1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity
Definition of Gender
"Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women, explains the World Health Organization. The distinct roles, reinforced by legal systems and religion, have historically given rise to gender inequalities not only in health care but with education and employment opportunities. Globalization has challenged the most archaic perceptions of gender roles through books, films, and other media; new technologies in satellite television and the internet; and policies of multinational corporations and tourism. Human rights groups reach across borders to lend support and inspiration to those in other lands; the United Nations and other international organizations target gender equality as a major goal." YaleGlobal
Definition of Gender Balance
Gender balance is 50/50 male/female presence in a group. So it is a matter of numbers, but it is more than just a matter of numbers. Gender balance is required in both responsibility and authority, in the family and in all human institutions. It must become internalized to the point in which patriarchal individualism and male hegemony are neutralized by a new sense of communion between men and women, and between humanity and nature. It must be a fully inclusive sense of communion that overcomes any exclusivism on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other reason. It must be a communion that seeks the integral development of each and every human person, from conception to natural death. And it must be a communion in which all humans endeavor to take care of each other while also taking care of natural resources. Nothing in this world is perfect, and this new order of things will not be perfect but, far from being utopian, it is in fact inevitable if humanity is to survive in the long term.
No More War: The Human Potential for Peace
Futurist, behaviorist, and evolutionary biologist Dr. Judith Hand presents a compelling argument in her film “No More War” that if we chose to do it, we can achieve what no people before us could: a future without war. She introduces cutting edge hypotheses on the origins of cooperation, altruism and morality, indicating how they relate to the human potential for peace. The origins of war are explored, including a consideration of why men and women, in general, differ when it comes to using physical aggression to resolve conflicts. A proposal is offered that the time is right for us to mount a global, social transformation movement to abolish war and reasons are given for why we can, at this time, embrace the goal of ending war with confidence. Why participation of women as full partners with men in decision-making positions is a necessary condition, not an option, is stressed. Two complementary elements of a nonviolence campaign to end war are introduced: Constructive Program and Obstructive Program. Suggestions are offered for ways viewers can be involved in this great cause. Learn more.
A Future Without War is Judith Hand's website, where most of her writings can be readily accessed. The following are some links to material that should be of interest to readers of this journal:
- Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Judith L. Hand, Questpath Publishing, 2003.
Excerpt: "So long as men and women are estranged from each other, so long as they are unequal and one is considered subservient, so long as men continue to be estranged from satisfying, joy-giving, connections to their children, so long as humans are alienated from the natural world and instead consider themselves its masters and dominators, the need for deep connectedness will remain unmet." (page 129)
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- The Secret Ingredient: The Pivotal Catalyst for Change and Long Term Stability, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Empower Women, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Spread Liberal Democracy, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Locked in the Embrace of Male Biology: A Barrier to Positive Paradigm Shift, Judith L. Hand, 2009.
- Shaping the Future: A Proposal to Hasten a Global Paradigm Shift for the Security and Well-being of All Children Everywhere, Judith L. Hand, 2011.
- Women and Ending War, Judith L. Hand, October 2014.
Violence (war in particular) is the greatest obstacle to sustainable human development. Judith Hand is making a significant contribution to peace by pointing the way to a culture of global solidarity and nonviolence. The reader is cordially invited to visit A Future Without War for more information on this important piece of work.
RECENT NEWS ON GENDER SOLIDARITY:
- Challenging patriarchy in Kyrgyzstan, Cristina Maza, Transformation, 5 January 2015.
- Feminism Unheeded, Robert Jensen, Nation of Change, 8 January 2015.
- Gender equality, climate change and the environment, Molly Gilligan, Poughkeepsie Journal, 24 January 2015.
- Patriarchy, your picnic will be over: What the all-women contingent on Republic Day said, Piyasree Dasgupta, First Post, 27 January 2015.
Gender equality and sustainable development as human rights, Kiran Asher and Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, Forest News, 4 February 2015.
- Cesspool of misogyny and patriarchy, Taha Najeeb Khan, Pakistan Today, 7 February 2015.
- Girlguiding launches badge for global gender equality, Alexandra Topping, The Guardian, 11 February 2015.
- Gender Equality And Financial Inclusion Key To Ending Poverty, Gaia Paradiso, The Huffington Post, 16 February 2015.
- Malawi: Gender Equity, Catalyst for Sustainable Development, Bernard Chisoni & Mirriam Banda, All Africa, 18 February 2015.
- Achieving gender equality is the challenge of our times, Laksshmi Puri, Irish Times, 20 February 2015.
- Deadly Serious: Acid Attack, Mukesh Khanal, My Republica, Nepal, 26 February 2015.
- Women’s rights: ‘Love can drive out violence’, Rizwan Shehzad, Expresss Tribune, Pakistan, 26 February 2015.
- Rising above patriarchal politics, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Aliran, 28 February 2015.
- Statement of the Women of the World, International Women's Day, 8 March 2015.
- Gender Equality, the Last Big Poverty Challenge, Preethi Sundaram and Fiona Salter, IPS News, 17 March 2015.
- Gender equality also means eradicating patriarchy, T. V. Sivanandan, The Hindu Times, 18 March 2015.
- Visualizing the Global Gender Gap, Laura Bliss, City Lab, 30 March 2015.
- Patriarchy in Disguise: The Role and Status of Women of Meitei society in Manipur - Part 1, Thokchom Linthoingambi Chanu, E-PAO, 17 April 2015.
- Adoption of the WILPF Manifesto: renewing a centennial commitment to peacemaking, WILPF International, 23 April 2015.
- Russia's Patriarchy Problem, Natalia Antonova, The Moscow Times, 24 May 2015.
- Calling out the Jewish patriarchy, one blog at a time, Esther D. Kustanowitz, Haaretz, 25 May 2015.
- Unleashing political renaissance by rejecting patriarchy, Suchismita Pai, Kashmir Times, 15 June 2015.
Self-driven women’s empowerment wave of the future, Rama Singh, The Hamilton Spectator, 20 June 2015.
- Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals, Rachel Vogelstein, CFR Development Channel, 30 June 2015.
- New paradigm of gender equality starts now in Korea, Lee Myung-sun, Korea Herald, 6 July 2015.
- Study finds stubbornly high gender inequality in Israel, Niv Elis, The Jerusalem Post, 21 July 2015.
- Gender equality can help to transform the global economy, Stefan Schmid, The National, 27 July 2015.
- Entitlement, patriarchy and the progress of humanity, Arunabh Satpathy, The Daily, 28 July 2015.
- Pornography: The Propaganda of Patriarchy, Mickey Z., Countercurrents, 8 August 2015.
- Feminine Power towards Aids Free Generation, Joy Ndwandwe, Swazi Observer, 16 August 2015.
- Who's Responsible for Gender Equality?, Pablo Freund, Huffington Post, 20 August 2015.
- Why do we need feminism and gender equality?, Shailendree Adittiya, The Nation, Sri Lanka, 22 August 2015.
- Include gender balance in education planning,Wayne Campbell, Jamaica Observer, 24 August 2015.
- Gender Equality an ‘Economic No-Brainer,’ Says IMF Chief, Ian Talley, Wall Street Journal, 6 September 2015.
- Women in Governance: Beyond the Equality and Empowerment Rhetoric, Deborah Lomotey, GhanaWeb, 8 September 2015.
- Want to Boost Global Growth by Trillions? Improve Gender Equality, McKinsey Report Says, Kate Davidson, WSJ, 24 September 2015.
- Gender equality vital for progress, UN Women, The Star, Malaysia, 27 September 2015.
- Why doesn’t patriarchy die?, Beatrix Campbell, 50.50 Inclusive Democracy, 28 September 2015.
- Women in a Warming World: How Gender Equality and Climate Change Are Connected, Lorena Aguilar, AlterNet, 29 September 2015.
2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family
Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family
In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).
International Day of the Girl Child 2013:
Innovating for Girls’ Education
Innovation: a novel solution to a social problem that is
more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions
UNICEF Statement: "The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization." READ MORE
3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control
The following is quoted from Wikipedia:
"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.
"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.
"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.
"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."
For more on patriarchy, click here.
The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:
"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."
"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."
"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."
Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."
The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.
ON THE HISTORY OF PATRIARCHY
The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner, Oxford University Press, 1987
The Patriarchal Family in History,
Christopher Dawson, in The Dynamics of World History, ISI Books, 2003
What is Patriarchy and Why is it the Most Powerful Force in the World Today?, Mary L. Wentworth, GSN, August 2005
Patriarchy, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008
Moving Beyond the Pathology of History: Why We Need a Shift in Human Consciousness,
Jean Houston, Huffington Post, 21 September 2010
SOME RECENT NEWS ON PATRIARCHY
The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape,
By Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi, Time World, 18 January 2013
My patriarchy is better than yours,
By Hani Yousuf, International Herald Tribune, 17 January 2013
Parliament and patriarchy,
Ramachandra Guha, The Hindu, 31 December 2012
Shrouded in patriarchy,
Victoria Rossi, The Hindu, 15 January 2013
Benign patriarchy is deadly, , The Gleaner, Jamaica, 6 January 2013
Why we must not skirt the real issues—rape & patriarchy,
Patralekha Chatterjee, DNA, 14 January 2013
Patriarchy begins with the textbook,
Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, West India, 9 January 2013
No Patriarchy, No Police State, No Capital Punishment: A Report on the Rally Against Rape,
Soma Marik, International Viewpoint, 7 January 2013
Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women,
Vandana Shiva, Yes! Magazine, 18 January 2013
Microfinance and Patriarchy: 'A Drift Away from Serving Women',
Knowledge@Wharton, Forbes, 18 January 2013
The Bible Is Man-Made: Why Patriarchy Still Reigns,
George Elerick, Huffington Post, 21 ecember 2012
The tragedy of homo disappointus,
Deepanjana Pal, DNA, 19 January 2013
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?, Virginia Hughes, National Geographic, 8 October 2013
Cave Women Rocked: Science Shows Prehistoric Gender Equality, Piper Hoffman, Care2, 8 November 2013
4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability
"A celebration of women around the world actively transforming and healing our global society. Sharon Stone and leading experts in religion, science, history, politics and entertainment, discuss solutions to the multiple crisis’ we are faced with. Femme focuses on utilizing a feminine approach with nurturing energy to inspire a new hope for the future." Director: Emmanuel Itier.
Starring: Sharon Stone, Maria Bello, Maria Conchita Alonso, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire, Gloria Steinem, Marianne Williamson, Jean Houston, Angela Davis.
Actress Sharon Stone co-produced “Femme: Women Healing the World”, Santa Barbara director Emmanuel Itier’s documentary that features more than 100 women, both famous and unsung, from around the world who are working to transform the planet through a number of fields, from politics and philosophy to spirituality, science and entertainment. Stone – whose leg-crossing scene in the original 1992 “Basic Instinct” is one of modern film’s most iconic moments, which also happens to represent a women using her sexual power to manipulate men, for better or worse – has said about FEMME:
Film is a powerful medium for inciting change: “We’re using the documentary format to reach out and talk about issues are relevant and important. Allowing this beautiful point of view to be expressed in a powerful way is intelligent, thoughtful, mindful and compassionate…. The more we have sympathetic communication the better that we do with one another.”
This is an important moment for women in the world: “We’re (in) Year 11 of a world war, and we have to think about that women are less invested in conflict and more interested in creativity and the development of nurturing and conflict resolution….It’s just a practical matter in many ways. When we look at the stress that all of those things have put on our economic climate, we can see that if we don’t (address this issues) from a more creative and nurturing perspective, the global economy cannot hold this continue desire for conflict and the negative impact of not caring for one another. There’s no logic in that math equation.
You can do something about it: “We can look at peace as something we expect our leaders to accomplish, and something that we understand as a verb, as an action. There are simple, seemingly small things we can do each day with more peaceful intentions, and create a climate of peace in action. Then we habituate ourselves to a different kind of sensibility and peace begins to flower from these small actions that become a state of mind.”
It’s not just for women: “I think that old saying ‘Behind every great man…’ is not an untrue sentiment. We were meant to partner – in our jobs, in our schools, in the world. We bring different elements to play. But it’s not ‘just’ women – it’s ‘with’, ‘together’, ‘partners’…. We are in a paradigm shift where we can partner in our mate in a non-gender specific way, any age, ethnicity. But in the world, we as women in our intuitive nature, bring something woman to man.”
5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change
"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.
"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.
"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.
"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."
For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.
KEY LINKS TO ADAPTATION & GENDER
- People-Centred Climate Change Adaptation: Integrating Gender Issues, FAO, 2007.
- Gender and Climate Change, UNDP, 2007.
- Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, UN WomenWatch, 2009.
- Women are powerful agents of change, CARE International Climate Change Information Centre, 2011.
- Adaptation, gender and women's empowerment, CARE International Climate Change Brief, October 2010. Also available in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
- Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective, Boell Foundation, 4 April 2011.
- Bringing gender into climate change adaptation, CCAFS, CGIAR, 12 July 2011.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDIA AND SIERRA LEONE
One specific case worthy of study in Women Bringing Solar Power to Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 15 September 2011. The following summary is excerpted from YaleGlobal, 16 September 2011.
"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."
6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance
Gender Balance in Society and Secular Governance
What children learn in the family (the "domestic school") defines their way of thinking and acting for a lifetime. Gender balance in marriage and the family is then lived out in all dimensions of social relations, including secular governance. However, persisting gender imbalance in social relations and institutions of governance is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the objectification of human bodies (mostly female) for business purposes. There is of course the pay gap between men and women with comparable qualifications. More nefarious symptoms include the persisting double standard on the value of virginity for boys and girls; the increasing number of "single parents" (mostly mothers) resulting from seeking gratification without accepting responsibility; and the millions of unborn children (mostly girls) killed for reasons of expediency or simply to avoid the "inconvenience" of raising a child. It must be recognized that, when there is gender inequality and imbalance in human relations, the entire fabric of society is corrupted. It is well known that "what goes around comes around," and this is also true in gender relations, even though male and female violence may tend to exhibit different modes of expression. The mindset of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" manifests itself in an endless number of ways across the entire gender spectrum. It is no coincidence that, in the Book of Genesis, gender violence is the first and most universal outcome of corrupting the original communion between man and woman.
NO CEILINGS: THE FULL PARTICIPATION PROJECT|
-- This is an effort led by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Clinton Foundation to bring together partner organizations to evaluate and share the progress women and girls have made in the 20 years since the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This new effort will help chart the path forward to accelerate full participation for women and girls in the 21st century. The full participation of women and girls is critical to global progress, development, and security.
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is a former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States. From 2009 to 2013, she was the 67th Secretary of State, serving under President Barack Obama. She previously represented New York in the U.S. Senate (2001 to 2009). Before that, as the wife of President Bill Clinton, she was First Lady from 1993 to 2001. In the 2008 election, Clinton was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. To contact the office of Hillary Clinton, click here.
10 Leaders Who Redefine Leadership
Emily Garcia & Kim Crane, World Pulse, 12 December 2013
Women on the Rise in African Politics
Anne Look, Voice of America, 8 February 2014
No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report
Clinton Foundation & Gates Foundation, April 2015.
7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity
- The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships, John Sanford, Paulist Press, 1980.
- Original Unity of Man and Woman, John Paul II, Daughters of St Paul, June 1981.
- Men and Masculinities, SAGE, 1998-2011.
- Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, Bahá'í International Community, 1999.
- Psychology of Men & Masculinity, APA, 2000-2011.
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, Joseph Gelfer, Editor - Monash University, Australia, 2007-2011.
- Shaping the Future, Judith L. Hand, August 2011.
- Patriarchies of the Past - Masculinities for the Future, Catherine of Siena College, 2011.
- Men for Gender Equality, Special Issue of New Internationalist, 1 July 2011.
- The Masculinity Conspiracy, Joseph Gelfer, CreateSpace, August 2011.
- Men and Meaning, Laki Sideris and Joseph Gelfer, website launched 26 March 2012.
- Southern Africa: Gender Mainstreaming or Malestreaming?, Temba Dube, All Africa, 26 April 2012.
- Zimbabwe: Involve Men in Fight for Gender Equality, Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network, AllAfrica, 13 August 2012.
- Religion and Masculinities: Continuities and Change, Religion & Gender, October 2012.
- Working with Men on Gender Equality, Gender & Development, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 2013.
- Young Men Break with Machista Stereotypes in Ecuador, Leisa Sánchez, IPS, 14 May 2013.
- Why Men Can Be Good for Feminism, Shira Tarrant, AlterNet, 8 August 2013.
- Why talking about ‘healthy masculinity’ is like talking about ‘healthy cancer’, John Stoltenberg, Feminist Current, 9 August 2013.
- Dying to Be Men: Symposium Digs for Roots of Gender Violence, Viola Gienger, USIP, 31 October 2013.
- Real men on board effort of gender equality, Bonnie Erbe, Reporter News, 2 November 2013.
- International Studies on Men, Masculinities and Gender Equality: An Emerging Focus for Policy and Research?, Guest editor: Jeff Hearn, Men and Masculinities, December 2014.
8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat
Women and Biodiversity Feed the World,|
Not Corporations and GMOs
Originally published in Common Dreams, 20 May 2015,
under a Creative Commons License
'Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition
throughout history,' writes Dr. Vandana Shiva, 'but today, food
is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities
controlled by global corporations.' (Photos: Georgina Smith/CIAT)
The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.
Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.
Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.
Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .
Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.
"Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."
Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).
Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.
Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.
On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.
"Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide."
Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.
In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.
On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.
In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.
At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.
4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.
9. Gender Balance for Sustainable Human Development
This modern fable is about a 4,000 year old secret brought through time by the birds. While trying to save her scientific reputation, Dr. Deborah Wright discovers that the swallows at San Juan Capistrano are singing a human song! And her daughter makes an impossible request. Against today's backdrop of environmental decay, Deborah risks her life to find answers and heal her family and the world. A 12th century Sufi poet becomes her guide as she realizes the real moral issues of today.
This book is about issues of the past and the present: racism, sexism, homophobia, ecological deterioration, and climate change. These are old issues, but they are currently exacerbated by population growth and the globalization of an economic technocracy empowered by fossil fuels. These issues are tightly connected by an underlying common truth which is revealed in the ancient song
of the swallow and the nightingale. The swallow's final answer impels her to do as much good as possible:
We etch our voices in the record of what lived
We will be known for which we stood
This is the moment when we choose our future days
Hark! Are you ready for the good?
Readers who are interested in integral ecology and integral human development, as decribed for example in the recent encyclical by Pope Francis on taking care of our common home, will find this novel a source of refreshing insight on how to navigate the impending ecological crisis with some degree of serenity and purpose.
Dr. Thea Iberall traveled to Santorini to help scientists research the origin of life. Her book of contextual poems, The Sanctuary of Artemis (Tebot Bach, 2011), explores the roots of Western patriarchal culture. She is featured in a documentary GV6 THE ODYSSEY: Poets, Passion & Poetry. Iberall has a master’s degree in writing and a Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience. Iberall wrote the play We Did It For You! Women's Journey Through History. There was a time when women had no rights. This is the story of how they got their rights, told by the women who were there. The author of three scientific texts, Iberall writes to cross boundaries between science and the arts, between history and the present, and between knowledge and emotions. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.