Grow, Girl 

Vandana Shiva campaigns to protect farmers and food.

Born in far northwestern India to a forest-conservator father and a farmer mother, Vandana Shiva attended convent schools before earning a Ph.D in physics at a Canadian university. Having widened her academic interests to technology and environmental policy, Shiva has in the last few decades become one of the world's pioneering agricultural activists. Her efforts toward advocating biodiversity and raising the status of Third World women while fighting genetic engineering have garnered worldwide attention and such laurels as a Right Livelihood Award, a Global 500 Award, the Dutch Order of the Golden Ark, Italy's Pellegrino Artusi Award, and the Earth Day International Award, among many others. She will deliver a lecture titled "Soil, Not Oil! — Securing Our Food in Times of Climate Change" at the First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way, Berkeley) on September 2, introduced by anti-technology/anti-globalization icon Jerry Mander and Debi Barker of the US office of Navdanya International, an India-based scientific research program that Shiva founded.

"Over the past three decades I have tried to be change I want to see," writes Shiva, whose nearly two dozen books include Water Wars, Breakfast of Biodiversity, Staying Alive, and Monocultures of the Mind. "When I found global corporations wanted to patent seeds, crops or life forms, I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers' rights, and promote organic farming." The lecture addresses how industrialized global agriculture "is a recipe for eating oil" — dangerous now, even more dangerous in years to come. Among her ideas for fixing the problem is increased localization of food production. For her, it's personal: "My journey on the road to ecological sustainability started with the Chipko movement in the 1970s," Shiva recalls, "when women in the region of the Himalayas protected forests by hugging trees." At the time, their anti-logging protests were widely mocked in the mainstream media. But Shiva had found her calling: "The defence of nature's rights and people's rights have come together for me."

It's a rare Bay Area visit for the author, who travels widely and oversees several aid and research programs. This year, her Navdanya program teamed up with Indian farmers to protest more than two dozen dams that are planned along the Ganges river, which would upset cultural traditions while damaging local ecosystems beyond repair. Shiva saw the results of such changes during the thirty years she spent researching Water Wars. Aiming to secure "seed sovereignty, food sovereignty, water sovereignty, and land sovereignty," the Navdanya program also establishes seed banks and conducts studies on the potential impacts of new industries in the Third World. "Let us together build an earth family," Shiva urges. "Let us in our diversity create an earth democracy." 7:30 p.m., $12, $15. or 415-561-7650.


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