Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vandana Shiva

Last Wednesday I attended an event in Honolulu sponsored by the Council for Food Safety.  It kicked off with a “cocktail reception” at which I met for the first time the Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, someone whom I’d long admired, and was braced by a Monsanto troll, who showed me the graph—it’s a GMO meme on the internet—that shows the rise in autism correlating perfectly with the rise in organic food purchases (I’ll be writing quite a lot about correlation in future posts).  Then the talks, which were given in the Mamiya Theater at St. Louis High School--a plush modern auditorium that seats 500, and there must have been over 400 there.  Speakers were, first, a panel consisting of Ritte and three neighbor-island anti-GMO pols, all highly articulate and sometimes very funny, and then the guest speaker, recently vilified in the New Yorker, famed Indian activist Vandana Shiva.

Whenever I see a celebrity I go into cynic mode.  So many are overblown, coasting along on old successes, that I come in expecting to be underwhelmed with a mix of feel-good platitudes and windy exhortations.  Not so this time.

I feel I haven’t even begun to digest that talk.  It lasted less than a half-hour, but in that time Vandana managed somehow to bring everything together: the anti-GMO struggle with the rise of corporate power and greed set against the background of the whole past and future of our species and our relations with the rest of nature.  I became aware that over and above arguments about whether GMOs caused autism and suchlike were immense moral issues, the largest there are, about how we should relate to the rest of nature, of which we are not the stewards but only a small and inevitably dependent part.  None of the things she spoke of were things I hadn’t known intellectually, independently, but they’d never come together to form a whole till that moment. and they certainly never had had implications for my own life, for the kind of person I was and the kind I should be.

Enough (too much already?) about me.  Too much more stuff to talk about, anyway.

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