Vandana_Shiva,_environmentalist,_at_Rishikesh,_2007Vandana Shiva to Speak at Oregon State University

October 23, 2009 at 7pm at LaSells Stewart Center

Keynote address for Earth Democracy: Women, Justice, and Ecology

October 23 will be a daylong conference on environmental justice in women’s lives.  Earth Democracy: Women, Justice and Ecology provides education and awareness of global issues to inform and inspire local action.

It’s All Connected

by momentumfemininum

I was asked: Why do you need to create a conference that focuses on just women?  Don’t we all suffer from environmental degradation?

The answer is, of course we all suffer from the destruction of our home.  However, the posing of the question itself is an indication of how little thought is devoted to considering that whatever the issue, we are talking about REAL people’s lives. We can’t just talk about the environment without talking about the social, racial, economic, and global influences on how environmental problems play out in the lives of real people.  And let us be reminded that over half of those REAL people are women. Social and cultural systems the world over create an unequal distribution of who shoulders the burden of environmental problems.

Take farming, for example.  What do you think of when you hear the word “farmer?”  Old McDonald, right?  Or a ruddy, weathered man in the cab of a John Deere? In the U.S., “the number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978, from just over 100,000 to almost 250,000 today, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Almost 15 percent of American farms are now run primarily by women – a sea change from 1978, when the figure was 5 percent. On organic farms, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the number is 22 percent.” (Women Find their Place in the Field–NY Times)

Globally “Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production.” (Women and Food Security–FAO)

Vandana Shiva points out that, “Women have been seed experts, the seed breeders, seed selectors, the biodiversity conservers of the world. And if today we have seeds that we can save, if today we have communities that can tell us the unique properties of different crops and different seeds, it’s because we’ve had generations of women not recognized as agronomists, not recognized as breeders, not recognized in any way as having knowledge. The 10,000 years of human expertise in feeding us is a women’s expertise.” (Seeds of ResistanceIMOW)

The patenting of seeds by corporations is “straightforward biopiracy, the theft of women’s innovation of centuries.” (Seeds of ResistanceIMOW)

In addition to agriculture, there is a gender component to countless other environmental issues, and really, there is no distinction between what is an environmental issue and what is a socially gendered issue.  Water, toxicity, waste, free vs. fair trade, the privatization of the commons, and the extraction of natural resources…are we talking about social justice, or are we talking about ecology?  Both!  We need multi-faceted change, which means that we must start connecting the movements which have been so fragmented and independent.  Single-issue action is so last century.

It’s time to bring the “sustainability,” the “environmental,” and the “feminist” movements together.  If the reason this is important is lost, it shows how vast the disconnect is.  Earth Democracy, the philosophical framework for action that Vandana Shiva offers, is the expansion of “equality for all” to really include All–all of the life on the planet, human and non-human.  That means the work to achieve gender, class, and racial equality must be done simultaneously with work for the protection and resilience of the earth.

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