The War We Don’t Hear About

There is a conflict in this world that doesn’t receive the same type of media and political attention as the various civil disputes that we have recently seen and heard about, but it is a conflict that is occurring everywhere. It is the war between the earth and us, one that Dr. Vandana Shiva so eloquently describes as the culmination of eco-apartheid. A few months ago I heard Dr. Vandana Shiva speak at the Calgary Peace Prize presentation, and eco-apartheid and earth democracy were the focal point of her address. To hear such a calm and articulate person speak about the diminishing rights of the earth, using such strong vocabulary related to war, was a shock at first. But, perhaps, this is the type of vocabulary that needs to be used to bring to light the intentional separation between humans and the rest of the earth that has perpetuated so many other conflicts on both small and large scales. The increasing separation of our everyday lives from the earth is visible from the types of food we chose, to how that food is made and sold, to the transportation of that food which then leads us to evaluating the oil that drives so many industries in this world.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Ultimately, she used oil as a familiar and popular example of the driving force behind this separation: profit. Not just monetary profit, which in itself is a potent motivation, but technological and political profit.   For instance, the extraction of oil from oil sands in Alberta has not only produced economic benefits, but has perpetuated the discovery and use of new technologies that are used to make extraction more efficient. Dr. Shiva would argue that this is analogous to the patterns that most major wars have followed. Countries have made decisions to go to or abstain from war based on the value in gallons of oil that the affected parties present. This dependence on oil has led our decision makers through a dangerous pursuit of the same which damages the earth in immeasurable ways. This damage, and the simultaneous neglect to acknowledge it, are the essence of eco-apartheid. We have separated ourselves from the rest of the planet, and now refer to climate change, habitat loss, and loss of non-renewable resources as events which are occurring to a third party rather than to us. One profound message that I took away from Dr. Shiva was that when we respect the rights of the earth and move towards "earth democracy", we are respecting human rights, and vice versa. Human beings are a part and a product of this planet, and when we can start to recognize that again we will, perhaps, understand that our fight against the forces of nature will only end up hurting us.

“We  need a new paradigm to respond to the fragmentation caused by various  forms of fundamentalism. We need a new movement, which allows us to  move from the dominant and pervasive culture of violence, destruction and death to a culture of non-violence, creative peace and life. That is why in  India, Navdanya started the Earth democracy movement, which provides an  alternative worldview in which humans are embedded in the Earth Family, we  are connected to each other through love, compassion, not hatred and  violence and ecological responsibility and economic justice replaces greed,  consumerism and competition as objectives of human life.” ~ Navdanya.org

Dr. Shiva is one woman who is an example to those of us who hope to make a change but can’t see the way. She is a role model not only in her education, personal accomplishments and her contribution to her native land and culture of India but also in her method of bringing together the macro and micro aspects of this movement towards peace with the earth. For instance, her work through Navdanya has helped individuals and groups of farmers in India fight for their right to grow seeds which have not been genetically modified or patented by corporations. Seeds, water, and land are other examples of resources which are being manipulated in the name of profit but have not been brought to the forefront of our attention yet. From this grass roots movement to maintain “seed, land, and water sovereignty” she then moves to the macro level, where she involves herself in the debates which influence the policies that can either change or uphold eco-apartheid. She maintains that in order to move towards change on a global level, that change must first start on an individual level. In my previous blog about ecofeminism I wrote about a few ideas on how we can make that change in our lives. But I think one new message that I have learned is that we need both micro (individual) and macro (group) actions in order to be effective. When decisions about our earth are being made without our knowledge or consent it is our job to become aware of those decisions. I won’t say that we can all get involved in politics in order to make those decisions, but as part of a democratic system we should all have a voice and a choice in the leaders that we are electing and ensure that their views on the rights of the earth are in line with ours. If such views are not part of their political campaigns, then we have the right and responsibility to ask why. Only when we connect the decisions that we make in our everyday lives to the decisions made on our behalf for our country and for our earth, can true change be realized.