KITAKYUSHU — An award-winning environmental activist from India who specializes in agricultural and food issues warned that ongoing globalization could destroy the environment and called on women in particular to counter the trend.
Vandana Shiva, 47, who was here until Monday for a one-day conference on women and the environment, said globalization “wipes out farmers and small producers” and allows monopolization by large corporations that often adopt policies detrimental to the environment.
The founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India served as a panelist at Sunday’s Women’s Conference on the Environment in Asia and the Pacific, which was held on the sidelines of a ministerial conference of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
At the meeting, the scientist, a recipient of numerous awards, including being named on the 1993 Global 500 Roll of Honor by the U.N. Environment Program, also labeled genetic modification a “war against nature, women and children.”
She said that with the advent of globalization, decisions affecting the environment are being made by distant bodies, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, stripping each government of the power to strike effective accords.
“WTO rules decide what will happen to your forests, your rivers, your lands and your biodiversity,” Shiva said, suggesting that international conferences such as the ESCAP meeting will not influence policy unless governments retrieve their sovereignty.
As to the connection between women and environmental problems, Shiva said both have been affected by “capitalist patriarchy” — a way of thinking that is based on the pursuit of money and on male dominance, she said.
“(It) treats nature as an exploitable resource (and) therefore destroys the environment. It also treats women as a second sex. Nature is meant to be used as women are meant to be used.”
The former nuclear physicist also pointed out that many environmental protection movements in the world have been led by women.
Shiva said that a campaign launched 25 years ago by Indian women to protect Himalayan forests became the first environmental movement in the country and eventually succeeded in changing national forestry policies.
“It’s the same thing in industrialized countries,” she said. “Who are fighting the environmental disasters? The women. They’ve been made socially responsible for the environment. And what we’re saying is we don’t want to be just responsible. We want to have the rights to protect it. Because we want to look after the planet, our children and all of society.”
Shiva said women do not necessarily need to become politicians to make changes, noting that in India, women engaged in Himalayan forest protection brought about reform by acting outside the political system.
“Women act where they are. That is the important thing to recognize,” Shiva said, adding that this enables dominated women to come out front and seek an alternative way that can create a sustainable future, peace and equality.
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