“Green is not a paint, it is a process.” – Dr. Vandana Shiva
I gasped when Dr. Vandana Shiva walked into the open hut and swatted away the fruit flies that were relentlessly attacking our small group. Dr. Vandana Shiva, a seed and agriculture hero who advocates for food sovereignty, the environment, and eco-feminism led discussions on “Sacred Ecology.” To build our understanding of relationships with the Earth and community, Dr. Saamdu Chetri, one of the founders of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, joined us in dodging fruit flies and furthering our discussions.
While travelling in India, I participated in a weekend course at the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm outside of Dehradun, India where I learned about “Sacred Ecology” and had fun harvesting barley, wheat, and chamomile at the farm. The Navdanya Biodiversity Farm was developed by Dr. Vandana Shiva to educate students, save seeds, and support farmers. The seed bank conserves and cultivates over 4000 indigenous rice varieties, 2200 millets, 205 varieties of wheat, 151 species of trees, and more. They also partner with farmers across India in establishing seed banks, converting to certified organic, and advocating for farmers’ rights.
Dr. Vandana Shiva leading discussions on Sacred Ecology with students
Although Earth Day has passed, please join me in extending Earth Day to reflect on three of the many inspirational teachings I learned from Dr. Vandana Shiva and Dr. Saamdu Chetri:
1. Freedom for life – including freedoms for seed, soil, water, and community
With a changing climate, the resiliency of our Earth and food systems are closely linked with our seeds, soil, water, and community. Farmers need access to regionally adapted and climate-resilient seeds, practices to cultivate healthy soils, access to clean water, and a community of support behind them. Ultimately, the Earth is full of interconnected systems and each piece of that web needs to have the freedom to flourish in order for the Earth to thrive.
This extended Earth Day, I encourage you to think about the relationship you have with your food and the environment around you. Do you have access to regionally adapted and climate-resilient seeds, do you have healthy soils and water, and do you have strong relationships with your community?
Brenda, Tierra’s mom, carrying harvested barley to be cleaned at the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm
2. Nature is technology
The Earth is full of innovations! However, only items or processes that have been created by humans have traditionally been recognized as technologies.
This extended Earth Day, I encourage you to take a look outside as Spring is full of nature innovating and adapting to the changing weather. See how a rabbit’s fur begins to change, seedlings begin to sprout, and birds build architectural masterpieces for nests.
Tierra carrying harvest barley to be cleaned at the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm.
3. Using values in decision-making and processes
In Bhutan, prosperity is measured through the Gross National Happiness Index, not just Gross Domestic Product. This approach is intertwined with all policy decisions. When a policy is drafted, it will go through a committee and only be passed if it aligns with twenty-two happiness variables. These variables include culture, social support, family, water and pollution, land degradation, biodiversity, decision-making opportunity, gender, equity, material well-being, economic stability, and more. This approach is about incorporating and aligning your decisions and processes with values.
This extended Earth Day, I encourage you to look at your own values, organizational values, or even the Organic Principles of Care, Ecology, Health, and Fairness and see where you can implement those values in your life. I will be looking at those values and seeing how I can have them better reflected in my work and day-to-day life.
I am still feeling giddy from my experience at the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm. Dr. Vandana Shiva and Dr. Saamdu Chetri, the heroes I have read about for years, were funny, approachable, and so human. They reminded me that one person’s passion can ignite a movement for seed security, resilient communities, and a thriving Earth.
About the Author
Tierra is the Prairie Regional Coordinator for The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and a Progam Manager at Organic Alberta. Tierra first fell in love with the world of food systems as a summer student with Organic Alberta. After graduating from Mount Allison University with a B.A. Hons. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (Politics Emphasis); Tierra rejoined Organic Alberta, where she worked on developing farm clubs in Alberta, a soil health toolkit and curriculum for organic growers, and managed the Pivot and Grow website and resources. As a Regional Coordinator, Tierra is committed to supporting growers and the seed community in creating a resilient seed and food system.