Friday, May 29, 2009

A Sustainable Future

“Earth Democracy connects us through the perennial renewal and regeneration of life - from our daily life to the life of the universe. Earth Democracy is the universal story of our times, in our different places. It pulsates with the limitless potential of an unfolding universe even while it addresses the real threats to our very survival as a species. It is hope in a time of hopelessness, it brings forth peace in a time of wars without end, and it encourages us to love life fiercely and passionately at a time when leaders and the media breed hatred and fear.”

~Vandana Shiva, “Earth Democracy”

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, environmental activist, eco feminist and author of several articles and books. She is one of the world’s most dynamic and provocative thinkers and someone whom I have come to deeply admire and respect. Shiva has dedicated her life to fighting for changes in the practice and paradigm of agriculture and food, intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, and bioethics. She has spearheaded grassroots organizations and green movements all across the globe in an effort to halt genetic engineering and water privatization. Time magazine has described her as 'an environmental hero' and in 2005 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Shiva describes our current systems of democracy worldwide as a sham. Representative democracy has been hijacked by an ‘economic dictatorship.’ This has been led by a handful of multinational corporations. Our financial institutions and international trade treaties help ensure their dominance in key sectors such as water, food and energy. She calls for a deeper democracy which recognizes the value of all living systems upon which human welfare and survival wholly depends, she calls this new form of democracy “earth democracy”.

Shiva uses empirical concepts of entropy and the conservation of energy to argue that the environment is at the base of our global society and when we ignore the environment, all the things built on it – culture, society, livelihoods –will suffer and eventually cease to exist. She makes the argument that property rights are not universal, but that water, food and seeds are universal human rights. She says that joint ownership of the planet is essential in a very real sense in order to stop endemic starvation, malnutrition, thirst, poverty, terrorism, racism, and extremism.

Earth democracy movements are the resistance of the disadvantaged, and excluded who are working to protect their fundamental rights to the earth's resources. Market and free trade led globalization removes the responsibility and accountability from the corporations and in this system the poor have the function of bearing all the costs. History has shown us that societies that over-exploit their resources and life-support systems are bound to collapse. Living economies are an alternative to the unsustainable system. Living economies are based on co-ownership and co production, on sharing and participation. Living economies are an extension of the renewable systems or economies of nature, and the diverse and sustainable people's economies.

A living economy respects the renewable limits of natural resources and shares those resources to ensure everyone's needs are met. Biodiversity and water cannot be privatized in a living economy. A living economy relies on localization as an ecological imperative. Globalization leads to growth of the market, without creating jobs or providing security, living economies revolve around human beings and nature. Economics and ecology are not pitted against each other in living economies. The question of how we choose to view the world is based on our values. Living economies value life over profit and allow us to reclaim our common humanity.

“The earth provides enough resources for everyone’s need, but not for some people’s greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

The 10 Principles of Earth Democracy

1. Ecological Democracy

We are all members of the Earth community. We all have the duty to protect the rights and welfare of all species and all people. No humans have the right to encroach on the ecological space of other species and other people, or treat them with cruelty and violence.

2. Intrinsic worth of all Species and Peoples

All species, humans and cultures have intrinsic worth. They are subjects, not objects of manipulation or ownership. No humans have the right to own other species, other people or the knowledge of other cultures through patents and other intellectual property rights.

3. Diversity in Nature and Culture

Defending biological and cultural diversity is a duty of all people. Diversity is an end in itself, a value, a source of richness both material and cultural.

4. Natural Rights to Sustenance

All members of the Earth Community including all humans have the right to sustenance -- to food and water, to safe and clean habitat, to security of ecological space. These rights are natural rights, they are birthrights given by the fact of existence on earth and are best protected through community rights and commons. They are not given by states or corporations, nor can they be extinguished by state or corporate action. No state or corporation has the right to erode or undermine these natural rights or enclose the commons that sustain all through privatization or monopoly control.

5. Earth Economy is based on Economic Democracy and Living Economy

Earth democracy is based on economic democracy. Economic systems in Earth Democracy protect ecosystems and their integrity; they protect people's livelihoods and provide basic needs to all. In the earth economy there are no disposable or dispensable species or people. The earth economy is a living economy. It is based on sustainable, diverse, pluralistic systems that protect nature and people, are chosen by people, for the benefit of the common good.

6. Living Economies are built on Local Economies

Conservation of the earth's resources and creation of sustainable and satisfying livelihoods is most caringly, creatively and efficiently and equitably achieved at the local level. Localization of economics is social and ecological imperative. Only goods and services that cannot be produced locally, using local resources, local knowledge should be produced non-locally and traded long distance. Earth democracy is based on vibrant, resilient local economies, which support national and global economies. The global economy does not crush and destroy local economies.

7. Living Democracy

Earth democracy is based on local living democracy with local communities, organized on principles of inclusion and diversity and ecological and social responsibility having the highest authority on decisions related to the environment and natural resources and to the sustenance and livelihoods of people. Authority is delegated to more distant levels of governance on the principle of subsidiary. Earth democracy is living democracy.

8. Living Knowledge

Earth democracy is based on earth centered and community centered knowledge systems. Living knowledge is knowledge that maintains and renews living processes and contributes to health of the planet and people. It is also living knowledge in that it is embedded in nature and society, is not abstract, reductionist and anti-life. Living knowledge is a commons, it belongs collectively to communities that create it and keep it alive. All humans have a duty to share knowledge. No person or corporation has a right to enclose, monopolize, patent or exclusively own as intellectual property living knowledge.

9. Balancing Rights with Responsibility

In earth democracy, rights are derived from and balanced with responsibility. Those who bear the consequences of decisions and actions are the decision makers.

10. Globalizing Peace, Care and Compassion

Earth democracy connects people in circles of care, cooperation and compassion instead of dividing them through competition and conflict. Earth democracy globalizes compassion, not greed, and peace, not war.


M. Olson said...


Dawson said...

If there is going to be one person whose ideas and actions save the world as we know it from the calamitous destruction that seems so imminent and unavoidable it may very well be the beloved Vandana Shiva. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, to few people don't realize that there are actual workable alternatives to our current way of doing things. Alternatives in which the shitfest we see as a natural byproduct of society could actually be prevented.