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On Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis


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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> We’re going to put off a debate on nuclear power that we had planned today to turn to two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I had the opportunity to sit down with them recently. It was right before the U.N. climate summit that took place in Poland, but we were in Suffern, New York, at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, an environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. I began by, well, going back to the beginning, with each of these remarkable women, and asking Vandana Shiva, who had just flown in from India, to talk about where she was born.

VANDANA SHIVA: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> And Dr. Jane Goodall?

JANE GOODALL: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Where were you born?

JANE GOODALL: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> You know, the motto of Democracy Now! is "the exception to the rulers," because that’s what we have to be, holding those in power accountable. And I think, across your disciplines, that is what you do. And I was wondering how you do it, if you could give us examples of how you challenge power that you feel is damaging the Earth, and what you are doing now to change that. Vandana?

VANDANA SHIVA: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Vandana Shiva at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Vandana is an environmental leader, feminist thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons. When we come back, more of our discussion. Stay with us.

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AMY GOODMAN: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> Well, I think, you know, I come from this—from studying chimpanzees, right? And when you study chimpanzees, there’s a male role and female role, and they’re very different. The male is responsible for protecting the territory and the resources in the territory for his females and his young, and enlarging it if he can. It sounds familiar. It sounds human. The female is responsible for raising her young, for finding enough food to raise her young, in which she is helped by the male. And I think, I can’t help saying, as we start off this conference with the role of women, which is so very important, of a saying—and I first heard this when I was in Mexico, but I think the saying was from Ecuador. I’m not sure. But one of the indigenous people said, "In our tribe, we have a saying, that a tribe flies like the condor, and the tribal only fly true when the wings of the condor are in balance, and one wing is male and one wing is female. The tribe will fly true when the wings are in balance."

So, as we move into this—and I wish I was here for the whole few days—but as we move into this, we have to remember we’re in a world where men are in it as well as women. And men have traditionally been put in the same role as the male chimpanzees. They’re there. They’ve been protecting the territory. You know, in the old days, they were responsible totally for the—for looking after the family, for getting the money. They were the breadwinners. They were all these things. And today, women are moving into those traditionally male roles. And I think I was say—I wasn’t saying it to you, Amy, earlier, but I’ve been fascinated by watching this change, particularly coming at it from the point of view of, you know, learning about the male and the female chimpanzee and thinking, as Louis Leakey thought, that seven million years ago there was a common ancestor, a human-like, chimpanzee-like creature, which over seven million years we developed into people, and they developed into chimpanzees, but there was this common ancestor. And so, watching as our women have moved into leadership roles, I noticed that, initially, to get into those positions, the women were trying to be more men—more male than the men. And there was a stridency and an anger in some of those early women leaders, which is understandable. But I think and I feel that that’s changed, that women are moving into leadership positions, and they are confident in their femininity.

And women traditionally are nurturing. Women traditionally nurture their young. The seven generations are important to women. And this is what I see. And I think, what’s gone wrong? What’s gone wrong with us? We’ve lost that wisdom. That is the wisdom of making a decision today based on how will it affect our people seven generations ahead. And we’ve lost that wisdom, and now we make decisions based on how will it help me now, how will it help the next shareholders’ meeting. So there’s a disconnect between the head and heart. And I am hoping and praying that women can come together and heal that disconnect, because if we don’t operate with our amazing head—the brain is what makes us more different from the other animals than anything else—with the human heart, love and compassion, we’ll never get there. And we do somehow need to create a world where we have two equal wings and find the roles for our boys as well as our girls. I just feel it’s terribly important.

AMY GOODMAN: line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> The first thing is to bring it down from the stratosphere. I think one reason the climate movement on the grassroots has taken longer to grow than movements around biodiversity conservation or water, etc., is because everyone got so overwhelmed with the parts per million, and everyone was looking at the graphs and how they climb and the hockey stick. And looking at the hockey stick is something that is out of control. There’s nothing you can do. But every emission begins on the ground. And every mitigation and adaptation action is on the ground. That’s why I wrote my book, Soil Not Oil. I was starting to feel worried that not only were we only dealing with the IPCC reports, that had kind of become the only place you could act, and go to the climate summits, but we were missing the biggest piece of where do greenhouse gas emissions come from.

You might remember the Kyoto Protocol was supposed to reduce emissions by 5 percent, and by the time we went to Copenhagen, emissions had increased 16 percent, because the solution in Kyoto was allow the polluters to trade in emissions and buy credits from those who don’t pollute. Not only did this make big money for the polluters, I know Arcelor—the Mittal family, which bought up all the steel plants, including the ones in Eastern Europe and France, he made a billion a year just through these emissions trading. But worse, because it all became such a racket, all kinds of really devastating activities started to be treated as Clean Development Mechanisms. One example is the fact that this year, 15th, 16th, 17th of June, we had the most intensive rains, and a glacial lake burst, and flooding like I’ve never seen in my life took place. Twenty thousand people have died in my region, the region where the Chipko movement started. The damage was accelerated by hydro projects, which were all getting Clean Development Mechanism money, in addition to all the benefits government gives.

Agriculture, industrial globalized agriculture is 40 percent of the greenhouse gases. We can do something about it today. If you notice, the official agenda is biochar. Biochar is burning biomass without oxygen, basically how charcoal is made. That’s not what the soil lives on. The soil lives on humus. But biochar is another place to make huge profit, whereas humus is just giving back to the Earth what we’ve received from her. And I think the word "humus" has such power, because I think humanity comes from it, humility comes from it, humidity comes from it—everything that gives life and creates our humanity comes from it. So, even though it might look a bit strange, but I think creating organic farms and organic gardens is the single biggest climate solution, but it’s also the single biggest food security solution. And given the economic crisis, both in this country—you watch southern Europe, you see the riots in Greece and Italy and Spain, and I work with youth, unemployed youth, in all of these places, one of the things I’m telling them all is go back to the land. You know, the banks messed up your lives. The governments have given up on you with their austerity programs. But the Earth will never abandon you. She is inviting you to be co-creators and co-producers so that we can solve all these multiple problems, which are interconnected.

And I think if there’s one thing women can bring to this discussion, in addition to those beautiful words that Jane used of love and compassion, the capacity to have compassion is the capacity to see connections. That’s the disease that the deeply patriarchal mindset has not been able to overcome, that they can’t transcend fragmentation and separation and thinking in silos, and, worse, thinking as if we are separate from the Earth, and therefore, as masters and conquerors, there’s just another experiment of control that you need the freedom to have. And I think we need to give a message saying, no, the Earth was not made by you, therefore you can’t fool around further. You’ve already messed up enough. Stop these geo-engineering experiments. We had a discussion on Democracy Now!, I remember, once about this. We need to tell them this world is about life, not just about your profits and your bottom line, so don’t reduce everything to a commodity, and don’t financialize every function of the Earth and all her gifts. So I think this is really the moment for another discussion, another thinking. And in all of this, the beautiful thing is, the concrete solutions are the most radical ones. The abstract has had its day.

AMY GOODMAN: