Environmental News Archive

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Crisis Shows Urgency of Going Organic - Shiva

Nicola Leske, PlanetArk 17 Oct 08;

FRANKFURT - Indian physicist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva said the financial crisis showed it was high time for countries to rebuild local, diverse farms to become independent from global turmoil.

"The lesson to be learned from the financial meltdown is that the world is at a tipping point," Shiva told Reuters at the Frankfurt Bookfair on Thursday, where she is promoting her new book "Soil not Oil".

"When one thread rips somewhere its effect is felt around the world," said Shiva, a board member of the International Forum on Globalisation, which examines the effects of globalisation on local economies and communities.

Shiva was also one of the first tree-huggers in the 1970s, participating in the Chipko movement of female peasants in the Uttaranchal region of India, which adopted the tactic of hugging trees to prevent their felling.

Shiva said industrial farmers were running short on funds to buy pesticides and fertilisers amid reduced lending and borrowing worldwide but switching to small-scale, organic farming would eliminate the need to buy chemicals.

Shiva, who received her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Western Ontario, argued that diverse, organic farming was the answer to climate change and world hunger.

She said a quarter of greenhouse gases were emitted by industrially farmed crops and livestock, a figure that could be reduced to zero by switching to organic farming.

"If you look at Great Britain, it has no food independence any more... at this point we are eating oil and that just doesn't taste good," Shiva said.

"The world needs to shift from consumptive energy such as fossil fuels to regenerative energy," Shiva continued, adding that governments should allow and support "the rebuilding of local food sovereignty".

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has disagreed with the Indian activist.

Its Director General Jacques Diouf said last December there was no reason to believe that organic agriculture could substitute conventional farming systems in ensuring the world's food security.

But the FAO has said that people should reduce their consumption of meat to help tackle global warning.

The organisation has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, which are generated during the production of animal feeds.

Ruminants, particularly cows, also emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide, it has said.

Shiva, 56, said she believed it was a mistake to bet on industrial farming to feed the world and said she was heartened by an increased interest in environmental issues globally. (Editing by Jon Boyle)