Environmental activist Vandana Shiva spoke at Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah on Friday night, addressing topics including sustainable farming practices, her opinion on genetically modified foods and why she believes humans must work together to protect the earth.
Shiva is a scholar and activist from India who was invited to speak at the U by the Sustainability Office. During her speech, Shiva explained her views on the current state of Earth’s environment, which she believes is being destroyed by greed and selfishness.
“The Earth provides enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for a few people’s greed,” Shiva said.
Discussing industrial farming across the world, she explained that the chemicals being used in this type of farming have “ruptured” the carbon and nitrogen cycles. She also criticized the common industrial farming practice of killing insects and plants that don’t contribute to their profits, suggesting a more “nonviolent” farming system instead.
Shiva spoke about patents on seeds which are controlled by a small number of companies. The activist described the practice of genetically modifying foods and industrial farming as “going to war with seed,” as she called upon the U.S. government to create restrictions on GMOs and patenting.
“Let us leave behind the productivist idea of farming and begin to look at the needs of the ecosystem instead,” Shiva said.
Later in the speech, Shiva discussed her thoughts on the connection between the “poisoning” of soil in industrial farming and the many refugee crises happening around the world. She said she believes the attack on plays a large role in so many people being displaced.
At the end of her speech, the audience was invited to ask Shiva questions. One audience member asked her about her opinions on renewable energy, and another asked Shiva to discuss her views on the refugees in greater detail.
When asked about how to practically implement the ideas Shiva shared in her presentation, the scholar stressed that it is most important to always consider where food is coming from and to make responsible choices about which foods to consume.
One student, Samah Safiullah, asked Shiva for her thoughts on the Rohingya ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Shiva explained that humans have become too eager to label and judge people different from one another and encouraged listeners to find acceptance.
Shiva concluded her presentation with a hopeful notion, saying, “Learning to coexist with the earth is the first step to coexistence with each other.”
She also provided a call to action, saying, “We must translate the power we have into the power of change.”
Following the speech, Shiva received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Hearing her speak has inspired me to become more intentional about what I’m consuming and [consider] how that is connected to larger systems and populations around me,” Safiullah said.
Sarah Dyer, a graduate student at the U studying environmental humanities, enjoyed Shiva’s overall message.
“She really encouraged us to rethink the relationships we have with one another as well as our relationship with nature.”