Green Belts and Green Revolutions: International Women Organize against Agribusiness and Environmental Degradation

By Rembert, Tracey C. | E Magazine, January-February 1997 | Go to article overview

Green Belts and Green Revolutions: International Women Organize against Agribusiness and Environmental Degradation


Rembert, Tracey C., E Magazine


Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai have much in common. They've both won Sweden's Right Livelihood Award (the Alternative Nobel Prize) and been named as two of Utne Reader's Top 100 Visionaries for 1995. And both were speakers at the Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Both activists are also prime evidence of how women are changing the face of environmental politics - from the ground up.

One of India's sharpest critics of foreign aid and free trade policies that favor multinational corporations, Vandana Shiva has fought for every inch of India's improved environmental policies, not to mention convincing communities that runaway development leads to ecological destruction. Shiva, a physicist, president of India's Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, and author of Monocultures of the Mind, EcoFeminism and The Violence of the Green Revolution, is known internationally for organizing the Chipko movement - in which women literally hug trees to prevent foresters from clearcutting.

Shiva says, "The modern world has built its ideas of nature and culture on the model of the industrial factory - judging a forest, for example, on the worth of its timber rather than its life-support capacity." Traveling the world speaking against industrial and multinational development, as well as politicizing the role women, children and farmers have as caretakers of the land, Shiva devotes her energy to convincing others their livelihood lies in respecting nature and promoting diversity, which will lead to more sustainable farming and living. "The extinction of people's livelihoods and sustenance is closely connected with the erosion of biodiversity," and "the practice of diversity is the key to its conservation," Shiva wrote.

On World Environment Day in 1977, Kenya's Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement by planting seven trees in her backyard. The grassroots organization which grew from there encourages environmental protection by women and children.

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Green Belts and Green Revolutions: International Women Organize against Agribusiness and Environmental Degradation
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