Land grabs, Geoengineering and Climate Change: Vandana Shiva vs. Gwynne Dyer

By Democracy Now!

Ed. Note: I love this woman; Vandana Shiva is one of the most brilliant activists fighting for the best solutions to many of our problems today. Originally a theoretical physicist, she now campaigns the world for heirloom seeds, organic farming and local food systems instead of the chemical- and oil-intensive large scale industrial farms that destroy the environment, increase global warming and wreck local economies. She also supports Hands off Mother Earth, a citizen-based organization that resists geoengineering. ~ RA (Transcript below)

Supporters of geoengineering have proposed radical ways to alter the planet to decrease the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Proposals include creating artificial volcanoes to pollute the atmosphere with sulfur particles, fertilizing the oceans and placing sun-deflecting aluminum foil in the sky. But opposition is growing to geoengineering. We host a debate between Indian environmentalist, scientist, philosopher and eco-feminist, Vandana Shiva, and geopolitical analyst and columnist, Gwynne Dyer.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Gwynne Dyer, he’s author of Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats and Vandana Shiva joins us, an Indian environmentalist, scientist, philosopher, global justice activist and eco-feminist. A longtime critic of genetically modified crops and the system of corporate driven agriculture and neoliberal globalization that’s privatized natural resources and impoverished farming and indigenous communities across the global south. Well we’re talking about geoengineering. You just came from giving a speech last night at St. John the Divine. What are your thoughts on geoengineering, Vandana Shiva?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, three thoughts. The first is, it is the idea of being able to engineer our lives on this very fragile and complex and interrelated and interconnected planet that’s created the mess we are in. It’s an engineering paradigm that created the fossil fuel age that gave us climate change. And Einstein warned us and said you can’t solve problems with the same mindset that created them. Geo-engineering is trying to solve the problems of the same, old mindset of controlling nature. And the phrase that was used, of cheating, let’s cheat—you can’t cheat nature. That’s something people should recognize by now. There is no cheating possible. Eventually the laws of Gaia determine the final outcome. But I think the second thing about geo-engineering is, we’ve just had the volcano in Iceland, yes it was Iceland. And look at the collapse of the economy. And here are scientists thinking that’s a solution? Because they are thinking in a one dimensional way. Linear issue of global warming, anything to do with global cooling. I work on ecological agriculture. We need that sun light for photosynthesis. The geoengineers don’t realize sunshine is not a curse on the planet. The sun is not the problem, the problem is the mess of pollution we are creating. So again we can’t cheat.

And the final issue is, that these shortcuts that are attempted from places of power, and I would add places of ignorance, of the ecological web of life, are then creating the war solution because geo-engineering becomes war on a planetary scale with ignorance and blind spots, instead of taking the real path, which is helping communities adapt and become resilient. That’s the work we do in India. We save the seeds that will be able to deal with sea level rise or cyclones so that we have soil tolerant varieties; we distributed them after the tsunami. Last year we had a monsoon failure. But instead of sending armies out, we distributed seeds. And the farmers who had seeds of millets had a crop. The farmers who were waiting for the green revolution chemical cultivation had a crop failure. So building resilience and building adaptation is the human response, it’s the ecological response. And we don’t have to panic. The panic and fear is coming out of ignorance.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: I’d like to ask you about the—something you’ve talked about quite often—the global land grab that is going on around the world by countries fearing the scarcity in terms of their food products going out and grabbing other countries’ lands. Could you talk about that?

VANDANA SHIVA: You know my last book, “Soil, Not Oil” I talk about the fact that, you know, the oil culture has given us climate change. And if we continue in that same paradigm, the only next step is eco-imperialism. Grab what remains of the resources of the poor and take it to create insularity, and a false defense of security. Because the planet is interconnected, our lives are interconnected. The rich cannot isolate themselves in islands of defense against a planetary instability. The other option is earth democracy, as I talk about it. Now those who have power and money and those who are driven by greed and injustice are now seeking to grab the land of the poor. It’s happening on a very large scale in Africa, it’s happening in India. The World Bank is promoting it because this is a very false idea, that large-scale farms will help us with food security with all the details showing smaller farms produce more food. So if you have to be food secure, you’d better be small. Diversified farms can deal with climate change much better because if one crop doesn’t do well, some other crop will do fine. And the monoculture of large farms will be more vulnerable to climate collapse. And, of course the biggest issue is half the world farms, you can’t rob them of their livelihoods.

Forget the running out of water and climate wars related to water wars, you’re going to have, you’re already having in India, as a result of the land grab, in this case more for mining and industry, what we’re seeing is a war within. And Operation Green Hunt has been launched by the government in order to clean out the lands to be able to grab the lands on behalf of corporations. We talked about the Kashmir crisis and the shootouts. But those scenes are taking place in every remote tribal area today. And that issue of war for resources, that as long as you’re powerful you have the right to grab anyone’s resources and you have a right to use all kinds of illegitimate violence, that militarized mindset that I say comes from capitalist patriarchy, is really at the root of so many of our problems which is why we need to feel at home with nature and we need to recognize that the resources of the earth belong to all, have to be shared. In the land rights of the poor defenseless indigenous person is the biggest peace initiative of today and it’s the biggest climate issue of today.

AMY GOODMAN: Gwynne Dyer, defined and defend geoengineering and tell us which governments are engaging in it.

GWYNNE DYER: First of all, Vandana and I agree on about 95%.

VANDANA SHIVA:—We agree about the problem, that there is a problem.

GWYNNE DYER: Yes, we agree about the problem, and I don’t disagree with any of her solutions. But I do not think they’re going to happen in time if we do not intervene directly as well to avoid a massive human dieback in population. We are heading for the brink very fast.

VANDANA SHIVA: But your solutions commit the planet to a massive dieback.

GWYNNE DYER: I don’t agree with you.—Holding the temperature down is an intervention. It is an intervention that’s intended to be temporary, it wins you time to get your emissions down. The goal is still to get it emissions down. Many of the other goals you and I agree upon are attainable, but only with time, and we don’t have the time. We’re going to be—the last report out of Hadley Center suggested on the current track, we are four degrees Celsius hotter, average global temperature by 2016, that’s only 50 years.

VANDANA SHIVA: But Gwynne, everyone of your solutions is further disrupting the web of lifee, which is the problem. The problem is not warming and cooling, we can survive, the planet can survive.

GWYNNE DYER: Of course the it can-–not all of us.

VANDANA SHIVA:—Not all of us, but the problem is that geoengineering is an experiment. It is not a solution. And you cannot experiment in such a violent way without full assessment of the impact. And as I said, just a simple thing a blocking the sun’s rays is a problem for the planet. Its a problem for humanity…

GWYNNE DYER:—You’re talking 1% I mean you are talking one percent-–

VANDANA SHIVA: But iron filings—

GWYNNE DYER:—I don’t like iron filings-–…that is ridiculous.

VANDANA SHIVA: But iron filings in the ocean-–

GWYNNE DYER:—that is ridiculous.

VANDANA SHIVA:—Reflectors in the sky? Or Artificial Volcanoes.. But thats [inaduble]. Everyone of them, if the solution is looked at, all its spinoffs, in a full ecological way, and a full social impact, what does it mean? And the most important thing is its undemocratic. I think the crisis of the climate is so serious that people need to be involved. The problem of geoengineering or genetic engineering is a bunch of experts sitting with a bunch of corporations saying we’ll decide on behalf of the people. That is part of the problem. That is why I really respect Evo Morales, he called the people of the world after the collapse of Copenhagen, and said the people will decide the solution.

GWYNNE DYER: The people of the world will not decide you know that and I know that. This is not..

VANDANA SHIVA:—But they are deciding.

GWYNNE DYER: I havn’t noticed yet—–.

VANDANA SHIVA: Well there’s a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth that came out of that amazing gathering that we need to shift to an earth centered paradigm—rathter than an arrogant, narrow, reductionist, mechanistic science, expert-based paradigm.—

GWYNNE DYER:—You know what will happen, you know what will happen—

AMY GOODMAN: I just want to interrupt for a second, to say Gwynne Dyer if you can explain—I don’t most people understand what geoengineering is.

GWYNNE DYER: Geoengineering is short-term interventions to avoid a climate runaway disaster, in order to give us more time to get our emissions down, which in themselves, will cause a runaway, climate disaster if we simply allow them to go ahead. Without geoengineering, you hit that disaster in less than 50 years. You probably need more than 50 years to get your emissions down. Now first of all, obiously, you got to do the experiments. You got to figure out are there horrendous side effects you don’t want to do. But if you don’t do this, you know who dies first? Its the people in the tropics and subtropics. Not up here. We watch you die on television.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: Can I ask you in terms of geoengineering, what companies or are what governments are promoting this as a potential solution?

GWYNNE DYER: We still don’t have any official government commitment to it anywhere.

JUAN GONAZLEZ: What companies are investing in it and developing it?

GWYNNE DYER: Companies are investing in a couple of marginal things, frankly I don’t believe have any credibility. Vandana mentioned iron filings chucked into the sea. Well, I don’t think thats—

AMY GOODMAN: What does that do?

GWYNNE DYER: Well the idea is that you cause blooms of algae which will then die, and as their bodies drop to the seabed, imbed carbon—in the seabed and take it out of the oxygen.

AMY GOODMAN: And volcanoes what are they?

GWYNNE DYER: Well the volcanoe, the idea is that It all came as when they explode put sulfur dioxide-when volcanoes explode, put sulfur dioxide, large amounts of it, into the stratosphere, where it stays for a couple of years because it doesn’t rain up there. The particles stay and they reflect enough sunlight to lower the temperature of the earth.

AMY GOODMAN: And seeding the clouds?

GWYNNE DYER: Seeding the clouds is make them more reflective, spray up some sea water on low-lying clouds and they’ll reflect a little bit more incoming sunlight than they did before-–

AMY GOODMAN: And what else?

GWYNNE DYER:—And lower the temprature. The other proposals I mention, you know paint the outer reefs green or white, but I think thats probably a one-time solution.

VANDANA SHIVA:—I wouldn’t object to that.


VANDANA SHIVA: What color you paint it doesn’t really matter—I wouldn’t object to that.

GWYNNE DYER: There’s a new one thats come up recently, a fellow at Harvard suggested that you could actually begin with rivers and resevoirs but put rather microscopic scale bubbbles into the water, which would whiten it. In other words it would reflect more sunlight than normal dark water does, without actually changing the quality of the water.

AMY GOODMAN: And as Juan asked, the corporations involved?

GWYNNE DYER: In none of these cases, so far, are there corporations involved. This is coming out of the scientific community. There-–

AMY GOODMAN: Is it also coming out of the Pentagon?

GWYNNE DYER: They are looking for links with both the Pentagon I think, and the scientific community, with corporate funding. But the initiatives are coming out of the scientific community. The scientific community is scared and desperate. There’s an undercurrent of panic in most of the interviews that I held with the scientists—.

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana, Gwynne’s argument there is just not enough time to talk about the people-oriented solutions are you are talking about?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well the first thing is, there is never enough time, but you have to find a solutions. To use the excuse of immediacy and urgency to take the wrong action is not a solution. In terms of time, wheat orgaic farming, again in my book “Soil Not Oil” we have shown localized ecological biodiverse system of farming could solve 40% of the climate problem because 40% of the emissions are coming from food mills, oxide emissions, cutting down the Amazon forests, all it to globalized and industrialized food system. Tomorrow we can do that. In three years’ time, all of the world’s farming could be ecological absorbing the carbon dioxide and putting fertility back in the soil. It is not a 50-year experiment, it is an assured, guaranteed path that it’s been shown to work. And it does three things for you. It reduces emissions while increasing food security and productivity and increasing water security, because soils rich in carbon and organic matter, are the best resevoirs of water. But I want to just mention-–just as there’re a group of scientists panicking because of the reductionist approach,—I’m a scientist. The reason I do ecology today is because I realize science was a shrinking in terms of the knowledge an individual gets in a particular stream. And so many of the narrow expertise is where you are getting this panic because they don’t know there’re other solutions. I’d love to take some of your geoengineering friends from the scientific community to our farm, to show here is a solution that works in the short run, in the an immediate run. There is an organized movement now—

GWYNNE DYER: I don’t think—

VANDANA SHIVA: I want to mention this, there is a movement against geoengineering called HOME: Hands of Mother Earth. Citizens telling irresponsible scientists, arrogant in their path, hands off mother earth.

GWYNNE DYER: Look your solutions are good. They will work. If you were the dictator of the world and could impose…

VANDANA SHIVA:—Which I would never be.

GWYNNE DYER:—But let me finish, if you were the dictator of the world and could change land ownership patterns in the U.S. like that, you could have it all done in three years-–

VANDANA SHIVA: It will happen.

GWYNNE DYER: You can’t do that.

VANDANA SHIVA: It will happen.

GWYNNE DYER: Not in three years, in thirty.

VANDANA SHIVA: The young people will they are ready to make change.

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there, Vandana Shiva, her books, well among them “Soil Not Oil” and Gwynne Dyer, “Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats.”

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