Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil


Ch. 1. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a report in 2007, with the participation of 2,500 scientists from 130 countries, that concluded that man-made climate change threatens life on earth. It is a result of air pollution from greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Sea levels are rising, arctic ice is shrinking, and the glaciers that feed the world's great rivers are melting; extreme weather events are on the rise. This crisis is the consequence of two centuries of dependence by industrialized countries on fossil fuels. (I learned about this fifty years ago, in primary school; so it has been no secret for half a century already. ERG)


In biology, systems that self-organize, self-direct, self-regulate and self-renew are autopoetic systems, based on endosomatic or metabolic energy. Mechanical systems are allopoetic, run from external sources, and based on exosomatic energy. We have been definining "development" or "progress" in terms of allopoetic systems, and processes of industrialization. That is why we are in trouble.


Autopoetic systems display structural and functional diversity; they do not break down under stress but heal themselves. Corporate globalization promotes allopoetic systems. P.15: "Eco-imperialism is a complex dynamic. It includes the control over the economies of the world through corporate globalization, ad transforms the resources and ecosystems of the world into feedstock for an industrialized, globalized economy. It contains the oil wars being fought in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, and the new land and food wars triggered by the emergence of industrial biofuels." However, the attempt to 'engineer the planet' can only lead to starvation and extinction, in this world of limited resources. Globalization is just the outsourcing of pollution.


p. 16. Carbon Trading. Why does Shiva think that the policy of 'carbon trading' will be ineffective? On what grounds does she argue that "emissions trading 'solutions' pay the polluter"? What happens when we fail to distinguish between the dead carbon in fossil fuels and the liviing carbon of biodiversity, the recycing of carbon fixed through photosyntheis in plants and the food chain.


p. 21. Factory farms, for example, pollute water and land, impoverish small farmers, and pollute the air with methane; but they can earn carbon credits. China earns lots of credits by producing, and then destroying, the refrigerant HCFC-22, which contributes by weight almost 12,000 times more than carbon dioxide to global warming. p. 24-30. Nuclear energy is neither clean nor sustainable. Indigenous people suffer the most from nuclear contamination. And it always contains the threat of weapons use. P. 30. "Mechanical" solutions (dumping more chemicals in the atmosphere or oceans) are also sure to fail, and are moreover unnecessary. Reductionist analysis leads to reductionist solutions.


p. 33. What is revealed by the memo written by Larry Summers? What is the significance of Walmart? Why does Shiva conclude, "Corporations, not nations, are the appropriate basis for regulating atmospheric pollution in a globalized economy"? She adds, what is needed is a carbon tax on corporations. WTO and World Bank programs rob local economies of their ability to be sustainable.


p. 38. In India, farmers do not have to escape their farms; they need merely to enjoy decent conditions (via seed sovereignty and ecological farming). Nor is it true that India must industrialize to achieve progress (through the relocation of dirty industries there, as has happened in China). P. 39. "We cannot live without food." That seems like a good first principle. Cheap labor in India and China subsidizes global corporations (making the very rich richer) and ruins the environment.


p. 41. Earth democracy and genuine sustainability: real social justice. "To achieve genuine sustainability, energy systems need to be embedded in society and ecosystems." A paradigm shift: from a reductionist to a holistic -- from a mechanistic to an ecological - from a consumerist to a conservationist worldview. Dharma is harmony, balance, and fairness. p. 46: "To mitigate and adapt to climate change we need to stop the assault on small farmers and indigenous communities, to defend their rights to their land and territory, to see them not as remnants of our past but as the path for our future... the solution to the climate crisis begins with the cultures and communities who have not contributed to it." Here we see international institutions impeding the solution to the crisis: the World Trade Organization and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Their policies, according to Shiva, are making the environmental crisis worse.


Ch. 2. Sacred Cow or Sacred Car. In India, in traditional Hindu culture, the cow and the ficus tree are sacred, and inviolable. (Remember what Maathai wrote about the importance of ficus trees. Around the Mediterranean, the same role is played by plane trees.) "But now, sacred species are being killed to expand the ecological space for the car... Today, cars eat men.  She adds, "India's automobile burden is not her own. It is imposed by the global automobile industry, in order to increase their markets and their profits. It is also a burden imposed by servicing the outsourcing boom." What does she point to, in that sentence?


What has happened to the status of the automobile in India, during recent decades? What has happened to walking, cycles, handcarts and rickshaws in urban centers?  What does the example of Freiburg show us? What is the Nano? Why are cheap cars really expensive? What is the difference between car roads and earlier roads? Why does Shiva cite the pilgrimage routes in India? What were Gandhi's policies apropos the padyatra? Who was Tagore?


p. 60. Road transport causes 8 times the pollution, 10 times the land destruction, 20 times the accidents that rail transport does. Road transport accounts for 17 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Why does Shiva compare contemporary India to Nazi Germany? What  is the rhetorical force of this comparison? Is it fair?


p. 62. "We are today one billion... If 100 million rich Indians want to live like their Western counterparts it would take more resources than the world has to offer and the attempt would force their brothers and sisters to give up their water, their land, their homes and their livelihoods." What is infrastructure? Why is Shiva worried about the expansion of the national highway system? Why are people uprooted by the highways programs (the Taj Expressway, the Bangalore-Mysore Highway)? Why is the death rate from automobile accidents so high in India? (140 per 100,000 vehicles). Why does she mention cancer, lead poisoning, and asthma?


p. 73. In what sense are animals living energy?


Ch. 3. "Food for Cars or People? Biofuels are the most important energy source for the poor in the world. The ecological, biodiverse farm is not just a source of food, it is also a source of energy." What different forms does this take?


However, industrial biofuels are promoting monocultures and destroying biodiversity, luxury consumption at the cost of food for the poor, and landgrabs that rob the poor of their land, grazing land, and forests. P. 78. "Industrial biofuels are not the fuels of the poor; they are the foods of the poor transformed into heat, electricity and fuel for the rich. Liquid biofuels, in particular ethanol and biodiesel... have been promoted through legislation and policy.


The global production of biofuels is now doubling every five years.


Why are industrial biofuels not a source of renewable energy, and not conducive to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? (1) Deforestation. Southeast Asia. Amazon. What does the table at the bottom of p. 83 tell us? Why is Shiva so critical of Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont?


Why according to Shiva are biofuels a threat to food security? Why have worldwide agricultural commodity prices been going up?


Why do biofuels lead to water scarcity? Why does the production of corn and sugarcane in India and China use up water resources?


Example in the news today: the Aral Sea (once the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world) is now 90% gone, because the rivers that fed it have been diverted to grow cotton in Russia.

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