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Vandana Shiva & Jane Goodall on Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis



Vandana Shiva & Jane Goodall on Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis


Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall,
Democracy Now: December 04, 2013

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to put off a debate on nuclear power that we had planned today to turn to two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I had the opportunity to sit down with them recently. It was right before the U.N. climate summit that took place in Poland, but we were in Suffern, New York, at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, an environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. I began by, well, going back to the beginning, with each of these remarkable women, and asking Vandana Shiva, who had just flown in from India, to talk about where she was born.

VANDANA SHIVA: I was born in a beautiful valley called Doon Valley in the Himalaya. And I took for granted that the forests and rivers I had grown with would be there forever, because they were. And then, in the early ’70s, the streams started to disappear, the forests started to disappear. That’s around the time peasant women of our area just rose and started the movement, Chipko, which means to embrace, to hug. And the movement basically was women saying we’ll put our bodies before the trees so you can’t cut them, because these trees are our mothers, they give us food, fuel, water, but more importantly, they give us soil, water and pure air. I decided—at that time I was doing my Ph.D. in the foundations of quantum theory, hidden variables and nonlocality. And I was doing it in Canada. But I made a commitment that every vacation I would come and volunteer for Chipko. And I always say I did a Ph.D. in the University of Western Ontario in quantum theory, but all my learning of ecology really came from the women of the Himalaya.

And then the problems continued, didn’t go away. And even though we managed to stop the logging in the hills because of Chipko, you know, then came globalization, and then came everything else and the GMOs and the Monsantos. So, four decades, I’ve been serving the Earth and serving people and started the Research Foundation really to—I call it the “Institute for Counter-Expertise,” because so much of what is called expertise is there to destroy the Earth, to exploit, and to reward the exploiters. And I thought knowledge is about something else.

AMY GOODMAN: And Dr. Jane Goodall?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I suppose I began loving nature when I was, I don’t know, one and a half. Apparently, I was always crawling about looking at insects and plants and things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

JANE GOODALL: In England, born in London, moved out to Bournemouth on the coast because of World War II. And when I was 10 years old, we had very little money. When I was 10 years old, I loved—I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan. And goodness, I mean, he married the wrong Jane, didn’t he?

At any rate, I was 10 years old, and I decided I would grow up, go to Africa, live with animals and write books about them. Everybody laughed at me. How would I do that? Not only no money, Africa, the “Dark Continent,” but, you know, I was a girl. Girls didn’t do that sort of thing. I think I was amazingly blessed because of the mother I had. But for her, I doubt I would be sitting here now. So, where everybody else said to me, “Jane, dream about something you can afford; forget this nonsense about Africa,” she said, “If you really want something and you work hard and you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up, you will find a way.”

So, anyway, it’s not important. I saved up. I got to Africa. I got the opportunity to go and learn, not about any animal, but chimpanzees. I was living in my dream world, the forest in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. It was Tanganyika when I began. A beautiful—it’s beautiful, amazing rivers and waterfalls. And I was learning about these extraordinary beings so like us, helping us in a way to understand who we are.

And then I discovered at a big conference in 1986 that right across Africa chimpanzees were going. Their forest world was going. And so I began traveling around in Africa talking to whoever I could find about chimpanzee conservation and forest conservation. And then I found how the African people were suffering, about the poverty, about the disease, about the ethnic violence. And then I began to realize how so many of Africa’s problems, which were leading to the destruction of the forest, were caused by outside influences and that the evil of the old colonial era was carrying on and that some of the big multinationals were doing the same thing, were moving into Africa and other developing countries and taking the natural resources and leaving people poorer than ever. And so I began traveling around also in North America, in Europe and increasingly in Asia, and learning more and more about the harm that we have inflicted on the environment. And that’s what’s brought me into spending my life helping to protect the forest as much as we can and learning how the destruction of the forest not only is destroying the chimpanzees and other animals, but increasing climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, the motto of Democracy Now! is “the exception to the rulers,” because that’s what we have to be, holding those in power accountable. And I think, across your disciplines, that is what you do. And I was wondering how you do it, if you could give us examples of how you challenge power that you feel is damaging the Earth, and what you are doing now to change that. Vandana?

VANDANA SHIVA: You know, a lot of the power of the rulers comes from what Bacon said, the marriage of knowledge with power, a particular kind of knowledge, a very mechanistic knowledge that defined nature as dead—and, on the other side, women as passive. So, the exception to the rulers, in this case, is about resurrecting the knowledges that are about the living Earth and our tradition—and I am so touched that this evening began with the beautiful prayer and legacy of the First Nations with Janice and in the beautiful music from Melanie. To me, this is the United States of America, traditions that are totally submerged. So my commitment has been, first and foremost, to really, you know, do a resurrection of hidden knowledges and world views, which is what women bring to this discussion.

And every time I’ve done a study, even when government and United Nations will commission it, the first thing I do is go talk to the women in the villages. So, for example, I was asked to look at the impact of mining in Doon Valley. That’s when I gave up my job and work in Bangalore and returned to Dehradun to start the foundation. And the government was writing this TOR on the ugly look of the mountains, because Indira Gandhi had commented. So I went to the women. I said, “What’s the issue with this mining?” And they said, “Water.” They said, “That limestone holds the water.” None of the scientists said it. So I rewrote the terms of reference and did the participatory analysis.

But the second thing we always do is—because it’s participatory, people know. People have knowledge. It might not be recognized by the dominant system, which I call “corporate patriarchy” now. It was “capitalist patriarchy” when Chipko happened, because the corporations weren’t such big players in our lives. They were contained by all the rules of democracy. And they’ve knocked those rules off bit by bit. The other thing I always do is build the movement simultaneously, because I don’t think you can fight these battles top to top. You just can’t. So, for every study we’ve done and every piece of research we’ve done, one, we’ve counted a paradigm. I mean, all my work on the green revolution—it was assumed the green revolution produces more—found out, no, it doesn’t. Produces more commodities, but commodities are not food. And then we build the movement. When I came to know about how intellectual property rights were being put into the World Trade Organization, I traveled the length and breadth of the country sitting and holding workshops with farmers, who then rose, and 500,000 came to the street. We’re talking about ’92, before Seattle. And we were together in Seattle, Amy. So it’s a combination of major grassroots mobilization as well as dealing with the paradigm wars.

And I think the challenge of this summit is to put forth another paradigm about how to live on the Earth—what the Earth is first, she’s not a—you know, she’s not there to be engineered, she’s not bits of dead rock; she is the living Earth that we were reminded about—and also, through that, bring forth another leadership for another world, because we don’t want leadership in that rotten world of destruction. It’s not worth it anyway. It’s not going to last too long. We want the seventh generation, cultivation of leadership for the future. And it’s interesting, the seventh generation logic that Janice talked about, that every action we take should bring to our minds the seventh generation, in India we have the same, seventh generation. That was what civilizations took care of. Uncivilized people rape the Earth for today.

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Vandana is an environmental leader, feminist thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons. When we come back, more of our discussion. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we continue my conversation with two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I interviewed them at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, environmental leader, author of many books, including Earth Democracy as well as Staying Alive. I asked Jane Goodall to talk about the role of women in her years of struggle to save the environment.

JANE GOODALL: Well, I think, you know, I come from this—from studying chimpanzees, right? And when you study chimpanzees, there’s a male role and female role, and they’re very different. The male is responsible for protecting the territory and the resources in the territory for his females and his young, and enlarging it if he can. It sounds familiar. It sounds human. The female is responsible for raising her young, for finding enough food to raise her young, in which she is helped by the male. And I think, I can’t help saying, as we start off this conference with the role of women, which is so very important, of a saying—and I first heard this when I was in Mexico, but I think the saying was from Ecuador. I’m not sure. But one of the indigenous people said, “In our tribe, we have a saying, that a tribe flies like the condor, and the tribal only fly true when the wings of the condor are in balance, and one wing is male and one wing is female. The tribe will fly true when the wings are in balance.”

So, as we move into this—and I wish I was here for the whole few days—but as we move into this, we have to remember we’re in a world where men are in it as well as women. And men have traditionally been put in the same role as the male chimpanzees. They’re there. They’ve been protecting the territory. You know, in the old days, they were responsible totally for the—for looking after the family, for getting the money. They were the breadwinners. They were all these things. And today, women are moving into those traditionally male roles. And I think I was say—I wasn’t saying it to you, Amy, earlier, but I’ve been fascinated by watching this change, particularly coming at it from the point of view of, you know, learning about the male and the female chimpanzee and thinking, as Louis Leakey thought, that seven million years ago there was a common ancestor, a human-like, chimpanzee-like creature, which over seven million years we developed into people, and they developed into chimpanzees, but there was this common ancestor. And so, watching as our women have moved into leadership roles, I noticed that, initially, to get into those positions, the women