The devastating model of the globalized economy if not quickly reversed will further harm the planet and lead to increasing loss of lives.

By Ayo Okulaja

Dr Vandana delivering her speech on earth's democracy at the 2013 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum. Photo by David Andersson

Indian environmental activist and anti-globalisation campaigner; Dr. Vandana Shiva, made this known at her keynote address on the final day of the 2013 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, where she spoke about the values required for a new economic model that respects the planet and all species of life.

According to her, the global economy is like a herd of elephants gone rogue. “I’ve watched elephants that have gone rogue; they leave the herd and just destroy.”

“An economy has gone rogue under globalisation, because it’s no more grounded in the ecological limits of the planet.  It’s no more grounded in the human rights and human dignity of the last child, the last woman, the last person” she explained.

Limitless Growth, Limited Planet

Warning against the lack of caution in the globalized economic model which seeks growth at all cost, the environmental activist stated that such insatiable quest has led the world to an economy of greed and such is leading to the collapse of not just the ecosystem but our societies.

“An economy of greed must be based on theft and sadly greed has been made the only value of our times.  We are witnessing what it is costing us.  We are witnessing how ecosystem after ecosystem is under collapse” she said.

She further explains that “we’ve come up with this strange idea of limitless growth on a limited planet.  It’s ecologically false, it’s physically false, it’s biologically false and it’s socially unjust because there’s a very ancient text from India that reminds us that if you take more than you need, you are stealing, because some other being, some other person, all the future generations have a right to those resources.”

Citing an example of how the ecology and economy are interwoven, Dr Shiva narrated how collaboration between a German forester and British timber companies exploited India’s timber forest despite protest by peasant women in the 60’s against disrupting the connection between forest and water.

She referred to the timber exploitation as ‘timber mines’, saying “in ’72, we had a horrible flood and the women came out and said these trees protect us.  They prevent the landslides, they prevent the flooding, they give us food, they give us fodder, they are our mothers and you can’t cut them.”

“In another decade, the floods came again and the Indian government realised what the women were saying was true because by then, the government was putting out more money for flood relief than they were getting out of timber revenues and after that a logging ban was put in the catchments of the Ganges and the Yamuna, the area where I come from.”

“The forest was saved from logging but the frenzy of globalisation, of speed, of building super-highways in the fragile Himalayas, dams, saying that electricity was the biggest produce of the mountains, not the water of the rivers.  It’s created a situation that across the mountains in my regions we have landslides and when the first rain came this year 4 days ago all of that rubble came down, filled the rivers.”

The death toll of this year’s monsoon flood in India’s Uttarakhand district has risen to over a thousand with nearly 3,000 people still missing.

A displeased Shiva stated that she’s never seen anything like this “our farm is under one foot of water.  Agriculture is going to be devastated this year.  Why?  Because we’re still carrying such an outmoded idea of the Earth and the economy.”

She further blamed the global markets preference for cheap goods tracing its source to the growing suicide of farmers who grow cotton and are now killed by debts.

“This was taken then to Bangladesh and China and then the women get burnt in fires and then you get cheap clothing, just like you get cheap food, because the costs have not been internalised.”

Earth Democracy

She enjoined the media to re-define the conversation about globalization as she disagreed with the repeated notion that intensification will feed the world “but they never clarify intensification of what?”  the environmental activist asked.

“Intensification of fossil fuels actually creates a very inefficient system; 10 units are put in to get one unit out.  Ecological systems use one unit to produce 2 units of food.  That’s the way we can double the production of food without harming the planet” she advised.

Dr Shiva also condemned the carefree use of planet earth as an inert raw material. “We don’t treat our planetary home as our home; we treat it as just raw material, dead, inert.  We couldn’t have had the rise of mechanistic science without declaring nature as dead.”

She finished her speech expressing the optimism about a growing change that seeks to challenge the global norm with the development of the occupy movement of 1% against the 99%.

She however noted that a surveillance system is being built to try and make sure that the 99% doesn’t have its way, referring to the Edward Snowden PRISM controversy.

But “a 1% rule has never lasted. It must be 100% participation, not just of every human being but every species on this planet.  That’s the Earth democracy we need to create” she concluded.