Vandana Shiva

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We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a future at all.

Vandana Shiva (born 5 November 1952) is an Indian scholar, philosopher, ecofeminist, food sovereignty advocate, and author of more than twenty books.


Economic reforms based on the idea of limitless growth in a limited world, can only be maintained by the powerful grabbing the resources of the vulnerable.
  • I believe Gandhi is the only person who knew about real democracy — not democracy as the right to go and buy what you want, but democracy as the responsibility to be accountable to everyone around you. Democracy begins with freedom from hunger, freedom from unemployment, freedom from fear, and freedom from hatred. To me, those are the real freedoms on the basis of which good human societies are based.
  • Kamla Bhasin, an Indian feminist who tried to spell out what ‘sustainable development’ could mean for all women in the world lists a number of principles of sustainability similar to the features of a subsistence perspective. It is clear to her, as it is to many women and men who are not blind to the reality that we live in a limited world, that sustainability is not compatible with the existing profit- and growth-oriented development paradigm. And this means that the standard of living of the North’s affluent societies cannot be generalized. This was already clear to Mahatma Gandhi 60 years ago,who, when asked by a British journalist whether he would like India to have the same standard of living as Britain, replied: ‘To have its standard of living a tiny country like Britain had to exploit half the globe. How many globes will India need to exploit to have the same standard of living?’ From an ecological and feminist perspective, moreover, even if there were more globes to be exploited, it is not even desirable that this development paradigm and standard of living was generalized, because it has failed to fulfil its promises of happiness, freedom, dignity and peace, even for those who have profited from it.
    • Ecofeminism, by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, 1993,
  • I have repeatedly stressed that the rape of the Earth and rape of women are intimately linked - both metaphorically, in shaping world-views, and materially, in shaping women’s everyday lives. The deepening economic vulnerability of women makes them more vulnerable to all forms of violence, including sexual assault, as we found out during a series of public hearings on the impact of economic reforms on women organized by the National Commission on Women and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
  • The ideology of development has implied the globalization of the priorities, patterns, and prejudices of the West. Instead of self-generated, development is imposed. Instead of coming from within, it is externally guided. Instead of contributing to the maintenance of diversity, development has created homogeneity...
    • Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology (1993)
  • Properties perceived in nature will depend on how one looks and how one looks depends on the economic interest one has in the resources of nature. The value of profit maximization is thus linked to reductionist systems, while the value of life and the maintenance of life is linked to holistic and ecological systems.
    • Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development (1988)
  • What could be a better indication of man’s continued dependence on nature than the fact that today’s so-called post-industrial societies satisfy most of their food needs through imports from so-called underdeveloped countries?
    • Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development (1988)
  • Those least responsible for climate change are worst affected by it.
    • Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (2008)
  • Nature shrinks as capital grows. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates.
    • Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (2008)
  • I've had letters from Chinese scientists at the peak of the SARS epidemic who said the problem is a hybridization between the viruses planted into GMO feed, which is then fed to animals, then the virus jumped from the animals to humans. We're going to see more and more of these kinds of risks. I think the whole issue of the H1N1 virus was the fact that it had genes for three influenza types--human, chicken, pig. All of these crossings are becoming possible because of the crossing of genes across species barriers.
  • Nuclear power started in weaponry. It was designed for war. And any instrument that has its origins in war always has the potential for war. First because the material you need to make bombs, you’re multiplying it though nuclear power, you’re taking uranium and turn it into plutonium. Second by equipping governments and private companies with this potential, in society you spread this potential, that here is a weapon of mass destruction available. This is exactly what happened with fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers came from explosive factories are increasingly used in terrorist attacks.
  • When Maria Mies and I wrote Ecofeminism two decades ago, we were addressing the emerging challenges of our times. Every threat we identified has grown deeper. And with it has grown the relevance of an alternative to capitalist patriarchy if humanity and the diverse species with which we share the planet are to survive. Ecofeminism was first published one year after the Earth Summit, where two important treaties were signed by the governments of the world: the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There was no World Trade Organization. However, two years after Ecofeminism, the WTO was established, privileging corporate rights, commerce and profits, and further undermining the rights of the Earth, the rights of women and the rights of future generations. We wrote about what globalization implied for nature and women. Every crisis we mentioned is deeper; every expression of violence more brutal.
    When we wrote Ecofeminism we raised the issue of reductionist, mechanistic science and the attitude of mastery over and conquest of nature as an expression of capitalist patriarchy. Today the contest between an ecological and feminist world-view and a worldview shaped by capitalist patriarchy is more intense than ever. This contest is particularly intense in the area of food. GMOs embody the vision of capitalist patriarchy.
  • When we wrote Ecofeminism we raised the issue of reductionist, mechanistic science and the attitude of mastery over and conquest of nature as an expression of capitalist patriarchy. Today the contest between an ecological and feminist world-view and a worldview shaped by capitalist patriarchy is more intense than ever. This contest is particularly intense in the area of food. GMOs embody the vision of capitalist patriarchy. They perpetuate the idea of ‘master molecules’and mechanistic reductionism long after the life sciences have gone beyond reductionism, and patents on life reflect the capitalist patriarchal illusion of creation. There is no science in viewing DNA as a ‘master molecule’ and genetic engineering as a game of Lego, in which genes are moved around without any impact on the organism or the environment. This is a new pseudo-science that has taken on the status of a religion. Science cannot justify patents on life and seed. Shuffling genes is not making life; living organisms make themselves. Patents on seed mean denying the contributions of millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of farmers’ breeding. One could say that a new religion, a new cosmology, a new creation myth is being put in place, where biotechnology corporations like Monsanto replace Creation as ‘creators’. GMO means ‘God move over’. Stewart Brand has actually said ‘We are as gods and we had better get used to it.’
    • Ecofeminism Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, 1993, 2014 Foreword (2014)
  • The national accounting systems which are used for calculating growth in terms of GDP are based on the assumption that if producers consume what they produce, they do not in fact produce at all, because they fall outside the production boundary. The production boundary is a political creation that, in its workings, excludes regenerative and renewable production cycles from the area of production. Hence all women who produce for their families, children,community and society are treated as ‘non-productive’ and ‘economically inactive’.
    When economies are confined to the marketplace, economic self-sufficiency is perceived as economic deficiency. The devaluation of women’s work, and of work done in subsistence economies of the South, is the natural outcome of a production boundary constructed by capitalist patriarchy. By restricting itself to the values of the market economy, as defined by capitalist patriarchy, the production boundary ignores economic value in the two vital economies which are necessary to ecological and human survival:nature’s economy and the sustenance economy. In these economies, economic value is a measure of how the Earth’s life and human life are protected. The currency is life-giving processes, not cash or the market price. Second, a model of capitalist patriarchy which excludes women’s work and wealth creation in the mind deepens the violence by displacing women from their livelihoods and alienating them from the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend -their land, their forests, their water, their seeds and biodiversity.
    • Ecofeminism, Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, 1993, (2014)
  • If you look at the graph of the growth of G.M.O.s, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence. And you could make that graph for kidney failure, you could make that graph for diabetes, you could make that graph even for Alzheimer’s.
  • We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a future at all.
    • Quoted in Woman power to the fore, by R.S. Binuraj, The Hindu (1 July 2017)
  • In the last 50 years agrotoxins have spread and are pushing bees to extinction. The choices before humanity are clear, a Poison Free Future to save bees, farmers, our food and humanity. Or continue to use poisons, threatening our common future by walking blindly to extinction through the arrogance that we can substitute bees with artificial intelligence and robots... There is no substitute for the amazing biodiversity and gifts of bees. Let us together as diverse species and diverse cultures and through poison free organic food and farming, rejuvenate the biodiversity of our pollinators and restore their sacredness. We have the creative power to stop the sixth mass extinction and climate catastrophe without the need for these false technocratic solutions.
    • Poisons Mean Extinction: For Bees and Humanity Common Dreams (20 May 2020)
  • The future will not be like the past. There is, of course, the ecological issue of slowing down to lighten our footprint. But there are other futures unfolding. Firstly, because the lockdown has resulted in so many people losing their livelihoods.
    According to the International Labour Organization, of the world’s 3.3 billion working people, 1.9 billion will have lost their livelihood base. Unfortunately, I’m watching a new class of throw-away people being deliberately created, not by the virus but by the inhuman implementation of lockdown. Further, there is another future being planned by big tech, based on surveillance and control...
    The tech billionaires are already shaping a new kind of future during lockdown. The challenge we face as humanity is imagining futures that are free of the fossil fuel corporations, the poison cartel that has shaped industrial agriculture and spread the chronic disease pandemic, and the tech giants who are the new billionaires trying to shape our future... the money machine. We have a future if we can reimagine and reclaim our life and freedom from the money machine.
    • Suzuki and Shiva on Waking Up to a New World, by Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee (22 May 2020)

Interview with Yes Magazine (2003)

  • Just like Chief Seattle talked about being in the web of life, in India we talk about vasudhaiva kutumbkam, which means the earth family. Indian cosmology has never separated the human from the non-human—we are a continuum.
  • corporate globalization is really about an aggressive privatization of the water, biodiversity, and food systems of the Earth, when these communities declare sovereignty and act on that sovereignty, they have developed a powerful response to globalization. Living democracy then is the democracy that is custodian of the living wealth on which people depend.
  • There is, I think, a spontaneous resurgence of thinking that centers on protection of life, celebrating life, enjoying life as both our highest duty and our most powerful form of resistance against a violent and brutal system that globalizes not just trade, but fascism, and denies civil liberties and freedoms.
  • The WTO-related events in Seattle created the first experience of a rainbow politics—a successful pluralistic politics, without the working of a master mind, but with the currents and beauty that come out of free thinking. In the new politics, people have different ways of talking, but I feel the core will be living democracy and living economies, and that it will include both taking personal responsibility to make change and being part of national and international movements for change.
  • Many conflicts within Third World countries are related to the practice of exploiting resources faster than nature can renew them or diverting them away from where people need them. Dams in every society have become major sources of conflict. As water scarcity grows, neighbors, families turn against each other.
  • Scarcity is not a result of uneven endowments—that is diversity. Scarcity is having a mismatch between a culture and nature’s giving. Cultures have evolved cultural diversity to mimic the biological diversity of climates and ecosystems. It’s when that relationship is disrupted that you get unsustainable population growth.
  • Instead of water belonging to millions of local communities, water too is to be controlled by five or six global water giants. These are recipes that use economic systems to appropriate for the few the base of survival of the majority.
  • I have had to suffer the violence and brutality that comes with rising fundamentalism, and I’ve asked myself how a society that is the cradle of peace, the land of Gandhi and Buddha, could be reduced to one of the most volatile societies in the world.
  • there is a strong affinity between the forces of empire and a politics of hate that justifies policies of domination and exclusion. So long as people’s attention is focused on fear and hatred of foreigners or members of a particular religious group, such as Muslims, they are distracted from organizing to deal with the system of institutional domination and exploitation that is the real source of their insecurity.
  • The way out of this violent cycle is to deepen democracy—to bring decisions that directly affect people’s lives as close as possible to where people are and to where they can take responsibility.
  • I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that in itself creates new potential.
  • I’ve learned from the Bhagavad Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me always to take on the next challenge because I don’t cripple myself, I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each other not to burden each other with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.
  • Earth Democracy connects people in circles of care, cooperation, and compassion instead of dividing them through competition and conflict, fear and hatred. (p. 11)
  • It is the indignity of being treated as disposable that pushes people towards religious fundamentalism in order to retrieve a sense of self, of meaning, of significance. This is why globalization breeds religious fundamentalism and free markets create terrorism and extremism, not democracy.
  • The fight for not just our right as free citizens of free societies. It is our duty as citizens of the earth.
  • Whenever we engage in consumption or production patterns which take more than we need, we are engaging in violence.

Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom (2020)

  • What J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller were to the Age of Robber Barons, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, as well as digital moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are to the contemporary age of the rule of the 1%. Then as now, the super-rich used governments to write laws and rules to allow them to accumulate unlimited wealth; then as now, creating monopolies by enclosing the commons and killing competition is the strategy for becoming the 1%.
  • The business of grabbing and money-making, through a violent extractive economy that the 1% have built, is burdening the earth and humanity with unbearable and non-sustainable costs, and has brought us to the brink of extinction. We do not have to escape from the earth; we have to escape from the illusions that enslave our minds and make extinction look inevitable.
  • Owning our seeds through seed freedom, our own food through food freedom, our own minds and intelligence through intellectual freedom, our own economies through freedom to produce and consume ecologically and locally, is the ‘barbarianism’ that the 1% would like to extinguish.
  • Being a planetary citizen does not need space travel. It means being conscious that we are part of the universe and of the earth. The most fundamental law is to recognise that we share the planet with other beings, and that we have a duty to care for our common home.
  • Simplicity and nonviolence are the basis of an economy of wellbeing, and such an economy must be localised.

About Shiva

  • The ecological and eco-feminist movements have given the commons a new political significance. For an eco-feminist perspective on the importance of the commons in the economy of women's lives, see Vandana Shiva (1989).
    • Silvia Federici Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (2004)
  • All of us who care about the future of Planet Earth must be grateful to Vandana Shiva. Her voice is powerful, and she is not afraid to tackle those corporate giants that are polluting, degrading and ultimately destroying the natural world.
  • As Vandana Shiva said when accepting this prize [the Sydney Peace Price] six years ago, the roots of our crisis lie "in an economy which fails to respect ecological and ethical limits."
    • Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019)
  • The Indian author and activist Vandana Shiva points out that shifting to an agriculture model based on agro-ecological methods would not only sequester large amounts of carbon, it would reduce emissions and increase food security. And unlike geoengineering, "It's not a fifty-year experiment. It's an assured, guaranteed path that has been shown to work."
    • Naomi Klein This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)
  • A rock star in the worldwide battle against genetically modified seeds.
  • When you call somebody a fraud, that suggests the person knows she is lying. I don’t think Vandana Shiva necessarily knows that. But she is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous.
  • Shiva’s words are treated with earnest respect in liberal and environmental circles, where she is held in great esteem. If she insists that Monsanto and its GMO seeds have driven hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers to suicide—and she has said this frequently—then there must be something to it.

See also

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Modern Hindu writers 19th century to date
Religious writers Mirra AlfassaAnirvanAurobindoChinmoyEknath EaswaranNisargadatta MaharajRamana MaharshiMaharishi Mahesh YogiNarayana GuruSister NiveditaSrila PrabhupadaChinmayananda SaraswatiDayananda SaraswatiSivanandaRavi ShankarShraddhanandVivekanandaYogananda
Political writers AdvaniDeepakGandhiGautierGopalJainKishwarMunshiRadhakrishnanRaiRoySardaSastriSavarkarSenShourieShivaSinghTilakUpadhyayaVajpayee
Literary writers BankimGundappaIyengarRajagopalachariSethnaTagoreTripathi
Scholars AltekarBalagangadharaCoomaraswamyDaniélouDaninoDharampalFeuersteinFrawleyGoelJainKakKaneMukherjeeNakamuraRambachanRosenMalhotraSampathSchweigSwarup
Non-Hindus influenced by Hinduism BesantBlavatskyChopraCrowleyDassDaumalDeussenEliadeEliotElstEmersonGinsbergGuénonHarrisonHuxleyIsherwoodKrishnamurtiLynchMalrauxMillerMontessoriMüllerOlcottOppenheimerRoerichRollandSchopenhauerSchrödingerThoreauTolstoyVoltaireWattsWilberYeats