role is to link the interdependent system. Such systems are being dangerously isolated from one another due to the interference of capitalism. Besides the negative influences of monoculture, women face marginalization issues due to seed alienation. This, in turn, devoid women of their decision-making power and snatches the custodianship of seeds from women leaving them as unskilled labor. 

Towards the end, Vandana Shiva unveils the perversion introduced by the biotechnological companies in the reproductive and cyclical nature of work previously allotted to the women.  She argues even after producing through biodiversity, women cannot claim patents for their seed production; whereas corporations do so. Corporate scientists follow uniformity approach for seed production. She raises her voice against the unjustified claim of life creation by corporate scientists as an interruption in the free and natural flow of life cycle. 

Vandana Shiva’s argument against the concept of globalization with regards to gender injustice:

Vandana Shiva takes a dig at globalization for undermining both the social and economic position of the female section in developing countries. According to Vandana’s analysis, it is globalization which contributes toward exacerbating inequalities in gender earnings as it introduces a shift in property rights from domestic women and confers it upon multinational corporations.

Under the globalized system of economy, it is the male section which is privileged to function as knowledge bearers, traders and owners. It is only their work which is considered to be productive. As women are majorly associated with the tradition of seed-keeping and farming, the globalization forces exclude them, and their work contribution is either undervalued or devalued. Thus, globalization lowers the earning potentials of women in comparison to men. 

Awards won by her:

Vandana Shiva has been felicitated with the following awards and recognitions:

  • Right Livelihood Award in the year 1993
  • Sydney Peace Prize in the year 2010
  • Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in the year 2012 
  • Mirodi Award in the year 2016
  • Order of the Golden Ark
  • Earth Day International Award
  • Global 500 Award of UN
  • Lennon ONO grant for Peace Award (Yoko Ono)
  • Doshi Bridgebuilder Award
  • Calgary Peace Prize
  • Thomas Merton Award
  • Prism of Reason Award
  • MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 

Conclusion:

Vandana Shiva is admired for her multidimensional look towards development. She perfectly blends in intellectual inquiry with her courageous activism.  Her work majorly focuses on ecological imbalances brought in by natural calamities. She rose to prominence with her approach toward handling the ground realities of agriculture and farming practices in India. She backs the importance of indigenous knowledge to enhance renewability and standards of living. Vandana’s followers entitle her as a vicious opponent to raise voice against modernism. Vandana’s greatness as an advocate lies in the fact that she is not a reductionist. With a sound knowledge about the agricultural devastation within her own country, Vandana Shiva rose to prominence as an anti-globalization and environmental activist.


Written by Radhika Prabhu

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