Vandana Shiva (70) is one of the most well-known environmentalists in the world. In 1993 she received the "Alternative Nobel Prize" for her commitment to the preservation of biological diversity. The qualified physicist is considered a globalization critic who repeatedly attacks large companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé or Bayer/Monsanto. She accuses them of destroying resilient farming structures in many countries that are based on regionally adapted plant varieties.
But Shiva is also repeatedly criticized. Among other things, she is accused of having contributed to bad harvests and a food crisis in Sri Lanka with her recommendations for organic farming.
Shiva is one of the co-founders of the World Future Council based in Hamburg. WELT spoke to her there – in the run-up to the 15th United Nations (CBD) Biodiversity Conference, which began on Wednesday in Montreal, Canada. Delegates from nearly 200 countries are aiming for a global agreement to effectively halt biodiversity loss by 2050.
WORLD: Ms. Shiva, what's next for climate protection?
Vandana Shiva: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was based on the principle that emitters should pay for the emissions they have already caused and that they should stop polluting the climate. Since the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, these legally binding obligations no longer exist. Voluntary commitments were agreed at the climate summit in Paris in 2015. The meetings that followed, like the one in Sharm al-Sheikh, seem to me more like a show with fake solutions, or even worse, with false solutions that are more likely to exacerbate the problems of our food and energy supply.
WORLD: India will soon overtake China with more than 1.4 billion inhabitants as the most populous country in the world. Do you expect India to follow the Chinese path with intense growth in fossil fuel consumption? The per capita emission of carbon dioxide in India is currently 1.8 tons per year, in China it is 7.2 tons - similar to that in Germany.
Shiva: The next meeting of the G-20 countries will take place in India in 2023. The majority of people in my country are opposed to the use of fossil fuels, which, for example, is helping to drive populations and tribes out of forested areas. On the contrary, the people of India support an economy based on forestry and biodiversity. I have worked with many of these churches. Intensive, industrial agriculture worldwide contributes about 50 percent to greenhouse gas emissions. The national policy in India is currently more geared towards the production of food according to organic standards. I hope that India will continue to work to reduce our ecological footprint - and that the quality of life of our own and all other people on earth will improve at the same time.
WORLD: Could India simply "skip" the fossil age, as Germany's best-known climate researcher Mojib Latif believes?
Shiva: It would be a mistake to establish an economic system in India that is based on fossil fuels. I think it is right and possible for India to take a path based on biological diversity and renewable energies.
WORLD: What role does nuclear power play in India? Some reactors are also running in your country.
Shiva: The accidents in the Fukushima nuclear reactors in 2011 also showed our people the risks associated with nuclear power. We see demonstrations in India again and again when a new nuclear power plant is to be planned or built. There is no democratic consensus for this.
WORLD: In your opinion, what progress has India made in developing its agriculture over the past 20 years?
Shiva: India is still an agricultural economy. 60 percent of the people live and work in rural areas. People in most countries see the benefits of biodiverse, organic farming, and India certainly does too. In our country alone there are 200,000 different, regionally adapted varieties of rice. What we need in India and also worldwide is a kind of “food democracy”, beyond fossil-based industrial agriculture.
WORLD: What could Germany, what should the European Union do to improve climate protection?
Shiva: If we follow the logic that 50 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases come from agriculture, then Germany has an enormous responsibility from this point of view alone: the Bayer group, for example, bought the US agricultural chemicals group Monsanto a few years ago which stands for industrial agriculture like no other company in the world, with an enormous use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides based on fossil energies. With Monsanto, however, Bayer also controls a significant part of the global seed market – seeds and the associated chemical-toxic crop protection products, which continue to increase the dependency of farmers. A high proportion of taxes in many countries nowadays subsidize ecologically unsustainable agriculture, and that cannot be our goal. In this respect too – moving away from industrial chemical agriculture – Germany and the European Union could play a stronger pioneering role.
WORLD: On which issues could Germany and the EU cooperate more closely with India?
Shiva: When it comes to preserving and strengthening global biological diversity, Germany could once again bring significantly more political weight. Germany used to be more active in this regard than it is today. We need a lot more support from countries like Germany, for example when it comes to protecting the Amazon rainforest and its huge biodiversity. Ultimately, a commitment to conserving biodiversity is also closely related to the reduction of fossil fuels. At the next G-20 summit, Germany can also support the concept of an “Earth Democracy” and an “Earth Family” together with India.