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Paris, Peace, and Humanity on the Precipice


Paris, Peace, and Humanity on the Precipice

Vandana Shiva

Humanity stands at a precipice. Merely 200 years of the age of fossil fuel has driven species and biodiversity to extinction, destroyed our soils, depleted and polluted our water and destabilised our entire climate system. Five hundred years of colonialism have driven cultures, languages, peoples to extinction and left a legacy of violence as the basis of production and governance.


To my mind, this is the most important article on this site today. Vandana Shiva is among the most brilliant thinkers and activists that humanity is blessed with in these times of escalating horror.

Shiva possesses an unparalleled holistic understanding of the roots and branches of "militarized agriculture", the "war on the Earth", and "our modes of production and consumption which are destroying the ecosystems that support life on this planet."

She works tirelessly to organize peasant farmers to defend the Earth and their communities, while simultaneously crafting incisive analyses that can help us all build the understanding and frameworks necessary for the struggles that will define our lives for the rest of our time here.

Militarized food and agriculture are central to the War against the Earth and the People. Holistic agroecology is key to ending war and building a culture of respect and solidarity. The work ahead that Shiva outlines is not for others, it is for each of us.

i can only recommend that we all read her words deeply, not just here but in her many books, and consider how in our own communities, we can develop our own capacities to live in service to the Earth, all its life forms, and all its people. Blessings to Vandana Shiva, and strength and solidarity to us all.


I think people should recognize that we do not need to dismantle the future but we do need to alter the way we get there. Unlike India, America is no longer a country of small farmers and while shifting to natural fertilizers is laudable (a means of adapting that idea to big Agra is needed) it is a goal that will take decades.

We need to shift off fossil fuel produced energy and transportation as soon as possible. With solar and wind it is achievable quickly. If we do that then all these other goals become realistic because the society we all live under is maintained.
Climate change threatens chaos and misery. Avoiding that is the priority.

If we focus on shifting off the high carbon producing use (energy and transportation) first, we gain the time to accomplish these other goals.

To spread our efforts all over the map (figuratively) will be disastrous. India intends building a great many coal plants and the author's intelligence and good will should focus on the very difficult task of getting that particular future changed.


I agree but as I said the USA is not composed of small family farms.

Secondly I think it is imperative that the world focus on rapid mitigation of climate change which means focusing on solar and wind power instead of fossil fuel use.

The goals in this article are admirable but how would they be implemented on a meaningful scale.? It will take decades to work out how that could be done. Her figures include fossil fuel use for transportation but she doesn't state how to get around that use of fossil fuel without having previously switched to a solar and wind based technology (electric powered vehicles).


Glad that VS doesn't listen to you ... sorry man, you are definitely outclassed here - when you have the knowledge and experience she has, come back and "advise" her - but that "will take decades to work out how that could be done" if at all ..


Individuals and families own the majority of farm land in the U.S., corporations own a relatively small portion. On the other hand, average farm size has been growing steadily since World War II. Small family farms have given way to large operations run by fewer individuals - often a husband and a wife or a single operator - who rely on heavy machinery and chemicals to manage their larger holdings. The scale of operations, here, is the challenge as far as getting off fossil fuels and/or going organic.

I grew up in farm country. Most farmers, I know, would love to reduce their fuel and fertilizer costs. It's not that they are anti-environment. The problem is one of logistics. You can't farm a thousand acres on your own with electric tractors and good luck collecting enough manure by yourself to cover that much land. There's much that can be done and should be done to make agriculture in this country more environmentally friendly, but agriculture in this country is different. It is not the same as in India or Africa.


What? Does she have a clue about what she is talking about? Zyklon B was invented in the 1930's as a fumigation tool. The only million being exterminated in 1915 were the Christian Armenians by the Turks. The Two million Jews exterminated by the Nazi's by Zyklon B in Auschwitz and a couple of other camps were murdered between 1942-1944.


Clearly it's a typo.


Excellent points. As i wrote in another thread here a day ago:

"... we need policies, programs, investment and subsidies to promote the economic viability of whole-systems, carbon-sequestering, labor-intensive agroecological, Permaculture and biodynamic farming."


If renewable and alternative energy productions have shown anything it would be that it's not necessary to have it tied to large scale operations. It functions with and independently of 'large grids', whether those girds pertain to hydrocarbon, transport/logistics, all areas of infrastructure, etc. Additionally, since the new technologies are developing and evolving independently, predicting their appearance isn't something that can be 'planned' with any degree of certitude. That can make transitions in industrial countries with established mature systems more difficult to predict. It's a condition that planners may need getting used to, that of following instead of leading.

Your concerns about spreading “...our efforts all over the map...” may not be a handicap but a virtue, and it certainly appears that is how the new technologies are appearing on the scene. A way to help facilitate developments is to distribute research funding to a wider scope of developmental efforts and less focus of very expensive projects. A quick example dealing with nuclear fusion is the large percentage of funding for the Tokamak project compared to smaller independent (meaning virtually zero government funding) projects, such as LPPFusion, Inc. an operation headed by Eric Lerner. Lerner's group uses what's called aneutronic fusion, a process that produces no radioactive waste. The prestigious science journal 'Nature' a year ago editorialized about the need to redirect fusion funding towards aneutronic fusion, specifically mentioning Lerner's group.

This broad and diverse approach can apply to almost anything, very much including the practices that Vandana Shiva so fervently promotes. And as she has mentioned so many times, all these areas from energy production and conservation, food production and its safety, climate and the necessary biological availability and health of planetary air, water and land as well as economies are all interwoven into the fabric of human societies and their existence. Amazing how for untold thousands of years our ancestors had understood this.


Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say
Experts point to damage caused by erosion and pollution, raising
major concerns about degraded soil amid surging global demand for food


this week democracy NOW! showed a picture of all the "leaders" posed together at cop21. then amy asked, "who's missing?" the answer is women delegates. i thought immediately of vandana shiva, but she would have made too much sense!


Ms Shiva's ideas are wonderful and are in fact necessary for a less fossil fuel based future.

That apparently needs to be restated before people will deal with my point. As I said before, the USA is not like India where there are a huge number of small farmers. I also pointed out the time span necessary to effect a wholesale shift to her concepts (laudable and logical as they may be) will take decades to switch. I also pointed out that a significant portion of the energy requirements are transportation which presupposes that a non fossil fuel alternative already be preexisting for her ideas to have the impact she envisions.

In the end people (even though on the left) are in denial about the rate of climate change. We really don't have the decades to devote to peripheral though necessary solutions ahead of the main priority which is MAXIMIZING the global use of solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy to replace fossil fuels. People are delusional if they think that making the switch will be accomplished all that easily or sadly all that quickly.

In another decade funding to repair damage from climate disasters will become more of an issue as well and that will only increase as years go by. There is a critical time limit to switching off fossil fuels and we are dragging our feet as it is. I am not saying that Ms Shiva's ideas are wrong because they aren't however I am saying that they are not the top priority for industrialized countries which do not have small farmers and while the transportation issues are fossil fuel based. If hypothetically her ideas were instituted tomorrow they would require more fossil fuel use transporting manure and so forth. How these ideas could be done with America's gigantic corporate farms escapes me.

Lastly you mentioned fusion. There is no problem with researching it but you speak of it as if it were a present reality but it is not.

We have a short window in which to go solar and wind on the scale needed but do you see it happening because all I see is what could only be called voluntary investment and development. As solar and wind become economically competitive they attract investment.

The reality is that either world governments need to stop feeding the corporate tapeworm and pass legislation forcing a radical shift to get us (corporations) off fossil fuel use or climate change will doom the planet to horrific misery and those small farmers will face catastrophe anyway.

The priority is the switch to widespread solar and wind (that includes electric cars and trucks) and as yet we are going very slow in doing so.


We might take decades, but that's really because foolishness is apt to be a large factor.

Starting from very little, a plot can be up and producing more nutrition than its commercial yield within a few years, and with far less ongoing input in time and money.

The main difficulty--the main foolishness--is that huge tracts are owned by large holders who have strong motives in current mostly artificial economies to retain their holdings until the bitter end of their parching and destruction of the lands involved. '

So here in California we see orchards with squarish trees with nothing or almost nothing growing under them, and no mulch. We see fields of GM corn where nothing lives but corn. We see dry fields where the soil blows in the wind because somebody's spreadsheet sent the SDG&E subsidy elsewhere.

You could plant beans. That won't take decades. You could run some chickens on the land. They'd start fixing it right away.

You can pull off the highway and pick up the soil under the trees, there on an alluvial flatland, and there's nothing, nothing in it. It could be fixed way faster, but companies that own hundreds and hundreds of acres want to run their holdings so that they still do tomorrow, and they want to imagine that they can trash the soil and water and do that.


As fundamental as reducing fossil fuel use is, the primary concern is the totality of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And 40% of world greenhouse emissions comes from industrial farming. It's also responsible for 70% to 90% of global deforestation. Combine the industrial farming with the transnational food industry and this accounts for 44% to 57% of total global greenhouse emissions, as Shiva had previously stated. The practices Shiva mentioned not only reduces greenhouse emissions in the farming production itself but crucially through regenerative processes chemically incorporates carbon back into the soils. 25% to 40% of the current excess of CO2 in the atmosphere comes from the destruction of soils and its organic matter. Your position that reduction in fossil fuel usage is the short term urgency with the agricultural situation being a long term need is quite probably backwards. The changes in fossil fuel usage will take longer world wide for all the complex reasons one can find. But it's the agricultural changes that can make the quichest impact. Combining this carbon 'sink' with reduced fossil fuel usage and incorporating other energy sources could result in total greenhouse gases actually being reduced and not just stopping its increase. Soil managment via land, air and water pratices can not be ignored.

There are stronger, though quantitatively smaller amounts, of greenhouse gases than CO2, such as methane, which is also a byproduct of agriculture. And of course there's the great importance to put a halt to the planetary warming before the trapped deposits of methane in the Artic make the situation a case of global warming on steroids.

The reference I made about fusion wasn't the standard imagine of the huge Tokamak device which would need a domed stadium sized structure to house and has made little in the way of advancement. The system that the Eric Lerner group is working on can fit quite easily in your house. The main component can be held by a child. And this system can operate independently of the large electric grids and also be free of their vulnerabilities and with no radioactive wastes. And Lerner's group is at the most advanced stages in development compared to others working in the similar field. The real need is financing. Just as it is with solar and wind, except the Lerner group is using the physics of focus fusion, a technology that's not comparable with anything else on the 'market'. Problems of materials, staff, intellectual resources and raising capital make working on a small budget restrictive. The point I was making is that funding should be reconsidered based on science and needs and not huge projects that have shown little success. Solar and wind technologies result in electricity production. And that is precisely what these small and independent fusion systems would do. While these systems are not presently an operating technology, and I didn't speak as if they were, they are a present 'reality'. And the chances for them becoming an operating reality are at least as probable as the options you are looking at, including electric cars and trucks in mass production and the means to power them along with reducing fossil fuel usage to fit within any short time frame. Additionally, this technology could be the biggest boost solar and wind could have as if would make electric energy generation that much more viable.

And we can expect the Koch brothers et al to spread disinformation, as they have with wind technology.


I'm sorry but you speak in what ifs but offer no solutions. You do not address the reality that our food supply does not come from small farmer operations although in India it does.

Fusion is not a reality. You can believe that if it were the funding would be there.

Solar and wind are presently viable and being implemented all over the world right now. Please explain how we could even implement a small farmer solution?


Excuse me, 'you' have not offered a single solitary solution. What you've offered are attempts at a solution. Where are the quantitative justifications that could validate, or even give a hint for the attempts you've asserted are solutions? Solar and wind create electricity. You use transportation as the focus for reduced fossil fuel use by replacing internal combustion systems on cars and trucks with electric powered systems. Either refitting and/or from scratch. Will the solar and wind sources even come close to supplying the needs for those electric vehicles? You imply, you assert, that it will but give absolutely zero information on that. Zero.

You repeatedly stress the limited time needed to make the reductions in greenhouse emissions. What will be the estimated results on those emissions with your attempts? What will the changes be over time? Quantitatively. Major policy changes need major quantitative validations. Claims of solar and wind 'viability' just don't cut it.

You state: “Fusion is not a reality. You can believe that if it were the funding would be there.” Yet previously you said: “As solar and wind become economically competitive they attract investment.” Implying the investment to the level your project would need doesn't exist at the present time either. And you'll have the same problem with investors as with the government by not presenting a more credible assessment than waving the magic wand of 'viability'.

You ask: “Please explain how we could even implement a small farmer solution?” Worded in such an obtuse way I can only guess at what you're getting at. Small family farms represent 48% of total US farming acres. Larger family farms represent 36% of total US farming acres. That leaves just 16% of total US farming acres for industrial farming, but they pollute far more than an equal amount of acres that are family farms. Healthy soil management practices are scalable but not used in industrial farms. They behave by margins and for shareholders and could care less about what are called externalities as they affect the public, even though the public are stakeholders.