Translator: Hélène Vernet Reviewer: Tanya Cushman
So I could actually have spent all my life in this city
and being a Mumbai girl
if I had stayed on at the BARC, the Bhabha Atomic Research Center.
Why did I go back to my hometown, Dehradun?
And why do I do what I do today?
It's a combination of the fact that I learned a lot
from women in my region in the Himalaya.
Peasant women, never been to school,
top biodiversity experts,
change the policies of this country, the policies that used to say,
"The most important product of the Himalaya is timber."
They changed it to "The most important product of the forests of the Himalaya
is soil and water and pure air."
This was the movement Chipko,
and in the 70s, I got involved as a volunteer.
And can you imagine just the deepest love for the forests
bringing about a change through a totally nonviolent movement?
It opened my eyes to another way of looking at the world,
and I learned two lessons then:
First, that Nature is not out there; we are part of it.
And second, that protecting Nature is not a luxury.
Our Prime Minister still needs to learn few lessons from women like that
who thinks "environmentalism" is a problem because it interferes with growth.
It's not a problem
because the very foundation of every economic activity
is the rivers and the land and the forest and the biodiversity.
All the top leaders are gathered right now in Cancún,
trying to figure out how to avoid disastrous climate change,
but the lobbies that have caused climate change are preventing it from happening.
If you just look at what's happening in the area of food,
and it's delightful to be here with you all,
opposite a kitchen - very rare!
It's very rare to have food for thought and food for the body in the same space.
So congratulations to the organizers for choosing this venue.
Now, what's the reality of food in India right now?
First, it's that on different approximations,
between half to three-quarters of this country isn't eating enough.
At a global level, a billion people are going hungry.
Another thing unprecedented in our long, long history:
in one decade from 1997 to 2007,
200,000 farmers have committed suicide.
A million children are dying every year in this country for lack of food.
And there are studies done in Maharashtra, in Thane,
which show that in the tribal areas before 1991,
before the new economic policies,
there wasn't dramatic hunger, but now there is.
We are giving 1.3 trillion rupees - that's bigger than our defense budget -
as subsidies for poisoning our soil, for synthetic fertilizers.
You add up all these things that seem to be different aspects -
some people look at children's malnutrition;
some people look at climate change;
some people look at land - it's all interconnected.
And it's all interconnected through a very perverse way of thinking
that we have inherited from a highly patriarchal form of thought.
Capitalist patriarchy gave us, first, the assumption that Nature is dead,
when it's very much alive;
the first error we need to correct, and women are correcting it.
Second, you have to declare Nature dead to establish man's empire over Nature,
always "man's" empire over Nature.
That means all species can be exterminated,
people can be dispossessed.
It was actually called by Bacon "The birth of masculine time."
Literally they shaped a way of thinking that would be a masculine mold,
but it obviously robbed the men of half their brain
and women of all of their thinking,
till now we have a resurgence of a holistic thought:
inevitable consequences of fate,
a mechanistic view of the world
that could not see interconnections, that could not see cycles.
The second thing I love about this space is the circles, not linear benches.
We're all sitting in circles.
Now, if only we could think in terms of circles and cycles!
We just had a performance about the rivers.
Yesterday I was in IIT Kanpur
to discuss the whole issue of the cleaning of the Ganga,
which as you know, the government is finding very difficult
in spite of spending millions - they can't get it right.
But they can't get it right because they've broken the cycle.
The cycle of our nutrition that should go back to the land
is today going as pollution to the rivers.
If only we corrected that through good town planning,
we'd have no problem of soil infertility,
and we'd have no river pollution either.
Another very, very important problem,
that that kind of mechanistic thought becomes blind to diversity.
I have called this the "monoculture of the mind,"
and this starts to do a number of things.
You destroy food systems, and you say you're growing more food.
If you were growing more food, there wouldn't be a billion people starving.
If the Green Revolution had given us more food,
half of India wouldn't be starving today.
The monoculture of the mind has succeeded in transforming this country
from a land of abundance and pulses and all seeds and cereals and millets
into a land where we are importing daals,
and we are now making fake daals.
I noticed all of you have Apple computers.
So Apple gave us iPod. It gave us iPad. It gave us iPhone.
And the government's giving us an "iDaal," which is not a daal.
It's basically soya bean reconstituted and colored yellow.
Now, if we're going to try and fake ourselves on food,
the point is we can fake the supermarket shelf,
we can fake the consumer, but we cannot fake the body,
and I know we will hear a lot more about this from Vidya Venkat,
who has spent a lifetime trying to talk about the truth of no-nutrition.
We use ten units of inputs to produce one unit of food.
How inefficient can it be?
And then, we are creating scarcity,
scarcity by turning seed - for which one seed gives a thousand.
And the reason the millets,
which are the "forgotten foods" as we call them in Navdanya,
the reason they are called "millets" is because each seed gives a million seeds.
That's all that is shared between the family of crops called the "millets."
We now have brilliant ways to prevent multiplication of seed:
genetic engineering, terminator seed,
patenting, which makes it illegal for farmers to save their own seeds.
That is behind the farmer suicides:
the high-cost seed, high-cost chemicals, debt and indebtedness
then leading to the suicides we witness.
So how are we changing this genocidal and ecocidal system
that is both destroying the land, the water, the biodiversity,
the lives of our farmers, the lives of our children?
First, by recognizing one simple thing,
that biodiversity is not a problem.
The diversity of species,
that is the base on which we produce our food.
You kill the soil organisms, you won't have food.
You kill the bees and the pollinators, you won't have food.
And the beauty of it is each of us can be the change
we want to see in the way food is grown.
Today, industrial farming is giving us
It has destroyed biodiversity.
We used to eat 8,500 crops; we are eating 8 commodities.
It's destroying, of course, the farmers and public health.
But eating is an ecological act.
Eating is an ethical act.
Eating is a political act.
And eating is an agricultural act.
The separations that have been made
between those who grow the food and those who eat the food -
If only that link could be closed
the way we are trying to close it in a loop in Navdanya,
miracles start to happen,
miracles like the paradox
that the more you eat biodiversity, the more you grow it.
But if you don't eat the millets, who will grow it?
If you don't ask for the authentic daal, it won't be grown in this country.
And we've seen,
the way the government is going,
we're not going to get clean, honest policies for a while.
It depends on citizen action to make the change.
The other thing that agriculture connects to all of us
is the fact that in the act of eating,
you are actually becoming partners with the farmer.
There is a very false way of thinking that's saying
that agriculture is something that can be forgotten, you know.
And they have another linear line: agriculture, industry -
and we are living, we are working in a space that used to be a factory -
and then services.
But show me a person who is in a software company
who has stopped eating.
You still need the food,
and the fact of forgetting about agriculture,
forgetting about our field farmers, forgetting about the seed,
forgetting about the soil
is at the root of the huge food and agrarian crisis.
You are privileged, you don't suffer it.
But the producers are the worst sufferers of the food crisis.
I can't go into detail about how that happens.
All I can do is invite you
to join this revolution for life that women are leading.
Food after all is life,
and every one of us eats two or three times a day;
the greedy might eat many more times.
But every time you eat, you can make a massive change.
You can throw your weight
behind ecosystems, behind diversity, behind farmers,
or you can throw your weight behind greed, behind super profits,
behind ill health that is killing both this planet and people.
Make your choice. It's easy. We've done it.
And it's just a matter of eating right and thinking holistically.