Livestreamed on this page on Thursday 28 May 2020 at 10 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 11 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC-4) / 16:00 BEST (London, UTC+1) / 17:00 CEST (Ghent, UTC+2) / 18:00 EAT (Kampala, UTC+3) 20:30 IST (New Delhi, UTC+5:30).
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School of Resistance—Episode Two: Make the World Habitable Again
Climate, economy and protest in the Global South. A dialog with Vandana Shiva and Vanessa Nakate hosted by Lara Staal
NTGent presented School of Resistance - Episode Two: Make the World Habitable Again livestreamed on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Thursday 28 May 2020 at 10 a.m. CDT (Chicago, UTC-5) / 11 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC-4) / 16:00 BEST (London, UTC+1) / 17:00 CEST (Ghent, UTC+2) / 18:00 EAT (Kampala, UTC+3) 20:30 IST (New Delhi, UTC+5:30).
With the world’s biggest polluters shutting down most of their industries and cutting back their use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint has rapidly dropped by a significant amount. But whether or not the environment will eventually benefit from today’s crisis is anything but a certainty. Crucial climate conferences and negotiations that were to take place in the next coming months are being cancelled and the mantra of ‘economy first’ might replace climate concerns in the minds of the public and those in power. And what about these countries that benefit least from our fossil-fuel economies, but are already being affected by the disastrous effects of climate change today?
In the second episode of School of Resistance the Indian scholar and environmentalist Vandana Shiva will address together with Fridays For Future Uganda founder Vanessa Nakate the effects of climate change in the Global South and plead for an inclusive form of climate activism.
Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, anti-globalization author and environmental activist advocating for organic and ecological farming and the protection of biodiversity, seed sovereignty and social justice. In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, investigating sustainable methods of agriculture.
Being the first Fridays For Future activist in Uganda and the founder of the Rise up Climate Movement, Vanessa Nakate seeks to amplify the voices of climate activists from across Africa. She also spearheaded a campaign to save Congo’s rain forest and is currently working on a project to install solar panels and stoves in schools.
The School of Resistance is a biweekly livestream with experts of change from around the world: artists, activists, politicians and philosophers. See other archived videos from the School of Resistance series.
On April 20th, 2020, the oil price dipped below zero for the first time in history. It wasn’t the only world record caused by Covid-19. In no more than a few months, a nasty virus was able to pull off what worldwide protest marches and general strikes couldn’t do: slowing down our planet. Correction: slowing down all human activities on this planet.
Suddenly, as a society, we remember the meaning of ‘ economy’ as a way to support life and not to make profit at whatever cost. But how can we shape the future of our planet, without falling back into old damaging patterns? To solve the problems we are facing today and to come up with valuable alternatives for the future, the biweekly livestream School of Resistance creates a platform of experts of change around the world: artists, activists, politics and philosophers.
A project by IIPM and NTGent, in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Medico International, Merve Verlag, European Alternatives and funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes.
The second episode “Make the World Habitable Again” is realised with the support of Bayrischer Rundfunk and Prohelvetia.
The third episode will be livestreamed on Thursday, June 11, 18:00 (CET). Realised with the support of Medico International and starting from the current living and working situation of textile workers in Pakistan, we will discuss the global production and supply chains of what we call “global economy”: how is it really functioning? And how can it be changed?
The livestream takes place every two weeks on Thursdays at 18:00 (CET), smaller time shifts are possible depending on the residence of the guests and will be announced.
Lara Staal: Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to the second episode of School of Resistance and our Make the World Habitable Again. My name is Lara Staal. I'm a curator, maker, researcher and roger. I'm more than happy to enter in conversation with climate activists Vandana Shiva and Vanessa Nakate, and I will include in a bit more detail . And while I'm continuing this introduction, I'm wondering, I think one of you has a microphone pressed on play. I'm not sure Vandana or Vanessa if it's one of you. Maybe you could just switch your microphone for a moment, and mute yourself, so that we don't have... Fantastic, thank you so much, but please stay with us. So I will continue the introduction. Today, I was supposed to be hosting the session together with Milo Rau, director, author, and Artistic Director of IPM, International Institute for Political Murder, and NTGent in Belgium, and the initiator of these series of conversations, but, unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, he cannot be with us today, which he regrets enormously. Some words on this series, which is called, again, the School of Resistance, we take the dipping of the oil price below zero on April the 20th, due to the COVID-19 crisis, as a beginning to reflect upon the possible scenarios this current crisis could lead to, and we invite experts of change around the world, like artists, activists, politicians, and philosophers. This project is funded and made possible by NTGent, IPM, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Medico International, and Merve Verlag. The School of Resistance is about facilitating open life classes on resistance in order to exercise ourselves in listening. Today, we will talk about the climate catastrophe due to the lockdowns everywhere in the world caused by COVID-19. Our carbon footprint dropped rapidly as the world's biggest polluters have been shutting down most of their industries, and cutting back their use of fossil fuels. Suddenly, international traveling and the daily traffic from home to work slowed down radically, but whether or not the environment will eventually benefit from today's crisis is anything but certainty. Crucial climate conferences and negotiations that were to take place in the next coming months are being canceled, and the mantra of "economy first" might replace climate concerns in the minds of the public and those in power. Today, we will talk with environmental activists, Vandana Shiva and Vanessa Nakate, about what the possible strategies at this very moment are if it comes to changing our relation to our environment drastically. You can ask questions, for everyone who's listening, by mailing to [email protected], or commenting under the livestream on Facebook, or via Twitter by putting #SchoolofResistance, and you can either ask questions to both of my guests, or one of them. Let me introduce both of you properly. Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, anti-globalization author, and environmental activist advocating for organic and ecological farming, and the protection of biodiversity, seed sovereignty, and social justice. In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, investigating sustainable methods of agriculture. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, which means "nine seeds for diversity", and also the "new gift", which stands for recovery of the biological and knowledge corners. Navdanya has created 150 community seed banks, and helped millions of farmers make a transition from fossil fuel, intensive chemical, intensive agriculture to biodiversity-based agro-ecology, producing more nutrition,. Healing the broken carbon and nitrogen cycles have led to climate change and re-generating the soil. Vanessa Nakate is the first Fridays For Future activist in Uganda, and the founder of the Rise up Climate Movement. Vanessa Nakate seeks to amplify the voices of climate activists from across Africa. She also spearheaded a campaign to save Congo's rain forest, and is currently working on a project to install solar panels and stoves in schools. Vandana, my first question to you, so please open your microphone so we can immediately hear you. And maybe you could both unmute yourself, because maybe you also want to respond to each other. In case we have a lot of sound, I will mention it again, and we'll see what we can do. Vandana, in a text that you wrote for the' International Day for Biological Diversity on the 22nd of May, you write, and I quote, "We stand at a precipice of extinction". "Will we allow our humanity as living, conscious, "intelligent autonomous beings, be extinguished, "by the greed machine that does not know limits, "and is unable to put a break on its colonization and destruction?" And a bit later, you write, and I quote, "Do we continue--
unmute yourself, because maybe you want to also respond to--
That's funny, I heard a double loop of myself. I will just start again with the second quote. "Do we continue protecting the conditions for our survival, "or do we extract all life for profit, "leaving a dead planet in our wake on our way to our own funeral?" I wonder, Vandana, if you could speak a little bit more about this greed machine that we, of course, have a lot of associations? I would be very interested in hearing, how do you define this greed machine? What is it precisely, and what kind of manifestations does it take? And then if it comes to the possibility of a dead planet, and our own funeral, where do you feel we're standing at the moment? Are you rather hopeful or rather pessimistic?
Vandana Shiva: So I don't define a greed machine. It's too long a process in history, and has too many faces, and too many names, but it is a process, and when you come from countries, like Vanessa does, or India, we know colonialism was based on the greed machine. What was colonialism but grabbing the resources and wealth of countries of that time which were much richer than colonizing Europe, whether it was Spain or England. India was 25% of the global economy with our spices and our textiles, and that's what Columbus was sent out to get, and that's what East India Company was created for. So it's definitely, colonialism is a greed machine, and it hasn't stopped. Just because the formalities of it don't seem to be there, but all exploitation of the greed machine is still a colonial enterprise. It's based on slavery. I mean, 1600 is when the East India Company is created. 1619 is when the first slave ship set sail for the Americas. Exactly around that time that the commons start to enclosed against the law, because the commons belonged to the people, and even one person saying no to the enclosure could block it. It took 200 years of trying to undo the common law, passing law, after law, after law in parliament to make the enclosures, and the creation of private property protect the patent. All this was happening at the same time, and then, of course, corn came along, and a little later, the oil. So the greed machine is fueled by fossil fuels, and it gave rise to a structure of being able to do work not just with the slaves that were working in the cotton plantations, but the energy slaves that were now working in the factories. According to Amory Lovins, long ago, you know, he had said, "One American has behind them hundreds of energy slaves". So when they see the productivity, it's really the productivity of energy slaves, which we don't count, and it's those energy slaves that are leading to all of the additional greenhouse gas emissions. People, human beings don't emit greenhouse gasses. Fossil fuel-based industrialism emits greenhouse gasses, and this also includes the area of agriculture, where my study, like soil, not all is shown, that if you add the production of chemical fertilizers, the production of industrial products and commodities, invasions into forests, and burning of the Amazon, or the Congo, or the Indonesian Rainforest, foreign agro business, that's what the invasions are happening for. You add it all up, what we are witnessing then is 18% of the greenhouse gasses are coming from, what they call, land use, and then you add the metals, the aluminum, the plastic, everything used for packaging, and long distance transport. I have called it food miles, and finally, a lot of food thrown away. This is part of the greed machine where you take the most basic need, food, and turn it into a money making enterprise. I was just reading today, they are now trying to have an Impossible Burger with all 20 patents on it. Patenting, and turning, you know, private property on land with enclosures was the first, but patents on seed, which is why I started Navdanya, is the next, and patents now are now human beings, are the new enclosures. The mechanical mind is part of the greed machine, because you need to break up integrated systems of relationships in the Earth that sustain the Earth and support our lives. You have to break it up into fragments so then it's extracted. So the economy is extractivist, the world view is mechanical, and all this is the nuts and bolts of the greed machine, which has now actually taken a huge advantage of the Corona pandemic. So if you look at the US data, 14 million people became unemployed in the two months of the lockdown. The billionaires walked away with 454 billion additional wealth. That's the greed machine. Today, the fact that when I wrote my book, "Oneness versus 1%", it was about 300 billionaires controlled half the wealth of the world. The next year, it became 100-something, and it just kept dropping. Three years ago, four years ago, there was 22, became 16, eight, five. So we are talking about an ever shrinking number of people controlling the greed machine, and even they really don't know how it's been driven, because so much of it, their greed, they know their greed, they know they want to control the Earth, they know they want to continue to control people as if we are still their slaves. But most importantly, they have no idea of what this machine is doing to the planet and to people, and all they can do is remove their responsibility, get into denial is all. For me, responsibility of the polluting industry is part of denialism, and I just want to make a correction, yes, in our cities it looked like the pollution went down, but overall globally, greenhouse gas admissions only declined seven to 17%, there's a little uncertainty on that, and, in fact, de-regulation has been put on fast forward in every country, whether it be Brazil, Germany, India, everywhere new coal plants. I mean, there's a big fight going on in India, where the elephant corridor has been leased out for a coal mine. So we are in not very good shape if we think of the world in the hands of the greed machine, but when we realize we are in the hands of Gaia after all. I see both the Corona epidemic, as well as the climate change, as really Gaia's very angry voice saying, "Hey, wake up, kids". "You forgot that not only am I alive, "because your mechanical assumptions assumed that I was dead magic to be exploited." "Not only am I alive, but I am in a rage right now, and these are little things I've said to wake you up." But then when we see ourselves as good citizens, we see ourselves as living organisms on a living planet with other beings, then we start to do things, that we can create hope in spite of all the negative trends, and that's the work I do. So I cultivate hope on a daily basis.
Lara: Thank you so much. I was indeed about to ask, like if you're summing it up, it just feels so dark, how does one keep hope in that? But we will continue talking about that in a bit. I'm very happy to go to Vanessa. Vanessa, somewhere you have been writing, and I quote you, "The Amazon burns, and the whole world talks about it". "California burns, and the whole world talks about it." "Congo rainforests burns, and the young girl talks about it." I wonder, you've been in your work putting emphasis on the importance of the Congo rainforest in relation, I mean, we all know the Amazon is the symbol of the green lungs, but the Congo rainforest is as much important, if it comes to climate in the world. How have you been raising awareness about this until now? And what are your dreams, if it comes to the future, in order to mobilize more people, if it comes to the Congo rainforest, and climate catastrophe in general?
Vanessa Nakate: Thank you so much. When it comes to the Congo rainforest, it is the largest rainforest in Africa, and my interest in it basically is, the fact that it represents all the forests in Africa. When you look at most African countries, they do not have the resources, or even the finances, for some of the modern solutions to climate change. So you find that the hope is in the forests of the continent. The hope is in protecting the forests that are literally the carbon sinks that we have. So when I started reading more about the Congo rainforest, I realized that it was facing massive destruction, and the fact that the entire world was so focused on the Amazon, it literally showed that a lot is going on in the Congo rainforest, but then we are not seeing much about it. Yes, the Amazon represents the lungs of the planet, but so does the Congo rainforest, and the rest of the forests, because at the end of the day, every forest matters. Whether it's in the Amazon, whether it's the Congo, whether it's the Indonesian forests, all the forests matter. So when I realized that the Congo rainforest was in danger, and that many people heavily depend on it, over 80 million people depend on the existence of this forest, and by this, I mean those who relate with it directly. We all depend on it, but then there are communities, ethnic groups that are over 150, that heavily depend on this forest. They depend on the existence, on the survival of this forest for food, for medicine, for fresh waters among others. And it doesn't just stop there. 10,000 species of animals depend on this forest. 10,000 species of plants depend on this forest. Over 1,000 species of fish depend on this forest as well. So you look at how many people depend on it, how many other living beings depend on this forest. We cannot afford to lose it. It has some of the most endangered species. For example, the okapi, it is known as the forest giraffe, and it can only be found in the Congo rainforest. Clearly showing that, if we lost the forest, that means we would lose those okapi, also known as the forest giraffe. We won't be able to see anymore. We won't be able to even think about it. The coming generations will only hear about it in history, but they won't know that it actually existed, you know? So that is why I really got the passion and desire to speak out for this forest, and calling this campaign "Save Congo Rainforest" was the fact that it is the largest in Africa, and it would be a great representation for all the forests in the African continent. So what I did, I started striking for the Congo rainforest. I use to do daily strikes, because I thought that if I did weekly strikes it would take a very long time without getting people, you know, to get involved and people to realize, and I did the strikes for, I think, many people got to find out about them on the 15th day, and many of them were actually saying, "They didn't know about the existence of this forest". To me, this was very disturbing, because if you don't know the existence of something, how will you protect it? So that means that, if many people do not know that that forest actually exists, then we will have few voices speaking up for its protection. This forest has minerals, like petroleum, you know? There are constructions of gas pipelines, and as we've had, Ms. Vandana saying that, this is the greatest greed that we have in the world right now for the fossil fuels. So even the fact that I haven't been in that forest, I know there are companies that are doing so much to extract that petroleum at the cost and at the expense of the trees, of the animals, and of the people, and also, of the continent, and the future generations. So this is a strike that has been going on for over 100 days, and this is a strike that actually got many other people to be involved. We have climate activists from Europe who strike specifically for the Congo rainforest. There are activists in Africa. There are activists in India. And basically, the way that I contribute the momentum for this campaign, is to continuously talk about it, and create the awareness, and also, to continue doing the strikes, and supporting every activist who is fighting for the protection of the Congo rainforest. I will show you one of the signs. I have it here. So we usually have signs like this, and they say, "Save Congo rainforest". And this is a campaign that you can do daily, or you can do once in a week, or you just choose the amount of days that are okay for you. You just have to write, "save Congo rainforest", and then you do the strike. And right now, we are doing online strikes. So that is how I started striking for the Congo rainforest, and that is how far the campaign has gone. It started last year in October, and it's still growing, and the movement is growing. Thank you. Oh, you're muted.
Lara: Thank you. Sorry, yes, because they told me I have some sort of strange sound in the area, so that's why I was muted, sorry. Thank you so much, Vanessa. And I will be very interested to hear more about how you are hoping to mobilize internationally, and create this movement, but let's first go back to Vandana. I will quote you again. On your blog, you were writing on the 18th of March, "We must now de-globalize the food system, which is driving climate change, disappearance of species, and the systemic health emergency". And then, further on, you were writing, "Let us make this de-globalization permanent". "Let us make a transition to localization." Of course, because of the COVID-19 crisis, we've been talking a lot about globalization, what international exchange means, if it comes to the future of our societies. And your proposal to de-globalize is very attractive. But, of course, we wonder, like, how? How is this possible? And maybe this is also something psychological, that we can only think and grow , we can only think in more. But thinking about, let's say, locality, and up-mobility, and exchange, and movement is somehow difficult. It's as if we have a gap in our imagination. So how would you envision this? Like how would a globalized world on such a level internationally be able to undo, I guess, and re-localize itself?
Vandana: Well, it took one little virus to de-globalize the world. Not only are people not, you know... They're sitting alone in their homes, yeah? So when anyone who's saying, "Oh, can we do it, how can you do it?", well, just remember, a virus taught you how to do it, and the point is now to do it consciously with conscious choices, with ecological choices, and with a full awareness that localization is a better way to be. Globalization is not the same as international trade. I mentioned my country being the attractor of colonialism. We were doing international trade. We use to send our spices out all over the world. Till the Middle Ages, Europe had no way to be able to preserve so much of their meats. It was the Indian spices that helped them. And one bag of pepper use to be exchanged for a bag of gold, which is why they wanted to control the pepper and the textiles. So international trade is when a country, and the people growing, you know, we were growing the fabrics, the pepper. You know, the spice gardens of the Western hearts are timeless. They have existed forever, and they were not destroyed, because they didn't consume the Earth. You know, they grow pepper and spices on 1/10th of the land only, and on the rest, they grow their staple food. They don't trade in dry staple. They eat the rice. They eat the coconut. They trade them the spices. So high value, low volume trade, chosen by the people who are producers, engaged in by traders who do it with other traders through freedom. That is international trade. Globalization was part of colonialism. The first free trade agreement was written by the East India Company to take over India 1716. I got involved in the globalization of the GATT and World Trade Organization, and we create and entire forum called the International Forum of Globalization. And because there's, you know... Your generations don't realize that we stopped the WTO in Seattle. We said, "Our world is not for sale". "Our world is not your trade and commodity, and corporations should not rule the world." "Corporations should not decide what agriculture will be, what food will be, who will own the seed." You know, since '87, I've been saving seeds. That was a de-globalization action, because one senator wanted to own all of the seeds of the world. And I said, "No, you don't own the seed". "You don't invent the seed." "You can't have a patent on seed." "We're going to keep seeds free." And that's why Navdanya means both diversity for nine seeds, and the gift of the commons. We created ecological systems without chemical fertilizers. So no inputs that are brought from outside. In the process, we work more and more with biodiversity. We grow our food, our research is showing, and this is real research with hundreds of farmers, that if we work with nature, we work with biodiversity without poisons, without chemicals, we can feed two times India's population, and this will be exactly the same for Africa. If Africa was allowed to practice indigenous agriculture, which is based on merely seeds, on their seed sovereignty, on their knowledge of diversity, Africa could have two times the food. Half of the people, a billion people are starving right now. Half of them are farmers. Why are they starving? Because they grow commodities at very high costs. They don't eat it, they're in debt. 400,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide. And then they buy bad stuff, costly stuff. So globalized agriculture is an agribusiness, driven agriculture, fossil fuel driven agriculture, chemical driven agriculture, and all chemicals are made from fossil fuels. That's something that the climate movement really needs to recognize. That the biggest use of chemicals, fossil fuel is an agriculture, and the biggest emitters, as I already mentioned, of greenhouse gasses, which includes nitrous oxide, methane, as well as carbon dioxide, is industrial farming, but it also invades into ecosystems, and creates new epidemic diseases. You invade into the Congo, there are going to be new diseases. You're going to have HIV, you're going to have Ebola, you're going to have SARS, you're going to have MERS, you're going to have Corona, you're going to have 300 new diseases have come. This is a result of the greed machine, and invading into forest ecosystems, which should be left for the forest, and it should be left for the beings in the forest, including the forest people. But this industrial food system is also destroying 75% of the planet. I think it's even more since my two years ago, because they've expanded more. 75% of land and soil destruction, 75% of water destruction, 93% of biodiversity, extinction in the last 30 years. Insects are disappearing, bees are disappearing, because you're using insecticides. And then you're turning people into refugees, driving them off the land, and the people who are eating this food are getting sick. Cloning diseases are the biggest killers today. A million people annually are dying of cancer. 1.9 million are dying, are dying of diabetes. These are all food related diseases. And if you look at the Corona data, if you get an infection from this virus, the risk of your mortality is .5% or 1%. But if you have diabetes, it's 9.2%. If you have cancer, it's 7.6%. So the agribusiness induced diseases are amplifying the risks of the Corona, which is also created by the greed machine of agribusiness. De-localization, de-globalization means localization. It means seed serenity. It means poison-free cultivation, growing more food. Our farmers, because they're not trapped in debt for seed, they are not trapped in debt for chemical inputs, and they're not trapped to the big players, the big Walmart's, and the big Targets, to sell low-cost commodities. They're earning 10 times more, because they have sovereignty over their distribution, and so they're earning 10 times more. But not just the farmers are doing better, the soil is doing better. If I was to read out to you the data on how much the soil, and here is the link to climate change, our soils have increased carbon content by 99%, where it's gone down in chemical farms by 14%. Nitrogen content has gone up 100%. That means we are pulling out the carbon dioxide, and nitrogen from the atmosphere, and healing the climate cycle. That's what I say about healing the cycles, and it's gone up 22%. It's gone down 22% in the chemical farms, but zinc, and magnesium, and other vital micronutrients that are necessary for health, these are the deficiencies that are leading to lots of metabolic disorders. They all go up with organic farming, and they go down. So we are producing very inefficiently. 10 units of imports of energy are producing one unit of food, and this food is nutritionally empty and toxic, and it's giving us hunger, and disease, and malnutrition. So it's not a food system. So we have to localize the food system. And the beautiful thing about this moment is, I've been doing this agriculture work for 35 years, ecological work for 50 years, when I use to talk about localization, the people of the North use to say, "Oh, it's easy for you, you have peasants", yeah? We've lost our small farmers. At the Navdanya University, where we have courses on how to return to the Earth, and learn how to live peacefully with the Earth, we get a lot of young people, and I'm now getting letters saying, "I was at your school 10 years ago, and now I have a farm", and "I was at your school 15 years ago, and now I run this campaign for localization". So this movement for localization is growing, and during the lockdown, it's only where local food systems were in place that people had food, because the long distance supply chains had crashed. I think just one last thing on this. While we are realizing that de-globalization is vital for the planet, as well as our health for avoiding pandemics, as well as climate change, those who created all these problems are looking for the next step of industrialization, and the next step of globalization. They're now talking about farming without farmers, and food without farms. But if industrial food has already given us diseases, because they forgot our gut is a rich diversity of 60 trillion microbes, our gut microbiome is called the second brain, and it's damaging that that is causing the diseases. If we start eating fake food not only we'll keep destroying the planet, we will have very sick people, which makes total sense for agribusiness, because the people who sell the chemicals, and make money giving us cancer, are also big pharma who controls the cancer medicines. The same people who've given us the Corona will control the drugs, anti-viral drugs to patent, and the vaccines to patents to control it. So big ag, poison cartel. Big pharma are one continuum, and they want people to be sick. They don't want people to be healthy, because healthy people are not a market. Healthy people are healthy people.
Lara: Yes, thank you for this, Vandana. This is indeed your analysis on the poison cartel, and the cycles, the kind of closed deathly cycles that you described. That will be interesting to hear a bit about more. And also, I was wondering like, I mean, you've been touching upon that, but indeed, what does it mean for us thinking locally again? Does it really influence our lives, our food patterns? Should we all start to grow food? I mean, what are the implications? Because I think we love to listen, like, to people like you, and think like, "It's all possible", and, you know, re-energize while listening to your strong voice, and at the same time, I feel we are in need of, let's say, practical tools. Like what are the implication, and how can we also change, you know, also in the global North, ourselves? But before we continue on that, Vanessa, I would be interested in hearing a bit more. Vandana is also describing, like, the situation in India. Could you share a bit, the situation in Central Africa, if it comes to climate catastrophe, you've been already describing? But in one of the interviews, you're talking also about the rise of water levels, of Lake Victoria, for example, and there are other elements. Could you describe a little bit what, let's say, concretely the effects are in Central Africa? And maybe you also respond to Vandana, on Vandana's proposal, if it comes to the changing agriculture, going to biodiversity, re-generating the soil. Like how are you listening to that? Are those strategies that you feel could also work in Central Africa, or how are you thinking about this?
Vanessa: Thank you. When it comes to Africa, I would say that, Africa, as a continent, heavily depends on their natural resources, and this cuts across every part of the African continent. So from where I come from, which is Uganda, and the neighboring countries, climate change is really, really threatening two major things, and that is water scarcity, sorry, water security and food security. This is because climate change is disrupting the weather patterns, and disrupting the distribution of rainfall in the different parts of the African continent. So you find that, because of the increasing temperatures in the hemisphere, there is so much of an uneven distribution of rainfall. Meaning that we are experiencing shorter rain these seasons, and longer dry spells. So literally, areas that were receiving rainfall are now receiving shorter rainfall patterns, and this common form of heavy rainfall, exactly what is happening in Uganda and Kenya, the countries that connect to Lake Victoria, because we know that water warms up and expands. When it warms up, it expands. So that's also contributing to the increase in water levels. Then the fact that, through that warming, there is evaporation taking place. That means there is so much of condensation going on, and then receiving of more rainfall back into the lakes. So there are many, many effects that come after this, because weather increasing our water levels of Lake Victoria, many people's homes have been destroyed, because the water is encroaching in people's homes, people's farms, and people's lives, you know? So you find that many people have been left displaced with no homes, and many people have lost their farms. As I say, that climate change greatly, it greatly affects the food sector when it comes to the African continent since many people depend on that, their livelihoods depend on that. And then, with that, with the increasing water levels, comes an opportunity, or I would call it an opportunity, it's more of a challenge of diseases to rise up. For example, this lake, when the water rises up, it also submerges the toilets in the areas. And you find that many people depend on the water from the lakes, so they're being pushed to use contaminated water, and this brings about more challenges, diseases like Cholera, that kill children below five years every day in our countries, you know? Many of the diseases are water-born diseases. So with the fact that the climate crisis is increasing the temperatures, and also causing water levels to rise, many people's homes are being threatened, and these are going to be cause to migrate to look for better places of survival. But in most cases, these people find themselves in slums, or impoverished areas, and then you see that many of them lose their farms. That means they lose their source of food, and they're pushed to a point of either starving, or the point of surviving on just one meal a day, or the point of eating today, skipping a meal tomorrow, and then eating the next day, and it doesn't just stop on that. Many are also affected in the form of having access to clean water, because there is an issue of water scarcity. Not everyone can survive with contaminated water. So with all these things, it's more like how you see an organization's structure. So when the climate crisis affects the food sector and the water sector, more problems are backed from that, because a family that doesn't have access to food, how do you expect the children to go to school on a hungry stomach? So that means, from the climate crisis, there is also a secondary effect of education being affected. So a child cannot go to school on a hungry stomach, you know? Some of them have to stay at home to help out their parents, to help out their families in recovering their lost farms, in trying to be able to grow crops, and be able to get something that they can survive on in the coming days, or in the coming years. So many of them are going to be pushed to leave school. They're going to be forced to leave school, and what happens when this takes place? We're going to continuously see people move in a poverty trap, you know? Because with education, people are able to study, get employed, and get jobs. But then with these problems, and education being affected, you're going to find that communities that are already vulnerable are going to be pushed into more vulnerability. I'll also speak about the issue of equality when it comes to this. So many of the people in the African continent, I think it's the same thing when it comes to India, it is the women who are in charge of the food and the water, provision of food, and water for their families. They carry out the growing. They carry out the planting of the crops. So you find that many of these women lose their only, lose their hard work to climate change, because they lose their farms. So that means they have to either work so much in order to recover what they've already lost, or some of them have to walk very long distances in order to get water. When I saw the water stress in Chennai, and how people were struggling to get water, I would say that, if it was out of 100%, 90% of those people were women. So the climate crisis is also affecting the improvements that are being done on gender equality. So we are seeing that women are still pushed more into vulnerability places because of the climate crisis. And then there is an issue over children brides as a resort of climate change. In the African continent, we've so much heard about children brides and early marriages for teenagers. But then climate change is also pushing the early marriages at a very, very fast rate, because when a family loses everything, that means they are left with no other option but to give up some of their children for marriage in order to get a bride price that can help them recover, or in order to reduce on the number of the children at home. And this I say, because I read it from an article that was clearly stating how climate brides come about. And it was so heartbreaking to see that many of these families painfully give away their children, because they have this thing that, when I give out my child, they'll be able to survive in another person's home, and then I'll have fewer children to take care of, and, unfortunately, it is always the girl child, again, going back to the issue of gender inequalities. So there's so many issues that come with the climate crisis. I have some street children in my country. I have seen them in Nigeria. And you realize that, most of these people, now, I'll speak for my country, they are pushed to the streets, not because they want to, but because of poverty. But then some of this, actually, most of the poverty is being driven by the climate crisis. We won't be able to achieve. We won't be able to eradicate poverty without addressing climate change. Because, now, in my country, when you look at the street children, most of them look like they come from the same region of the country, and as they grow up, I heard so much about this region, and it was known to be a semi-arid region, but with the increasing temperatures, what if things are west now, and they're trying to survive? They're running away from the high temperatures in their communities that don't favor food production, that don't favor human survival, so they're trying to go to the streets in order to survive, but some of them, as I said, they're either pushed to the slums, impoverished regions, or some of them stay on the street whereby they survive on the coin that they give them. I mean, and not everyone actually gives out that money. It's few people who decide to, "Okay, I'll give you a coin to help you for the day". So the climate crisis, it doesn't just have primary effects, it comes with secondary effects as well, but the primary effects being the fact that it affects the natural resources, and Africa being a continent that depends on natural resources. That means food security is being affected. Water security is being affected. And where there is no water, more problems are backed. Diseases, women having to walk long distances, children having to give up school. Some feel it's food security. Where there is food scarcity, many children will be pushed to leave school, many will be pushed into early marriages. And then, with that, I've seen so much, especially in this period of the pandemic, that the climate crisis actually makes any other crisis more dangerous. We are experiencing this crisis, but there are communities that are suffering with climate change. So they are dealing with two challenges at the same time. For example, in Kasese, we've seen the rivers burst, flooding, people's homes stripped away, people's farms stripped away, and people being left with nothing. I mean, if the guidelines of the WHO is telling us to stay at home, how will people stay at home if they have lost everything to the climate crisis? How will people try to stay safe if they have lost everything to the climate crisis? So the climate issue affects any other issue, and it makes any other crisis more dangerous. And about the issue that Ms. Vandana talked about, I believe in re-generative agriculture. I believe there are better ways of doing food production, crop growing, that not only benefit the people, but also ensure the protection of our planet, because we see some of the agricultural processes, and the agricultural methods that are used. At the end of the day, the affect so much of the climate. They affect the environment. You know, that the agriculture sector contributes so much to climate change just after the fossil fuel industry. It takes so much of the water. It takes so much of the land. So a lot goes on with agriculture. That is why I believe in what Ms. Vandana said. We need better principles of doing agriculture. That will ensure that people get plain food, enough food, as well as protecting the planet. But we can only drive some of these processes with the help of the leaders. Not all the farmers are able to drive these processes. Not all of them have the funds to build such systems. But with the leaders, I believe that if they are willing to help, we can be able to see the agriculture sector provide food for the people, but not at the expense of the planet.
Lara: Thank you. Yes, I think this last point that you raised, and it must be so frustrating to be in a place where the consequences of, let's say, the global North industries, fossil fuels, are so apparent. But maybe the feeling of powerlessness, if it comes to have really an impact on these globalized policies. And you were speaking about leaders and people in power, and I think it would be interesting to dive a bit deeper in that. Like how is, political, the situation? And in what way are you feeling, do have a feeling to be heard or not heard? But maybe first, go back. By the way, we have two beautiful questions of the audience, people that are watching us, for both of you, but I postponed it a little bit to the end. So I would like to go back a little bit, Vandana, to our former point, if it comes to concrete implications for our lives, but also, to what this momentum is, due to the Coronavirus? You were talking about both positive and negative. So at the one hand, let's say, regulations that are falling away, things are getting worse, and on the same time, you write, in the same times that you wrote for International Day for Biological Diversity that, "The Corona crisis creates a new opportunity "to make paradigm shifts "from the mechanistic industrial age of separation, domination, greed, and disease to the age of Gaia", that you were talking about before. So do you see, indeed, this period as specifically an opportunity, as you were saying before also? I mean, we've seen it's possible due to this disease, that suddenly nation states start to act, or are you actually more pessimistic, if it comes to the momentum? Because, you know, at the same time, things are actually getting worse, if it comes to climate.
Vandana: I’ve never been a pessimist. I have taken very seriously the power of those who are engaging in willful destruction of this planet, our only home, and destruction of lives on a very, very, very large scale. If you think of just the lockdown is costing 1.9 billion people their livelihoods out of 3.3 billion people in the world who work. According to the World Food Program, 113 million people will be pushed to starvation. Every day, 300,000 are going to die, if we don't act and shift the system. So again, the point is the issue of action. A: we are citizens, and we've been reduced to consumers, yeah? Now, to consume roots of the word consume is to destroy. The word consumption in the Middle Ages in Europe use to mean that you're going to die of tuberculosis. TB was called, he has consumption, and now, the whole planet is dying of consumption, and people are dying of consumption. We've been made to forget that we are creative beings. We've been given hands, and we've been given heads, and we've been given hearts, and when you take the integrity of our heads, and hearts, and hands, everything that the Earth wants us to do, we can do. Yes, everyone should grow food just for the sake of learning, once again, that you can grow food, and you are part of the Earth. If nothing else, take a pot in your balcony, put some soil, put a seed, take your favorite plant, could be a basil, could be a tomato. If you have a little patch, grow a garden. When Greece was collapsing, a young person said, "I've lost my job, what do I do?". I said, "Grow a garden in your balcony". Wrote to me later, "I'm feeding my whole street". A boy in Michigan said, "I am homeless, I have no job, and Detroit is collapsing as the automobile industry", and I'd written "Soil Not Oil", and I've written in that, "The best thing we can do is be soil builders, because, in that, lies the climate solution", because when you build the soil that's regenerative agriculture. We pulled that carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere where an excess amount does not belong, and we put it in that soil where the soil , and leave that nitrogen, and that nitrogen doesn't come from synthetic fertilizers, which were the same process that made ammunition in Hitler's Germany. Nitrogen fixing crops, our parcels and beans can fix nitrogen with absolutely no violence. But even more importantly, your earthworms in soil, and bacteria give you nitrogen. So begin by growing your food. Create a community garden. And from what I said, if you think of where the greed machine, which doesn't know when to put a foot stop, you know? They are a cancer on this planet, and the cancer cell is a cell which doesn't know when to stop growing. All the healthy cells in our body, they're born, and they die, and they replenished. Our body is replenished every few hours. Healthy cells come and go, come and go, come and go. The cancer cell doesn't know when to stop growing. The green machine doesn't know when to stop growing. And because they're now looking at our food, they destroyed our agriculture, now they want to make money out of every morsel we eat with patents and extraction, and GMO seeds, and Impossible Burgers. They are going to attack your health. This is a direct war against your body, and that's why if you're politically active, we want you to be in the School of Resistance, stand your ground to take care of your health, take care of the sovereignty of your community, and, of course, you'll have to work, but all resistance means joining hands. All resistance means finding our creative potential. And I want to give you a little story, which connects Vanessa's country and mine. India's the biggest grower of bananas, and Uganda's the second. I use to go to Uganda to advise them on globalization policies and WTO policies, and it was fascinating to see that Uganda is the only culture in the world who's staple is the banana. They eat banana at breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and they have hundreds of varieties. In India, we have hundreds of varieties. So, of course, the greed machine, Bill Gates, finances an Australian scientist, who has pirated a banana from the pacific Island, to then genetically engineer bananas. In India, they want you to sell it as an iron deficiency banana that will save women from dying in childbirth. We fought it. We stopped it. So they ran with it to Uganda, and, you know, now, it's a Vitamin A banana. Suddenly, the same genetic engineering from iron rich had become Vitamin A rich, but it is the same company, so those are the same patents, and I hope it hasn't made progress, and Vanessa, I would love to work with you to make sure the GMO banana does not destroy your banana biodiversity, which is your food serenity. I think we are at a very, very unique moment, not only because multiple crisis have descended on us together, it is a new Coronavirus, but it's an old series of infectious diseases from the pattern of invasion. Building on the same chronic diseases that are only a gift to humanity from the last 30 years. We didn't have these epidemics before. Inequality, where a tiny group of people control so much wealth, and we've never seen these levels, Vanessa described it so deeply about what this greed machine means, and taking away basic lives and livelihoods from people. So the inequality question. And at the same time, the question of a food crisis. Even in the rich countries where access to healthy, good food is becoming more and more difficult, because the system has gone industrialized. When I write about the age of Gaia, I don't mean that now Gaia will come alive. She's alive. All ages have been ages of Gaia. That's why I have never agreed to the word Anthropocene I think anthropocentrism is part of the greed machine, that humans are superior to other species, and we have a right to annihilate them, and annihilate the forest. We are superior. But anthropocentrism is also built into defining this age as Anthropocene, because we'll always be small players. Even climate havoc is the rage of Gaia. Those storms are her screaming and shouting. She is not a passive, dead Earth. She is an active Gaia, that's why she's called Gaia by James Hanson, who realized, "Oh my God, she organizes herself". "She is alive." Well, our cultures always knew the Earth is alive, and all ages are ages of Gaia, but when I talk about age of Gaia, now, I mean it as a human consciousness, that we need to get out of the fossil fuel imagination of industrialism and a dead Earth to a recognition that the Earth is alive. We are members of the Earth family, and we can re-generate. We have a duty re-generate to re-generate. That's why where we avoid getting into despair, and hopelessness, and pessimism. Recognizing the power of Gaia, because it means everything doesn't rest on us. Most of it rests on her. What rests on us is gratitude to her, recognition of her rights, recognition of her path, and giving back to her. That art of giving back is ecological agriculture It's called the law of return. It's taking what she gives and saying, "Here it is "for organic manure for you, and in this process, "I facilitated you for doing the work you do so brilliantly, "of pulling that carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide "out of the air, and getting rid of fossil fuels so there are no new emissions". We have an amazing living Earth system. We just have to start becoming humble players in it, rather than arrogant masters.
Lara: I couldn’t agree more, Vandana. Vanessa, I would be interested, like Vandana's almost proposing to start a collaboration with you, if it comes to the banana, maybe much more. You were mentioning the leaders, and Vandana gives a clear, let's say, spectrum of how to think differently, how to think the Earth as a living organism, how to start growing our own garden, but if we are pessimistic, or, you know, how to say it? Maybe dark minded, we could say, "Yeah, this is still very much on the individual level", and this poison cartel Vandana is talking so much about are such strong powers that we cannot beat them, or how to beat them? You were also describing how the people suffering are often not the people that have the energy busy with activism as they are struggling for survival, so you took on that job. How are you seeing strategies, possible strategies, if it comes to these big powers? You were talking about leaders, how do we get their attention? How do we make this paradigm shift Vandana is talking about possible?
Vanessa: Thank you so much, and I'm so willing to work with you Ms. Vandana. I really appreciate that. Then about the powers and the people who literally hold the systems of the planet, I must say, that we, as citizens, we have voices, but, unfortunately, we don't have the authority to change some of these systems. At the end of the day, it is our voices that will drive the change, and also our actions that will drive the change, because you find that women want all these things, I'm sure, before the current activists spoke about the dangers of the planet. There have been so many other activists who have been speaking up for very many years. But at the end of it all, changing these systems is not in our hands. Unfortunately, it's in the hands of the people that are in power. So the first tape is putting the right people in power. Many times, most of the people or activists speak so much about the best kind candidate for a specific position in government. They endorse the candidates maybe on their social media platforms, but the issue is, they never step out to do the voting, and that is mainly for the younger activists. They never step out to do the voting. So I think that the only way that we can get the attention of these leaders, and not just attention, because, right now, of course, we have their attention. They know that we exist. The know of the work that we are doing, but they're not willing to do the change. They're not willing to give up this whole fantasy of the fossil fuel industry. So that means, we will have to vote the right leaders into power, but we do not vote on social media. We can't vote from social media. Your posts won't vote, your tweet won't vote. You actually have to step out. Especially for the young people, as you do the endorsements on social media, go to the ground and carry out the voting. That is the way that we will put the right leaders into power. And then, the other way is by using our voices, because we have seen so many movements from way back. I've read so much about past movements. I've read about some that were so successful, some that weren't successful, and when you look at those that were successful, you realize that, they were clear about their demands, and they never give up. They kept on speaking. They kept on pushing, regardless of what the leaders say. You may be in your country, and you're doing activism, but you feel like you are not heard. The thing is, you are actually heard, they just don't want to show you that you are actually doing something. So you just have to keep speaking. And we have to be clear with our demands. We don't have to give up. We have to keep pushing. We have to be focused. Because if you're working a distance of 1,000, maybe 1,000 kilometers, and you'll probably walk 500 kilometers, and you decide to go back. You realize, that when you go back, you would have walked the whole distance to your destination. So this is not the time for us activists to keep silent, especially in this time. We are looking at this pandemic, and we see so much focus is on the current pandemic, and for some reason, people have actually forgotten about the existence of the climate crisis. So this is where the activists come in. They shouldn't stay silent. They should keep speaking on their online platforms. We have to create awareness in every way possible than just up and doing awareness online. Go to local communities, go to schools, you know? It's like sewing a seed in those people. At one point, that seed will grow, and those people will demand for action, because if we are many people demanding for the same thing, our collective will will help us get the change, and the actions that we need from our leaders. So we need to make sure that we create more awareness in our activism, but we shouldn't stop in our own circles. We need to actually go to the local communities, especially those that are the frontline of the climate crisis. And in this, we need to also up front the indigenous knowledge, the indigenous wisdom. We need to understand how they've been able to preserve some of these ecosystems for a very long time. And with this knowledge, that is how we shall present this to the government leaders. We need to present this knowledge. We need to present this wisdom to them, whether they like it or not. And then I think the other way that we can get attention of the people in power, is by actually bringing the most affected communities on the stage, because most times, the affected communities are spoken for by the people actually don't face the direct impacts. We need someone. We need that farmer from that village somewhere, from that local region, from that rural area. We need that farmer on the stage to actually explain what they're going through. We don't need someone who is going to just give a picture of what is happening. We need someone who has actually experienced, or even seen what is happening on the ground, because some of those people in power, they need to be held accountable by the very people who are affected by the climate crisis. I must say, that what we've seen so far, and what we are seeing now, the people who are holding the powers accountable, most of these people are not even directly impacted by the climate crisis. So maybe, that's why some of these powers don't get much attention, because they think that, "Okay, if the most affected people are not saying something, why do we have to do something?". "Your life is already well off." So we need the victims, we need those at the frontline, we need to bring them to hold those powers accountable for the climate crisis. Yeah.
Lara: Very clear, Vanessa. It's very powerful to hear you both speak about the importance of working on the ground, of maybe not only think in abstraction about those bigger systems surrounding us, but in a way that also always comes down to going to the people around you, emancipation, spreading the word, but going out to the streets, doing that work. Which I guess, under the current circumstances with the virus, it's quite harsh and difficult, but, of course, we're very much limited through to the digital realm. And we try, I think, with platforms, like this one, to, I mean, empower as much as possible. I would like to go to some questions of people watching us. I have a question, two questions for you, Vandana. Let's start with the first one, and see how far we go. So someone is asking, if you could talk more, no, there's someone saying, sorry, I was looking for the right one. Someone's saying, "I admire your force and energy". "You give and you've given since years and years "to the fight for justice, and for the Earth and its living species." "Could you talk about how personally reenergize yourself, and your sense of optimism?"
Vandana: I think they forget that, you know, the universe is energy, and if we work in alignment with Gaia, we weren't in alignment with our conscious, we don't get depleted, yeah? But everything about life is about renewable energy. Life renews itself. A seed that's planted grows into a plant. We, ourselves, are renewing themselves. Do you get up in the morning and say, "Oh, my God, I'm dead, how will I work"? You sleep, you rest, you're back again, you know? So it is in the nature of every living autonomous self-organized being to be able to renew their energy as part of their life. Years ago, you know I had to do a study on mining for our Ministry of Environment, and the women, there was a group of women who came to me, "Why did you leave our mine out?". And I said, "We didn't leave it out, it wasn't in the map". So they said, "If we do a civil disobedience, will you join us?". I said, "I will, of course I will". They sat and blocked the equipment, and the bulldozers, and the earth moving machine, and then they were attacked, because violence is the nature of the greed machine. It cannot work without violence. It's not a market force. I think we should never use the term market for this. It is a war machine. It's a violent machine. And the women had been attacked, and I was told, so I rushed, and I found, I thought they'd be in their homes. There was someone with a bandage, someone with a hand in a fracture, and they were sitting right there at the protest camp. And they said, "Well, Davie was no more". She was the old woman who was leading this protest, because the mining was destroying their water. And I asked her exactly that same question. I said, "How do you get the energy when beaten up yesterday, and you're back here to protest?", and she said something so beautiful. She said, "We are walking on the grass, it bounces right back". Every day we take leaves from the trees to feed our animals, the trees come right back. The power in nature, which we call , is the power in us, which we call , and that, I think, has to be the power in every resistor, to stand your ground, because I can tell you, that after this COVID virus, the greed machine is going to become more violent. They're going to take away more liberties. They will use more force, and now, they will use a lot of surveillance systems, a lot of control systems, and we have to be even more strong in standing our ground, and our ground is our being.
Lara: Beautiful. It makes me think of what you said. You wrote also about how, let's say, Microsoft, two patents, start mining our bodies in order to understand better how we consume, that you already metaphorically explained as destroy, in a way. So I thought that was very interesting. It was also, I mean, again a wake up call, if it comes to how we let ourselves govern also.
Vandana: And one more thing. I want to just add to what Vanessa was saying. You know, in democracy people bring change, and it's when people create enough of a shift that systems change. I have worked for so long against the poison cartel. I didn't want an organic movement, but not only do I work with six states in my country that want to go organic at the government level, Europe has just passed a new Farm To Fork policy. Part of it is getting rid 50% of pesticides. Our poison-free campaign says, "By 2030, we must get rid of all pesticides, and all chemicals, and fossil fuels in agriculture". We need to keep pushing them. If we can bring them to 50%, we can bring them to 100%.
Lara: Exactly. Another question for you, Vanessa. Someone is asking you, "Can you talk more about "what it means for you and people from Congo, Uganda "to do a strike, and how do you strike, "and what are the sacrifices in relation to more privileged parts of the world?".
Vanessa: Well, I'll speak from my own perspective, and where I come from, that is Uganda. Of course, it's very hard to do the strikes simply because getting permits it's literally impossible, especially if you have no big organization behind you. So you're literally on your own as an activist, or as a group of activists, and it's very hard to get the permit. So I must say that, most of the strikes that I've been part of, they have been more of risky strikes, whereby you just go to the streets, and expecting anything, because you don't have a permit, and, you know, you have to explain yourself so much to the authority in case they are bothered by your strike, and they come to ask questions. And, of course, the strikes in my country, they are not the strikes that we see in the global North. It is literally impossible to do such, large strikes of students, simply because most of the students, first of all, they are in the boarding sector, and then those who are in desk sector, what I mean boarding, like they stay at school, they only come back for holidays. And then for the death sector, the dissection, sorry, you find that many students, they find it difficult in walking out of the schools to do the strikes simply because education is so upheld in my country, and it's literally the key to success, that is what they tell us. As you grow up, that is the key to success. So it is very hard to convince a student, who clearly knows what education means to them, to walk out of school to do a strike. And then the other thing, many of them are afraid, because walking out of school to do the strikes, and walking out of the gates, or even disrespecting the security guard at the gate to walk out would subject them to either suspension or expulsion. So you weigh in all this, and you understand the students. You understand the fear that they have. You understand the respect that they have for their parents, because most of their parents, they struggle a lot to make sure that their students are in school. So you put all these factors together, and you understand why they cannot walk out to do the strikes. And then the fact that we never have time, so what we do, we usually do the strikes in very small numbers, but in different locations. So you can find that someone is doing a strike in Kampala, someone's doing a strike in Sseguku, someone is doing a strike in Namugongo, someone's doing a strike in Gayaza. You literally cover different places at the same time to try and drive the impact and the change because of how complicated it is. So when it comes to the privilege of doing the strikes, it is not the same thing as it is in the global North, and the fact that many people in the African continent, they have so many issues that they have to deal with, some of them have daily needs that they have to meet. So you find that not all of them will be interested in doing climate activism, because they'll ask you, "What do I gain?", and, of course, you understand them, because they are literally living to survive. Some people live their days to survive. Whatever they earn daily is what they eat on that day. So they'll ask you, "What do I gain from doing activism?", and you have nothing to tell them. You have to tell them, "There is nothing to gain, you're just doing this for the climate", and that's already a discouragement to them, because they want to get involved in something that brings in some money for them, or for their children, or, you know, for their families. And then there is an issue of awareness that has also affected the strikes. Not everyone knows about the climate crisis. Not every local farmer, not every person understands the connection between the fossil fuels and the climate crisis. And, of course, me, as an activist, and other fellow activists, we have tried to do their awareness through going to schools themselves and talking to students within the schools, going to local communities, but we cannot reach everywhere. It is hard to reach everywhere, because most of us are doing this by our own selves. We don't have any organization behind us. So we reach the places that we are able to reach, but we can't reach everyone, so that is also an issue. So there is not much privilege when it comes to the climate strikes in Uganda, and I think it cuts across the African continent. But I must say that, a single voice is able to drive change, just like one match from a matchbooks is able to cause an explosion. A single voice is able to drive change. So the fact that we are few doesn't mean that we are powerless. It means that even in our small numbers, even in our strikes that almost seem impossible, we are actually powerful, and we are able to drive change in our communities. Yeah.
Lara: Very impressive to hear you talk about this, especially because it's hard to imagine the risks you're taking to speak for so many who can't. I would like to do one last round, but I have to ask you, unfortunately, to try to be a bit short because of time, but I would like to have these last two questions from the audience included. So Vandana, someone is asking if you could address how to provide agency to local communities that are traditionally marginalized from broader policy making discussions? So we know you've been working with a lot of communities, with the seed banks, so maybe you could tell us a bit more concretely, short, how you are working with those. And then, Vanessa, I have a question. Maybe I just collect them? Someone is saying, "You talk about the importance "of listening to indigenous knowledge, where would you position the knowledge of the scientists?". "Is it a matter of combining both, and how do you make their knowledge available for those that are less educated on the matter?" so I guess, how do you amplify this indigenous knowledge and wisdom you were talking about? So please, Vandana, and then Vanessa.
Lara: Short but strong, if you both can.
Vandana: I’ve already said, that everything living has agency. The Earth as a whole has agency. That tiniest microbe has agency, yeah? Otherwise, how could one little virus, even though it's not a full living being, how could a virus bring the whole planet to a halt? You wanna argue with me it doesn't have agency? It has agency. So I think we've developed this vocabulary of inertness of the other, you know? A dead Earth, people without power. I think our roll is, A: To remove the forces of disempowerment. The forces that rob people of agency. And second, because some of us are in positions where we get to know what's going on in the systems of power. I came to know about the patenting of seed. I took it to the communities. They, on their own, decided they were going to save their seeds. 200 villagers gathered, and said, "How dare a WTO allow companies to patent our seeds?". "These are our family." "We are going to create a living democracy movement." "In our village, we will decide that "all living beings are part of our family, and every pirate is a thief." And those movements are what brought the bio-pirates to their knees. So the main thing is, we don't have to empower this, everyone has power. We have to remove the disempowerment, and we have to have solidarity, that's what we have to do. We have to uncover the agency that is there.
Lara: Thank you so much. Vanessa.
Vanessa: Yes, thank you. For that question, I will try and use a human body to explain it. So when you look at a human body, it cannot be fully treated by maybe a surgeon or a dentist. I don't know if it's coming out, or what I'm trying to say is that, every part of a human body needs a specific kind of doctor, or specific kind of specialist in medicine. So you find that the eyes have their own specialist, the teeth have their own specialist, but then they all work together to make sure that the human body is okay. So when it comes to scientific knowledge, and indigenous knowledge, I'm trying to say that, the two need to work together to address the climate crisis. You find that there are communities, for example, in my country, in my tribe, there are very many people that are named after plants, named after animals, named after fish. So this was a form of preservation. Science may not be able to understand this kind of wisdom, but I must tell you that, it was able to preserve these animals, these trees, this plant for a very long time. But then, also, scientific knowledge is important to actually show us where we are, where we stand when it comes to the climate crisis, because it gives us the facts that we don't have. But then we have to make sure that this scientific knowledge is brought today, local people today, indigenous people, in a way that helps them understand. You won't go and tell someone, "We have to make sure we keep the degrees below two, you know, below two degrees". "We have to make sure we keep the temperatures below two degrees." Not everyone understands that knowledge. But, actually, when you mix that knowledge with indigenous knowledge, and tell them, "Okay, you see that, before, we used to have this, but now we don't have it". Science explains it in this way. That means that we have to do something to protect the planet. You bring it in the knowledge that they understand. Scientific knowledge is good. Indigenous knowledge is good. Same thing as a dentist is good, an eye specialist is good, a neurosurgeon is good, you know? I don't know who works on burns. I don't know what they're called, but they're also good. The burns--
Vanessa: The burn specialist, they're also good. But then they work together to make sure that the human body is okay, someone can see, someone can eat well, someone can breathe well. So it's the same thing with the climate crisis. We need to integrate this knowledge. We need to work together in order to be able to get the change, and the action that we need. Every kind of wisdom is needed. Same thing, I will also try to bring in the issue of inter-generation knowledge. We, as activist, the younger activists, we are good, yes? We play a part, yes? But even the older activists play a part. So we are all needed to address the climate crisis. We need more inter-generation in taking climate action, in driving climate activism. So it's the same thing with knowledge. We all need to work together. Whether you carry indigenous knowledge, you are needed, because you have your wisdom. Whether you are a scientist, you have knowledge, you have your wisdom. And if we put that knowledge together, we'll be able to ensure that the Earth is alive, the same way a human body is okay with every organ working perfectly.
Lara: Thank you. Thank you so much Vandana Shiva, Vanessa Nakate. I think this last metaphor is very beautiful, of the specialists looking at all the fragmented parts of the body, knowing so much about this little thing. But then I think what your both being clean for today is very much this ideal of integration, instead of fragmentation, collaboration, seeing how things are interdependent of each other. And I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to you both, to listen, mostly, and offer the opportunity to other people to listen to both of you. I will just roundup by mentioning, that the next episode, the third episode, will be live streamed on Thursday the 11th of June on six o'clock. Realized with the support of Medico International, and starting from the current living and working situation of textile workers in Pakistan. We will discuss the global production and supply chains, of what we call, "global economy.” How is it really functioning, and how can it be changed? Thanks again, Vandana Shiva, Vanessa Nakate, and let's continue our struggle together.
Vandana: Thank you, Lara, thank you, Vanessa. Very nice meeting you both.
Lara: I’m looking forward—
Vanessa: Thank you, Vandana.
Lara: —to your collaboration.
Vanessa: Nice to meet you both.
Lara: Let us know.
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