A Poem by Korea J. Brownstein
I am an old man.
I’m supposed to go to high school,
but I do not–I go to day care.
but I look like I’m two
and I always sleep with my teddy bear
and play outside with my friends.
Everyone asks me how old I am
and I tell them I’m seventy-two,
but I look like I am three.
The girls come by
and I tell them I’m seventy-two,
but I look like I’m four.
I play with three year old toys.
I hear a tweak.
I hear a knock.
Give thanks to Tunkasila, for He has added one more day to your life, not because you need it–but because someone might need you.
–Tiny Decory, Unofficial Mayor of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Oglala Lakota Native American Reservation
An Interview by Sarah van Gelder, YES! Magazine
Trained in physics and philosophy, Vandana Shiva is renowned for her activism against GMOs, globalization, and patents on seeds and traditional foods. She co-founded Navdanya, which promotes seed saving and organic farming and has more than 70,000 farmer-members.
Sarah van Gelder: The seed has been a major part of your work. Could you say a little about what a seed is at its essence?
Vandana Shiva: The seed in its essence is all of the past evolution of the Earth, the evolution of human history, and the potential for future evolution. The seed is the embodiment of culture because culture shaped the seed with careful selection—women picked the best, diversified. So from one grass you get 200,000 rices.
That is a convergence of human intelligence and nature’s intelligence. It is the ultimate expression of life, and in our language, it means “that from which life arises on its own, forever and ever and ever.”
van Gelder: So what is it worth?
Shiva: It’s priceless. There is no price to seed, which is why the commodification of seed is such an outrage. Every culture that I’ve come across believes that destroying seed is the ultimate sin. Communities have starved to death rather than eat the seed grain.
van Gelder: The prevailing worldview separates humans from the natural world, and it has had terrible effects. How are people healing this separation, and how are seeds part of that work?
Shiva: No matter what problem you look at, every ecological problem comes from this illusion that we are separate from nature.
I believe overcoming the separation is a longing much deeper than the recent rise of ecological awareness. The healing is coming from reclaiming our oneness with the web of life, with the universe itself.
Some people do it through meditation and yoga, but a lot more are doing it by just planting a seed and growing a garden. In planting a seed you are one with the cycles and regenerative capacity of life. We hear the same thing again and again from children we work with sowing gardens of hope with seeds of freedom. When you ask, “So what did you learn?” they always talk about the miracle of life—that a tiny seed bursts into a plant and gives an abundance, and they can harvest a seed from it.
A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta—the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory—this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe.
There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed. Every expression of diversity is an expression of freedom, and every expression of monoculture is an expression of coercion.
van Gelder: Can you say more about that? What is the relationship of freedom to biodiversity?
Shiva: Life is self-organized. Self-organized systems evolve in diversity. You are not identical to me, because each of us has evolved in freedom. The self-organizing capacity of life is expressed in diversity. Diversity of culture, diversity of humans, diversity of seeds.
Uniformity is constructed from the outside. It is coercive. So a farm of only Roundup Ready soya is actually a battlefield. Chemical warfare is going on—spraying of Roundup to kill everything green, to kill the soil organisms, to kill the diversity, but also to kill the potential of the crop to manage itself and diseases.
Monocultures can only be held together through external control, and uniformity and external control and concentration go hand in hand.
van Gelder: How do we, the people, get strong enough to counter the enormous power of Monsanto and the like?
Shiva: We are dealing with life itself, so the first place we get power is by aligning ourselves with the forces of life. That is why the act of seed saving is such an important political act in this time. And that is the part that is linked to self-organizing—organizing yourself to save the seeds, have a community garden, create an exchange, do everything that it takes to protect and rejuvenate the seed. But at this point, industry is hungry to have absolute control. They will not tolerate a single farmer who has freedom in his seed supply. They will not stand a single seed that grows on its own terms.
van Gelder: If anything, things have gotten more dire since the last time we talked. How do you get energized and keep your own spirits up?
Shiva: You know it is true that on the one hand, the concentration of power is more than ever before. But I think the awareness about the illegitimacy of this power is also more than ever before. If you take into account the number of movements, the number of protests taking place, and the number of people building alternatives, it’s huge.
The first place where I get joy as well as the energy to continue is the positive work of seed saving, promoting a peaceful agriculture, working with farmers, and now increasingly working with non-farmers. In the course we are running on the farm right now, we have 55 young people—someone from a banking system, someone from a software firm, three filmmakers.
No matter where in the world you are, people are realizing food is important. They are realizing food begins with seed, and everyone wants to learn. When I see those processes get unleashed, when I see how rapidly gardening has become such an important way of healing violence—I just met a young man who’s working with ex-convicts to spread gardens. That’s his work! He’s created a firm, and they are the owners, and the board members—how can you not be charged with energy?
Editor’s note: Remember Monsanto leads the way to no seed saving, no biodiversity, etc. etc. etc.
An Essay by the Project Agent Orange Admins:
Monsanto spent over 4.2 million dollars on stopping Prop 522 from passing, yet it cannot—nor will it—pay any money towards helping Agent Orange victims here or anywhere else in the world.
Our project has raised and spent about six thousand dollars over an approximate eighteen month period.
Let’s see what our six thousand has done:
We are supporting three Agent Orange communities with three farms—one growing fruit trees, another raising rabbits and the third, water buffalo. All three communities have become self-sustaining. None of our groups had clean water—now two have an ample filtration system in place. One member of one of our communities had Agent Orange issues that caused temporary flights of insanity. He is now getting medical help and his issues are under control. We have done a lot, but we still have a long way to go—remember: our mission is to find a way to degrade Agent Orange so the next generations in Viet Nam feel its negative effects less and less. We feel ending poverty within the Agent Orange communities of Viet Nam will go a long way in helping us reach our goal—and so far six thousand dollars has done just that.
Monsanto spent 4.2 million dollars—we the taxpayers will subsidize because the spent money is a valid and legal tax deduction. We asked for ten thousand in our original proposal. Monsanto has not offered as dime. If six thousand can offer so much benefit, can you imagine what 4.2 million would do—here and abroad?
Let me tell you what I feel is a crime against humanity—when a corporation develops a poison, causes havoc around the world, and ends up paying a small amount of money to American vets, but nothing to anyone else anywhere in the world. But they can shell out 4.2 million dollars for a political campaign.
A Poem by Shari Clark
Dawn and the thunder is no longer in the sky,
the ground moist with dew and rainfall,
and the chemicals keep arriving, keep arriving,
splatter the tarmacs, splatter human skin,
but not the bottom line of the bottom feeders–
the Monsantos and the Dow Chemicals, the corporations
of violence and profit–most of all profit–
and we pray with our Veterans for our Veterans
as the mud falls to the ground, as the mud falls
to the ground, Agent Orange clouds–
I have an idea:
this year join the celebration,
make everything right–use your money to help
the families suffering from the chemical disease
of your making–put the money where it counts–
not in political ballgames benefiting only your
selfish egocentric selves.
From a Letter by Jan Steinman
It appears that I-522 has failed. Enjoying overwhelming support just six weeks ago, the numbers dropped in direct proportion to the money spent. We appear to have the best democracy money can buy.
(Monsanto and the GMA spent millions to make sure Prop 522 failed–editor’s note.)
A Poem by Eric Otto
monsanto dreams of brown
bodies planting in the milpa,
then jerks awake at the horror
of such a world. monsanto’s
frightened heart soon calms;
such traditions will concede
defeat in the face of pollens
and politics not burdened
by the weights of morality.
sleep returns, and with it, visions
of defoliated acres: a less
biodiverse world, as it should be.
A Poem by Robin Freeland
I’m at the wooded entrance
just parked my car and I observe
fresh drops of rain on the Ford next door
with a robin
slipping and sliding
Up to the roof
of the car
her feet grasping
a slippery front window
like a cartoon character
wiry legs spinning
to reach the top
She flies down
to the side-view mirror
and flaps her wings continuously
peering at herself
thinking it’s someone else
She can’t quite place the face
or find a place to land
but flaps a bit more
searching for the reflection
then lands on the ground below
Flying up to the hood again
her legs begin sliding
She raises herself against resistance
then lowers down
and views her shadow self
reaching to contact
Thirteen times she encircles the space
then at last
distracted by something above
Another bird perhaps
or a place to go and rest
maybe just what she needs
to break a cycle