Food. The word conjures up diverse images but we seem to have forgotten its most important element that our web of life is a food web.
And if you really think about it, that’s how all of nature works. We have created an illusion where we’ve placed man at the top of a pyramid, when in reality we have a circle of life and at the end of it we are merely food for microorganisms.
Food and its quality are the real currency essential for well-being; the well-being of the planet and its people, both as producers and as consumers.
One of the aspects of our so-called rationality is the irrational assumption that we are separate from nature. How much more irrational could we be? That we live outside nature. We are separate from her. We can be her masters and conquerors. And that arrogance of that false rationality has literally brought us to the brink.
Every scientific study is showing us that if we continue on the path we’re on, within a century humanity could absolutely destroy the conditions of life as we know it on this planet.
How we grow our food and how we distribute it is having the single biggest impact on both our planet and social well-being.
Look at the soil. The desertification we’re witnessing now is so intense that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which is the equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has warned that if we don’t change our agricultural practices, we’ll be uprooting more people from their land and further exacerbating the refugee crisis.
I’ve never been to Europe when it’s so warm at this time of year. Climate change and climate extremes are inextricably linked to how we produce our food.
Food is the first energy, but when we stop producing food in sustainable and ecological ways, we end up resorting to fossil fuel-based chemical inputs. And as small farms disappear, people are in turn substituted by machines and chemicals. We don’t need more instruments in farming. It’s the ultimate human activity of connection with the Earth and it’s the most basic activity.
75 per cent of the chronic diseases we face today globally, come from the food we eat and toxins in our environment
Nowadays, it seems to be taken for granted that progress is linear. Now, of course, everyone is thinking the whole digital world will replace everything. But the digital world is an instrument, it’s a tool; it can’t make anything. It’s not a productive process.
We’ve manipulated nature and exploited her enough. In this moment of crisis we should wake up and shift from arrogance to humility; we should work on giving back instead of extracting more.
This violent system has pushed me towards the path of seeking non-violent systems. We have started to save seeds through the creation of seed banks. I had one simple moral imperative throughout these past years: I have to protect the seed.
A field’s yield can be a toxic nutritionally empty commodity and 75 per cent of the chronic diseases we face today globally, come from the food we eat and toxins in our environment, mainly pesticides and herbicides.
It is time that we shift our focus on rejuvenating local farming to provide health and well-being rather than viewing it merely as a commodity, where small farmers and local agriculture cannot compete.
We have more commodities, but less food. Food is diversity and diverse things grow in diverse places. As agriculture became more industrialised, it became less diverse.
Greed is such a terrible addiction. We have to learn when enough is enough, to know what our limits and that of our planet are. Science is about planet-ary limits and every planetary limit is being violated.
Good science is about working within these limits and producing what we need, and we can do this ecologically – we have the knowledge.
Through the movement I’ve built in India and in Navdanya, we have managed to reverse the migration, because by focusing on biodiversity, small farms get two kinds of resilience: a resilience to the climate and a resilience to a very exploitative and manipulative global market.
New research is showing that when it comes well-being, it is the biodiversity and the care we attach to the soil that we can reap the best results. Traditional sciences, such as ayurveda, have taught us that food and our gut is the central place for health, which is why a diverse diet is imperative for our well-being.
Diversity is a democratic imperative and we need to embrace the diversity of cultures, the diversity of our languages, the diversity of our minds. I think monoculture of the mind is one of the most impoverishing aspects of this irrational rationality. The diversity of the mind is what we have to flower today.
The planet has to be poison-free and we are working together for a biodiverse, organic world so that by the year 2050 we not only have farms and farmers everywhere, but we have good food everywhere.
Vandana Shiva, an Indian scientist and green activist, was in Malta recently to address a food rights’ conference organised by the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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