Archive | Religion

Losing Your Religion May Be Unhealthy

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Sept. 28 (UPI) — Forty percent of members of strict religious groups say they are healthy, but that drops to 20 percent if they leave the religion, U.S. researchers suggest.

Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant at Pennsylvania State University, says, in addition, 25 percent of members in strict religious groups who switched to another religion reported they were in excellent health.

The study also indicates people who were raised and remained in strict religious groups were more likely to report they were in better health than people affiliated with other religious groups. Scheitle, working with Amy Adamczyk, assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and City University of New York, defined strict religions, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses — both with strict social, moral and physical guidelines for members that include abstaining from unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco use.

These religions also create both formal and informal social support structures. These social bonds may be another factor for better health, the researchers say,

“The social solidarity and social support could have psychological benefits,” Scheitle said in a statement. “That could then lead to certain health benefits.”

Therefore, exiting the religious group may be stressful because people lose their social support network, the study says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Justice, Other, Religion0 Comments

Prejudice Has Lasting Negative Impact

TORONTO, Aug. 13 (UPI) — People who felt discriminated against — based on gender, age, race or religion — ate more, were more hostile and had less focus, a Canadian researcher says.

Study leader Michael Inzlicht of the University of Toronto Scarborough and colleagues had a group of women complete a math test and told them the test would determine whether or not they were capable and smart in math — subtly insinuating stereotypes about women and math skills.

A similar group of women were also given a test but were given support and coping strategies to deal with the stress they’d face when writing the test.

After the math test, the two groups of women performed another series of tasks designed to gauge their aggression, ability to focus and self control.

“In these follow-up tests, the women who felt discriminated against ate more than their peers in the control group,” Inzlicht says in a statement. “They showed more hostility than the control group. And they performed more poorly on tests that measured their cognitive skills.”

The pattern remained the same, regardless of the test groups — men, old, young, race or religion — all experienced significant impacts even after they were removed from the situation, Inzlicht says.

The findings are published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Other, Religion0 Comments

Thinking About God De-stresses Believers

TORONTO, Aug. 7 (UPI) — Thinking about God reduce distress, but only in believers, while atheists are more distressed after thinking of God-related ideas, Canadian researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough looked at brain activity in people primed to think about God and found decreases in activity in the anterior cingulate cortex — an area of the brain associated with regulating bodily states of arousal when things were going wrong — such as making mistakes. However, atheists were more distressed making mistakes after thinking of God-related ideas.

In the study, published in Psychological Science, participants either wrote about religion or did a scrambled word task with God-related words before brain activity was recorded while the participants did tasks with high error-rates.

“Eighty-five percent of the world has some sort of religious beliefs,” study co-author Michael Inzlicht says in a statement. “I think it behooves us as psychologists to study why people have these beliefs; exploring what functions, if any, they may serve.”

Although not unequivocal, Inzlicht says, there is some evidence that religious people live longer and tend to be happier and healthier.

“We think this can occur with any meaning system that provides structure and helps people understand their world,” he says.

Inzlicht suggests atheists may have done better in the study if prompted to think about their own beliefs.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other, Religion0 Comments

Darwin Film on Evolutionism "Too Controversial" for U.S. Distribution

LONDON, Sept. 12 (UPI) — British producer Jeremy Thomas claims his new movie “Creation” has not found a U.S. distributor because of its take on evolutionist Charles Darwin.

The Oscar-winning producer contends that despite positive reviews, the movie about the British naturalist’s struggles while writing “On the Origin of Species” has not landed a single distributor in the United States, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

“It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the U.S., and it’s because of what the film is about,” he said.

The movie portrays Darwin as a man who loses his religious faith due to an accident that kills his young daughter. Darwin is best known for writing 1859′s “Species” that has served as the foundation of evolutionary theory.

Thomas, whose film “The Last Emperor” won the 1988 Best Picture Oscar, told the Telegraph “Creation” does not attack religion.

“Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn’t saying ‘kill all religion’, he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people,” the producer said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Other, People, Religion0 Comments

The Crichtonian Green

In 2004 author Michael Crichton published “State of Fear,” a novel that he uses as a platform to attempt to debunk global warming alarm. Whether or not one finds Crichton’s arguments compelling generally governs how someone might characterize his views on environmentalists and environmentalism. But Crichton, in his own way, is himself an environmentalist. Having obtained a transcript of a recent speech by Crichton on environmentalism, what follows is our synopsis of some of the key points he makes:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”

“Second hand smoke is not a health hazard and never was.”

“The evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.”

“There is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 21st century.”

“The percentage of U.S. land that is taken for urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.”

“>
State of Fear)
by Michael Crichton

This is a lot of fairly contrarian stuff, but Crichton is correct about DDT, and assessing DDT – along with second hand smoke – rests on basic toxicology. Properly applied, DDT is a fantastic solution to malaria, and banning it instead of properly regulating its use has been a tragic mistake. Obviously second hand smoke with extreme exposure is harmful, but Crichton is saying the criteria being used to justify smoking regulations are far below genuinely harmful levels.

Our commitment to publishing skeptical analyses relating to global warming and global warming policies is well documented, but Crichton’s statement regarding low levels of urbanization is another area where we add conviction to principle. There is plenty of land in the United States, definitely including California. Declaring “open space” to be endangered is ridiculous. This fatally flawed argument – now buttressed if not guaranteed by the trump card argument of supposedly stopping global warming – is the justification to force people into ultra-dense, punishingly regulated and taxed urban bantustans inside the “green line,” or the “urban service boundary.” It is dangerous nonsense. Here’s one more of Crichton’s contrarian zingers:

“The Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing.”

We are constantly trying to get good information on this and it is astonishingly difficult, given how fundamental these two observations are towards assessing global climate change. But there is strong evidence supporting Crichton’s claim that the total ice mass of Antarctica is increasing. There is data indicating increasing or at least stable rates of snowfall in the interior, as well as data that the total surface area of the icecap is increasing. Furthermore, other than in limited areas where there is rising geothermal heat, or the waters around the relatively insignificant Antarctic Peninsula, most of the ocean around Antarctica is getting colder. In all cases this information is hard to find and often conflicting. Read our Climate page for much more.

Yet through all this, Crichton is an environmentalist – a Crichtonian environmentalist – but nonetheless someone with environmentalist sentiments. Consider this:

“It is incumbant on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved.”

Environmentalism, according to Crichton, has gone well beyond this invocation, and has become a movement that cannot admit to past or present mistakes or excesses. He believes environmentalism has fulfilled an innate urge that urban atheists find fulfilling as an alternative to religion. This may be a bit much at least insofar as environmentalists, including Crichton himself, come from an infinite diversity of faiths and personal perspectives. But Crichton is on to something when he questions the reactions he elicits from many environmentalists to, for example, his observations regarding DDT, second hand smoke, global warming, urbanization, the Sahara or the Antarctic. Why is debate closed on these issues when they can be challenged on a factual basis? Why can’t the facts speak for themselves? The intense reactions environmentalists have displayed towards Crichton are unfounded unless something more powerful than reason is involved – belief, ideology, passion, a primal inner need for meaning and mission.

Crichton’s opening remarks included compelling reminders that humanity has always adapted and humanity has relentlessly improved the collective well being, and this is continuing. In his closing remarks he warns how politicized and entrenched environmental organizations have become, stating “what more and more groups are doing is putting out lies, pure and simple, Falsehoods that they know to be false.”

Of course everything Crichton says is not true, just as everything the current environmentalist establishment maintains is not false, or unhelpful, but in his final remarks, here, he also described his state of fear, and mine – and to paraphrase Czech President Vaclav Klaus – what is at stake, our global climate or our freedom? Or according to Crichton,

In the end, science offers us a way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”

Posted in Geothermal, Organizations, Other, People, Policies & Solutions, Policy, Law, & Government, Religion, Science, Space, & Technology, Smoking, Urbanization1 Comment

An Environmentalist's Review of Al Gore's "Assault on Reason"

It would be fitting, after just reporting on a recent appearance by Former Vice President Al Gore (ref. Al Gore and Innovation), to review his latest book “The Assault on Reason.” The premise of the book is that modern mass media constitutes a relentless march towards “one way conversations,” where money and power dictate what radio, then television, have force-fed into the minds of vulnerable and impressionable human psyches. Gore then offers hope that the internet and the Democratic party can reverse this trend.

Al Gore
Will his greentech revolution save the
earth, or merely revive socialist tyranny?

Gore’s concerns about mass media are certainly not unfounded, but what struck me again and again when reading the book was how easily you could substitute the canards he accuses his Republican political adversaries of manipulated the media into brainwashing into the body politic, with Gore’s own canards.

“Our systematic exposure to fear and other arousal stimuli on television can be exploited by the clever public relations specialist, advertiser, or politician.” – Al Gore

One of the favorite arguments of global warming alarmists is the so called “precautionary principle.” If some future scenario is sufficiently horrific, then taking steps to prevent it, even if it isn’t likely it will happen, is simply prudent and rational behavior. But Gore himself debunks the precautionary principle:

“Another psychological phenomenon that is important to understanding how fear influences our thinking [is] ‘probability neglect.’ Social scientists have found that when confronted with either an enormous threat or a huge reward, people tend to focus on the magnitude of the consequence and ignore the probability.” – Al Gore

That might be Saddam’s nukes. Then again, it might be the spectre of sea level rising 300 feet, too. Fear indeed is a powerful selling tool. Once again, to quote Gore:

In the immediate run up to the election campaign of 2002, a new product – the war against Iraq – was being launched. For everything there is a season, particularly in the politics of fear.” – Al Gore

Now we’re in the election season of 2008, and what high profile $300 million advertising campaign is about to be launched – in the “immediate run-up to the election campaign?” None other than Al Gore’s climate change advertising blitz. Look for footage of extreme storms, burning deserts, endangered mega-fauna, and starving children. Yet when it comes to co-opting media by using hype to trump logical analysis, Gore is at his outraged best:

“I don’t remember a single newspaper, commentator, or political leader ever questioning the president’s claim that our nations objective should be to ‘rid the world of evil.’ Further, I heard precious little questioning of the preposterous logic by which the president and vice president had conflated Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It was as if the nation had decided to suspend the normal rigors of logical analysis…” – Al Gore

Well how many newspapers, commentators, or political leaders are questioning global warming alarm? How many are pointing out that the reality of climate change, the reasons for climate change, the severity of climate change, and the steps to mitigate climate change – are all worthy of vigorous debate? Gore’s propaganda machine has silenced them all, using the same tactics he deplores throughout his new book. It is as if we have “suspended the normal rigors of logical analysis.” Climate change alarm has become a secular faith. And speaking of faith, what about this?

“Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged.” – Al Gore

If the absolute intolerance of the global warming alarmists, who dominate the media and call those of us who simply call for reasoned discussion “deniers,” isn’t evocative of religious extremists, I don’t know what is. Similarly, if making Americans pay punitive prices and endure rationing of government controlled energy, water and land – so attorneys, CPAs, Wall Street traders, huge and heavily subsidized corporations, well-heeled environmentalist nonprofits, the U.N., and academia can harvest the proceeds to enrich themselves – isn’t being seen as “the most radical effort in American history to take what belongs to the American people and give as much of it as possible to the already wealthy and privileged,” it is only because Gore’s media machine has done its work well.

These are just a few examples of how Gore’s criticisms of media and Republicans could just as easily apply to his own campaign. Indeed Gore slips at one point and pretty much admits he’s cut of the same cloth, when he writes “there are, of course, many historical examples of vivid imagery producing vicarious traumatization that has been used for positive purposes.” Such as those Polar Bears perched precariously on a rapidly melting fragment of sea ice, perhaps? Or New York City covered with mountains of glacial ice? Apparently Gore doesn’t really mind the assault on reason represented by modern media one bit. He just minds when he can’t control it.

Not to worry. Gore’s vision is on the ascendancy these days. Ever seen the bumper sticker that says “Endless War,” with a few letters crossed out so it actually reads “End This War”? That is how anyone who can see what Gore and the radical environmentalists – who now control the environmental lobby here in the USA and most other places in the world – should view the war on anthropogenic “greenhouse gas.” They won’t succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to anywhere near where those supposedly accurate “general circulation models” indicate they need to go in order to avert planetary catastrophe. But that isn’t the point. The objective is to take over huge new sectors of the economy, to put America on a war footing, to ration energy, land and water, and as with all socialist totalitarian states, this will benefit the rich and hurt the poor. This is the “endless war” we should all fear. Gore’s remarks on page 143 of his new book summarize the threat of reinventing our political economy according to the gospel of global warming alarmism quite well:

“There are also reasons for concern this time around that what we are experiencing may no longer be the first half of a recurring cycle, but rather the beginning of something new. For one thing, this war is predicted by the administration to last for the rest of our lives. So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity…it will become a more or less permanent struggle that occupies a significant part of our law enforcement and security agenda from now on. If that is the case, then when – if ever – does this encroachment on our freedoms die a natural death?” – Al Gore

Posted in Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, History, Other, Religion, Television1 Comment

Global Warming & Climate Change Media Hysteria

MEDIA GLOBAL WARMING HYSTERIA DISTORTS REALITY
California Ocean Shore
The green land and blue sea of planet earth.
Big Sur, California

Editor’s Note: This latest report on global warming by D. James Guzy is yet another well reasoned and well researched analysis that makes clear the emphasis on CO2 emissions is based on highly debateable precepts.

As a matter of principle we publish these analyses by global warming skeptics. To put it mildly, it is astonishing that most media continue to largely ignore – or discredit – any information that runs counter to global warming alarm. The least they might do is cast the skeptics as the voices of moderation, instead of “deniers” and “flat earthers.”

Here is the basic algebra of global energy today: Over 80% is produced through combustion of fossil fuel, and global energy production needs to double in order to allow emerging nations to achieve a decent standard of living. It is unlikely – if not unthinkable – that we can make absolute cuts in total global CO2 output within only a few decades without collapsing the global economy. Ref. “Fossil Fuel Reality,” and “Environmentalist Priorities.”

The good news is – if you are paying attention – we are not necessarily going to destroy the planet by increasing atmospheric levels of CO2. New observational data is not reinforcing the alarming scenarios, despite many high profile studies that continue to make those claims. Consider:

  • New satellite data that can do 3D imaging of clouds indicate
    water vapor forcing may be a negative feedback, causing cooling
    instead of warming.
  • New ocean buoys are returning data suggesting the ocean,
    overall, is marginally cooling for at least the last five years.
  • A recent study published in the journal Nature predicts the earth will be cooling for at least the next 15 years. (Ref. “Next Decade May See No Warming.”)

The truth is the many general circulation models do not have the ability to predict global climate trends. They are being constantly revised and to assert their scenarios are a certainty is ludicrous. And while humans may indeed have the ability to affect global climate, these changes may be due more to tropical deforestation than because of rising levels of CO2.

It is grossly irresponsible for scientists and journalists to abandon their innate skepticism when so much is at stake. They should understand the large international corporations, the U.N., government agencies everywhere, associations of government workers, huge swaths of the scientific and academic community, myriad non-profit organizations, trial lawyers and insurance companies all stand to benefit from policies enacted in the name of global warming mitigation. This is the hidden agenda, likely creating futile and destructive policies based on flawed logic.

It is the duty of anyone influencing global warming policy – from individual voters to international journalists and world leaders – to personally and continuously survey all the facts and keep an open mind, or science becomes religion, and journalism becomes propaganda. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Media Global Warming Hysteria Distorts Reality.
by D. James Guzy, May 24, 2008
California Ocean Shore Cliffs
The Pacific, greatest of oceans. Will climate
change arouse her to unprecedented fury?

Arctic summer sea ice registers the smallest aerial extent in history, Greenland and Antarctica ice is melting at accelerating rates, paleoclimate proxies indicate current warming is unprecedented for thousands of years, and your community will be under water by the end of the century. We are within a decade of the tipping point of irrecoverable warming.

These sample headlines in recent months can compel the unknowing to follow the leading alarmists’ cries for CO2 action. Even agnostics and some cynics resign themselves to heed these cries as an insurance policy just in case there is some chance of climate impact. We are bombarded every day with alarmist global warming headlines, giving credence to scientific consensus and draconian mitigation policies. Are these headlines distorting reality? Yes. And worse, they are often completely false.

Furthermore, the media fails completely to report the gathering research which contradicts anthropogenic (man-made) global warming hypotheses. The last year, in particular, has been a landmark year for research and observational data advancing the theory that natural forces, over anthropogenic forces, are far more responsible for the global warming we have experienced in the last thirty years. I will give examples of what has been overlooked. These recent studies begin to shed light on how tentative the science is behind man-made global warming theories.

Why do these studies go unreported and non-discussed? There are three reasons. One, environmentalists and some leading scientists are pushing global warming as a moral issue. The media are loath to be portrayed as apostates. Two, global warming mitigation policies give public policy makers and advocates means to expand their power base. Three, perhaps most importantly, the U.S. government’s global warming science grant budget is approximately $5 billion a year. Scientists and other vested colleagues are afraid of losing money. If their research does not support the pursuit of populist global warming studies, they can lose grants, tenure, publishing space and more.

I will give examples of recent compelling research that gives a completely different perspective on global warming. There is a healthy debate on man versus natural effects on climate, and there is no scientific consensus on global warming.

Amidst all the talk about the last couple decades being the warmest for thousands of years, little attention has been made to what global temperatures have been for the last several years. Since the big El Nino year of 1998, the average global temperature has not risen. An interesting example is to take this past January’s global temperature and note the difference between this temperature and the temperature from January of 2007. Next, note the temperature difference between December of 2007 and December of 2006. Repeat for each previous month. Once a year’s worth of temperature differences is noted, calculate the average difference. Comparing yearly average temperature differences, the data reveals that the earth has been cooling since 2001. 1998 has been the warmest year, the global temperature since 1998 has been relatively flat! I am the first to admit that looking at a decade’s set of data is not statistically significant enough. We probably need another seven or eight year’s worth of temperature data to be statistically significant. However, the trend is clearly not at an alarming or uncontrolled warming rate.

Ocean Rocks
Will these rocks be submerged beneath rising seas?

It is possible that we are headed for a cooling, let alone worry about warming. The earth is embarking upon solar cycle 24.

We are experiencing the end of solar cycle 23. Solar cycles track the sun’s magnetic activity through sun spot activity. The intensity of the solar cycles correlates to the number of sun spots. Sun spots modulate the solar irradiance that that reaches the earth and each solar cycle is on average, eleven years duration. Solar cycles, which have been tracked since the mid eighteenth century, are typically strong and short, indicating more solar irradiance on the earth, or weak and long, indicating less solar irradiance on the earth. Solar cycles 21 and 22 (from the late 1970s to the late 1990s) had high numbers of sun spots and lasted less than eleven years. In conjunction, the earth experienced higher temperatures with these more intense solar cycles. Solar cycle 23, ending now, is at least thirteen years long. This, along with current very low sun spot activity (sometimes zero sun spots) harbingers a very long and weak solar cycle 24. Compelling research has been published within the last year correlating the earth’s temperature with the number solar cycle sun spots: the more sun spots the higher the temperature. The bottom line is that soon we will experience a real cooling!

Temperature measurements are even under scrutiny and reevaluation. No scientist is arguing that we have not been experiencing a warming, but there is emerging questioning on how much we have warmed, particularly in the last thirty years. Pat Michaels and Ross McKitrick last year came out with a paper critiquing the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) temperature data base it uses (from 1979 to 2002). One of the big debates in climate science (yes, there are many debates in global warming science and no universal consensus) is how much to ascribe socio-economic effects into temperature measuring algorithms. As an example, urbanization through streets, concrete, steel, etc. causes a profound temperature increase. This is the urban heat island effect. Socio-economic impacts are non natural impacts on temperature.

Land use change, fossil fuel consumption, irrigation, population growth are other examples of socio-economic impacts on temperature. A robust temperature measurement algorithm should have no data dependent on socio-economic variables. The current database the IPCC uses employs an questionable algorithm to cross correlate neighboring temperature grid cells and applies a mere 0.05 C bias for the urban heat island effect. Michaels and McKitrick employed a more robust socio-economic analysis to conclude that the IPCC database not only underestimates socio-economic impacts on global temperature, but inflates temperature measurements two times! Up to one half of today’s observed global warming may just be an artifact of the measuring methods. It is difficult to argue with their results because they compared their temperature measurement data and the IPCC measurement data with socio-economic variables. Michaels and McKitrick discovered that the IPCC data set has correlations with socio-economic trends while their data set has no dependence.

Last year, Craig Loehle published a paper which reassessed temperature paleoclimate proxy data sets going back 2000 years. One of the big debates in climate science is proof of the existence of significant temperature swings designating the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), 1000 years ago, and the Little Ice Age (LIA), 300 years ago. This debate is highly significant, particularly related to the existence of the MWP. If the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age did not occur, or only experienced minor temperature fluctuations, then, as the man made global warming protagonists contend, today’s temperature level is the warmest we have experienced for at least a couple thousand years. This supports the theory that the global temperature is inherently stable and today’s temperature level is unprecedented, on the precipice of a runaway condition (refer to the infamous hockey stick temperature graph).

If the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age did occur, then, as the skeptics contend, this would validate the theory that earth’s climate and temperature are naturally cyclical and variant, with the MWP having been a couple degrees Celsius warmer than it is now. The proxy data sets that show no MWP and LIA are highly dependent on tree ring data. Tree ring proxies are the most controversial of all temperature measurement data sets because of the requirement of significant subjective interpretation tree ring growth influences.

Loehle’s paper extracts robust temperature proxy data sets. Loehle takes 18 data sets selected to give a geographical distribution of the earth. Each of the data sets comes from data that was published in peer reviewed journals. Each of the data sets comes from disparate paleoclimate proxies, such as ice cores, boreholes, stalagmites, etc. And, most importantly, the data sets contain no tree ring proxies. Loehle tried to create an objective case as possible. His analysis, indeed, yields the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age temperature cycles. It seems the only way to eliminate the MWP and LIA is to include data dependent on tree ring proxies. Steven McIntyre of Climateaudit.com has done extensive research on temperature proxy data and shows how all graphs that eliminate the MWP and LIA have a core set of similarly interpreted tree ring proxy data. Loehle’s analysis further lends credence to the theory that global temperatures are naturally cyclical.

Steven Milloy of Junkscience.com describes the interesting example of the cyclical nature of our climate. From January to July, the earth warms by four degrees Celsius. This four degree rise is much greater than the 0.75 degrees Celsius rise the earth experienced during the 20th century. However, the earth does not reach a state of uncontrolled warming, it naturally cycles cooler from July to December with its natural feedback systems.

The debate is on!

In further reports I will provide examples of what the mass media is not reporting to you and how recent studies are discrediting anthropogenic global warming hypotheses.

Iceberg
Icebergs at Cape York, Greenland
Will they all melt into a warm and angry ocean?
-

Additional EcoWorld features on Global Warming:

  • The Debate Goes On, Marc Morano
  • A Case Against Climate Alarmism, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • 35 Inconvenient Truths, Lord Christopher Monckton
  • Interview with Roger Pielke, Sr., EcoWorld Exclusive
  • Glacial Acceleration, Paul Brown
  • Global Warming Priorities, Dr. Edward Wheeler
  • Rebuttal to Inconvenient Truth, Marlo Lewis
  • Inconvenient Skeptics, D. James Guzy
  • Global Warming Facts, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • Is There a Basis for Global Warming Alarm?, Dr. Richard Lindzen
  • Global Warming Alarm, Dr. Edward Wheeler
EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Causes, Consumption, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, History, Organizations, Other, Policies & Solutions, Population Growth, Religion, Solar, Urbanization0 Comments

The EcoWorld Philosophy

What is this EcoWorld thing all about, anyway? Earlier this year, EcoWorld’s posts suddenly attracted a commenter who must have pasted a few dozen comments onto various stories within a week or two. Some of these comments were duplicates of previous comments, or had duplicate passages, and while the general thrust of the comments were well worth posting, it was getting to be a lot of work to read and edit the flow. Most websites have automatic blocks for this sort of thing, but we like most of what we get, including most of this. These many comments – all written in all-caps by the admitted hunt and peck typist – were very insightful and they looped into religion and civilization issues – and the writer was trying to tackle it all. That is a tall order. But this commenter’s digressions into the other great issues of humanity was a reminder – there is a person behind every editor. What do we believe – what philosophy underlies the opinions and analysis we’ve provided on literally thousands of many pages for over 12 years? Who is the man behind this editor? And doesn’t any editor who is crass enough to post a million dollar billboard owe his readers a goofy glimpse? So here goes…

There is an ideological struggle for the soul of environmentalism that anti-environmentalists don’t care about, and environmentalists barely grasp. There are two ways to address environmental challenges and they should be complimentary approaches. One approach centers on reducing consumption, improving efficient use of energy and water, conserving open space. This approach dominates environmental thinking today. But the other approach is vital – and that approach centers on increasing the production of clean energy and water, and developing land to accomplish these goals. We call these two complementary approaches demand side vs. supply side environmentalism. Without a balance between these approaches, solving environmental challenges (without incurring devastating economic hardship) is doomed to failure.

Global warming is not the principle cause of drought, for example, nor of extreme weather. Both of those problems on a global scale can be addressed by reforestation, especially in the tropics. Reforestation, reversing desertification, and refilling aquifers all over the world – actions that will mitigate global warming but are also extremely important to accomplish even if there was no global warming alarm – will require more energy production, to desalinate seawater and to operate pumps to relocate fresh water. As we document in “Revisiting Desalinization,” for $5.0 billion dollars (which includes a budget for mitigation and disposal of the brine) a desalinization plant can provide water for 5.0 million residential users, and would only require about 250 megawatt-years of electricity per year. This is an astonishingly low amount to those of us who bought into the conventional wisdom that desalinization requires too much energy – one good 1.0 gigawatt nuclear power plant can desalinate 4 cubic kilometers of water per year, enough to supply 20 million residential water users.

Using desalinated seawater to replenish aquifers and supply water to cities requires a lot of scratches in the ground – something the demand side environmentalists decry. But they are wrong. And speaking of scratches in the ground, why aren’t we building canals to redirect excess fresh water from the Volga to the Aral Basin, or from the Congo to the Lake Chad Basin? Compared to the costs to mitigate industrial CO2, redirecting huge volumes of water to restore the lakes and aquifers in Central Asia and in Africa’s Sahel is easily done – but it requires some big scratches in the ground.

The point here is sometimes we have to protect the environment from the environmentalists. The demand side environmentalists often seem to want no development, anywhere, yet in many critical areas development – more energy, more water – is what we need not only to service the world’s growing population but also to preserve and restore the environment. We should take all that CO2 tax revenue – and brace yourself, it’s coming – and use it to fund massive development projects to repower and rewater the planet, restoring rains, cooling the land, reforesting, moderating the weather and eliminating severe droughts. That would be a better use of funds.

So there is an attempt to summarize EcoWorld’s editorial philosophy – for the cautious reader’s examination – since the mission is more important than the money.

Posted in Consumption, Drought, Electricity, Other, Philosophy, Policy, Law, & Government, Religion0 Comments

Clean the Ganges

RELIGION AND SCIENCE JOIN FORCES TO SAVE THE GREATEST RIVER ON EARTH
Varanasi on the Ganges River
Varanasi is considered the holiest place on the Ganges River

Editor’s Note: From the glaciers of the Himalayas in the north, down the mountains, and across the plains to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges river is one of the world’s greatest rivers.

Over 400 million people live along the Ganges river, and in spiritual and religious significance this river has no equal. Known as the Ganga Ma, or Mother of all Hindus, the Ganges is considered sacred by Hindus. The Ganges is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

To clean the Ganges a most unusual alliance has developed, emanating from the city of Varanasi, which is considered the sacred heart of this sacred river. The Mahant at the Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi is also a scientist, a man who has enjoined the faithful to honor their sacred river by figuring out a way to cleanse her of pollution. His message is timely, his ideas unique but compelling. To clean the river is a natural extension of a religious conviction that the river is sacred.

“This is not visionary, it is simply essential,” says Veer Bhadra Mishra of his calling, downplaying the revolutionary significance of his message. Not only is Mishra’s message of science and religion working in harmony towards cleaning the environment innovative and compelling, but his methods are innovative as well.

In partnership with Dr. Bill Oswald, a scientist from the University of California at Berkeley, gravity-fed decantation ponds that use algae to turn sewage into fertilizer are being planned and tested throughout the Ganges watershed. These innovative messages and methods have the potential to make the waters of the Ganges as pristine in reality as they are in spirit. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Please consider them an endangered species,

these people who still have this faith, this living relationship with the river,” pleads Veer Bhadra Mishra, Mahant of the Sankat Mochan Temple of Varanasi, a retired hydraulic engineer and head of the Civil Engineering Department at Banaras Hindu University. “If birds can be saved, if plants can be saved, let this species of people be saved by granting them holy water.”

Indian Man Stretching out Arms
Veer Bhadra Mishra
A Mahant who wants to clean the holy Ganges

But this priest, coming from the riverside laboratory, knows that the Ganges or Ganga River’s holy water must be cleaned before it can be granted to anyone. For almost 25 years, he has led a political campaign, a scientific development project and a holy crusade to save India’s most sacred river.

When his father died, Mishra was 14 years old. He thus became Mahant of the sect of Hinduism that follows sixteenth-century divine poet Tulsi Das, author of the “Ramayana,” one of the most revered Hindu texts. To devotees and to all Hindus– over a billion people worldwide– the Ganga is a living mother goddess, a symbol of purity.

Originally Banaras (Varanasi) was known as Kashi, the holy city from Hindu scriptures. Only here, for 7 kilometers, the river turns northward, back towards her source. It is said that the river fell in love with the city and nearly turned back here. The half loop northwards creates the curved bank where the ghats (stairs close to the river) stand today.

Ganga flows some 2,500 km from the Himalayan Mountains to the Bay of Bengal. Her basin is inhabited by nearly 400 million people, making it the most populous river basin in the world. Each sunrise brings 60,000 people, come to bathe and pray at the various ghats of Varanasi. It is believed that if a person’s ashes are placed in the Ganga after cremation, they will go to Nirvana (Heaven).

Praying Next to Ganges River
Prayers along the Ganges

Therefore, human ashes, and often corpses of those who cannot afford cremation, are immersed in the river. And although the river is sacred, it is used practically for washing clothes and animals, the disposal of chemical waste from textile dying and brass making industries, and solid waste like plastic bags, flower garlands etc. Yet the biggest cause of pollution is untreated sewage. 88% of the pollution comes from 27 cities from along the banks of the Ganga.

Dr. Veer Bhadra Mishra is the co-founder of the Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), a secular, non-governmental organization at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi dedicated to cleaning and protecting the Ganga, especially from sewage since 1982.

The Indian government initiated the first stage of an unrelated Ganga Action Plan (GAP) to clean the river in 1984. Three sewage treatment plants and an electric crematorium were built. Although the major part of the GAP was completed in 1991, testing shows no significant improvement in water quality, not to mention major design flaws, including the backflow of sewage into religious bathing areas, pollution of groundwater throughout the district and backflow of sewage into the streets of the city. The electric crematorium is now used for 80% of cremations, but is plagued by frequent breakdowns which again result in bodies in the water.

The former director of the GAP himself, K.C. Sivaramakrisnan, said, “In spite of working on this plan for 10-15 years, I do not see the levels of maturity increasing.” The Sankat Mochan Foundation established the Swatcha (clean) Ganga campaign, with funding and support primarily from the United States, Sweden, Britain and Australia. With this outside support Dr. Mishra is able to analyze water quality of the Ganga.

The riverside Swatcha Ganga Research Laboratory monitors water quality daily. Local villages are also suffering from the effects of extreme sewage pollution in their water supply, both from the river and well water. The recent tests indicate faecal coliform levels in the wells of theses villages ranges from 21,000 to 80,000 colonies per 100ml. The safe level for drinking water is zero, for bathing water, less than 150 colonies per 100ml.

Faecal coliform are a bacteria found in the intestinal system of warm-blooded animals; their presence in large numbers indicates pollution by sewage contamination.

Bathers in the Ganges River
Every morning in Varanasi 60,000 worshipers bathe in the Ganges

The statistics for the ghats of Varanasi are not much better. Here the fecal coliform count at times is up to 3,000 times the level acceptable for human beings.

People who are dependent on the river for their water supply often become sick from drinking the water, with hepatitis, typhoid or cholera. According to WorldWatch Institute in Washington D.C., eight out of ten people in India suffer waterborne stomach disorders at some time in their lives.

The Sankat Mochan Foundation has mobilized volunteers from all over the world. Aside from the laboratory, they have led a large-scale international awareness campaign, utilizing television, radio, print media and the internet. Dr. Mishra has traveled the world learning about the plight of rivers and how activists and scientists have tried to clean them; he hopes that his work for the Ganga will inspire others to clean the waterways they depend on for life.

Among others, he has worked with Thames21, an environmental group in Great Britain. Swatcha Ganga Environmental Education Centre was started by Oz GREEN and the Sankat Mochan Foundation In 1998. It is a direct people to people project which is funded by Australians. They have provided equipment, training and environmental education resources like water testing kits to schools and community groups. The Asia Foundation, based in San Francisco has also provided core funding for the Sankat Mochan Foundation’s cleaning project.

THE GANGES / BRAHMAPUTRA WATERSHED
Map of Delhi, Varanasi, and Calcutta
Varanasi, in the heart of the Ganges Watershed, is also the epicenter of a new
scientific & spiritual movement to eliminate pollution from this sacred river
Yellow areas = elevation over 200 meters
Map Scale: 100 pixels = 500 kilometers
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Since 2001, campaigners have also cleaned up litter, debris and corpses of humans and animals in the river and along all 77 ghats with their own hands. Numerous sources credit them with improving the situation by one third. The Sankat Mochan Foundation has also built tubewells in six neighboring villages, providing clean drinking water to residents who were previously ill from drinking the water of the Ganga.

With the help of William Oswald, an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Mishra has developed a plan to clean the Ganga. In his own words, it is “a cost-effective and safe system for cleaning the Varanasi stretch.” It is called an advanced integrated wastewater oxidation pond system.

The non-electric wastewater system would store sewage for 45 days in biological oxidation ponds, using bacteria and algae to eliminate pesticides, heavy metals and deadly coliforms, cleansing the entire 7 kilometer stretch. The system would not only purify water but could be used to irrigate farmland and grow fish. The ponds would be built outside the city limits.

Powered by gravity, the system would save an estimated US$ 55 million annually compared to electrical solutions – which are impractical in Varanasi anyway due to frequent power cuts.

Foundation Members have spoken to the thousands of residents along the river front and in the villages nearby, and more than 6,500 local people have signed a petition demanding the interceptor be built. Over 100,000 people have agreed to help build the dam walls for the oxidation ponds, as an act of religious devotion dedicated to cleaning the river. Nearly 10,000 local residents have volunteered to build the type of non-electrical wastewater treatment system advocated by the campaign. The Varanasi City Corporation has accepted the plans and the funds are available (about 40 million sterling) but, according to the SMF, the Uttar Pradesh state government is behaving unconstitutionally and blocking Varanasi City Corporation’s plan to clean the Ganga.

In 1994, the 74th amendment to the Indian constitution was adopted, guaranteeing the city’s right to determine and implement environmental policies. While the political standoff continues, the river and its people continue to suffer.

Clean Ganga Day 2004 was held in New Delhi, the political capital of India, on the 27 th of August. The political and environmental issues were discussed by international diplomats and activists.

Veer Bhadra Mishra
Veer Bhadra Mishra
Scientist & Holy Man

Addressing participants on Clean Ganga Day, organized by Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan Foundation, the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Robert O. Blake said, “The American people are proud to support your ongoing work to protect this beautiful waterway.”

Although Dr. Mishra is an engineer, it is his faith and his heart that keeps him going in this lifelong plight. He says, “We have to clean all the rivers, and only then our hearts will be happy. This is what I feel. It cannot be clean just by technology, just by setting up the right kind of infrastructure, there has to be an intermixing of culture, faith, science and technology. We have that kind of living relationship with the river. You [Western societies] have the best technology. So both the societies need to interact with each other to take care of these rivers.”

Dr. Mishra was recognized on the United Nations Environmental Program’s Global 500 Roll of Honour in 1992 at Rio, Brazil, and was a TIME Magazine “Hero of the Planet” recipient in 1999.

Rather than claim visionary status, however, Mishra chooses to raise the standard for all of us: “This is not visionary,” he says. “It is simply essential. To aim for less would not be worthy of us as human beings.”

To help with the Swatcha Ganga Campaign, or for more information contact:

Telephone: 91-542-313884

Fax: 91-542-314278

Postal address

Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi – 221 005, INDIA

Electronic mail

General Information: vbmishra@altavista.net

In Australia: ozgreen@ozgreen.org.au

About the Authors: Brook and Gaurav Bhagat are writers and independent filmmakers based in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.

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Vandana Shiva – In Her Own Words

Interviewed by Paolo Scopacasa March 6, 2004
Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva
curriculum vitae

Editor’s Note: Vandana Shiva, a scientist and activist from India, has become an outspoken critic of privatization, globalization, and genetically-modified crops. Shiva is strident and at times inflamatory but her fundamental arguments are powerful and resonate with millions. It is at our peril when we no longer even ask these questions: Do corporations rule the world? Is soverignity for sale? What voice do regular people have in the tidal wave of globalization and privatization? Who speaks for the people on the land from Asia to Africa to the Americas? Should a watershed be sold like any other asset? Are the seeds of seeds that grow someone’s property?

Shiva’s opinions cover a broad range of issues, and she is often fierce in her rhetoric. But many of her positions have great merit and import. Her stand against rampant privatization is well founded. The idea that private enterprise is always more efficient than a government operation is a hilarious myth. Government organizations, such as the military or the public works administrations, enjoy access to much less expensive capital. Government agencies can pay less in salaries in exchange for offering more job security. A government agency can reinvest revenues and always focus on the efficiency of its core service. Because government-ran operations perform a specific service to the public, they avoid the constant searching for new business and higher profits that drain the resources of private sector companies. Keeping the government out of everything can be monstrously inefficient for any economy.

Shiva is also a critic of fundamentalist fanaticism, which in her view springs from a masculine, patriarchical system of rule in the world. As she puts it “They’re fighting each other around religion and fundamentalism, but they both want the same bomb, the same destruction.” Shiva champions diversity, localization, de-industrialization, public administration, feminization. Is she always right? Probably not, but who is? Should she be heard? Absolutely. EcoWorld Contributing Editor Paolo Scopacasa interviewed Vandana Shiva in the summer of 2003 in Milan, Italy. Here is Vandana Shiva, in her own words:

Q: Time Magazine has called you a hero who is fighting to preserve agricultural diversity. Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute for Biotechnology wrote in the National Review: “If developing world farmers took her one-tenth as seriously as do Western activists, her proclamations would lead inexorably to massive famine. She was born into wealth and her soft palms have never worked a plow. Hunger to her is something she reads about in the newspapers.” Who is Vandana Shiva really?

It’s interesting how people whom I have never met…

…and who know nothing about me can create images that totally fly off the face of reality. I grew up on a farm with my mother. She was highly educated, but she chose to be a farmer, because she believed that the highest state of human evolution is to be a peasant.

I don’t say this as a prescription to someone else. I actually spend most of my time on a farm I started. I find no work as meaningful as working with the soil. I defend the farmers’ dignity and their right to survival, because for me peasants are the most creative and productive individuals on this planet not the people who gamble on Wall Street and make billions overnight. I think the real wealth is created on the land by people who soil their hands, by people who work in cooperation with nature and give us the nourishment we need as humans.

Some of these corporate spokesmen would like humanity to believe that genetic engineering, nano-technologies and chemicals can replace human creativity and human labor. But most people are fed up of the bad food they are being forced to eat.

Poor people are fed up of being made scapegoats for corporate schemes to make super profits by squeezing money out of peasants for seed royalties and water. People can see the game. Ultimately, the issue is corporate control over the means of life versus the celebration of a partnership between people and the Earth.

Soil is my teacher, seeds are my teacher, nature is my teacher. So I don’t have to worry about these accusations. I spend a tiny part of my life and my work in solidarity. But if I were always in the West, I would have never done the work which makes the guy you mentioned so panicky.

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Water Wars, Privatization, Pollution and Profit Book Cover
Water Wars
Privatization,
Pollution & Profit
by Vandana Shiva

Q: In your book Water Wars you argue that wars are already being fought over water. Where is this happening and why?

When water wars are referred to, people usually imagine militaristic attacks between countries, but the water wars that are spreading around the world are, at one level, paradigm wars. They are about two ways of looking at the world.

In one view, water is nature’s gift, and we need to maintain its flow as a gift. Even now, if you come to India on a hot day, you will see people put out water in street corners. It’s called the gift of water or the temple of water. Anyone who’s thirsty can go there and drink. Instead of accumulating wealth, these people are accumulating the good act of giving and meeting other people’s needs for basic survival.

The other view has it that water can be appropriated and sold to make huge profits or wasted.

In the summer of 2002, 1,300 people died of the heat in India. But heat alone does not kill. Heat transformed into dehydration is what becomes a killer. Water is becoming more and more scarce because there are swimming pools and golf courses, wasteful crops, such as sugar cane, green revolution paddies, hybrid and GM cotton, where there is not enough water to support all these non-sustainable systems. And that scarcity is leading to conflicts within families, between men and women, within communities.

During the summer of 2002 people were killed in water fights in the country. Water riots happened every second week in the capital of India. So the water wars are very real, they are actually annihilating life. Some of these fights transform into regional conflicts, which take on the color of chauvinism, but they are really about water, as was the conflict in Punjab, where thirty people were killed over a canal being taken away from Punjab to another state.

Hundreds of people lost their lives in fights over the Kaveri water, fights created by the promotion of non-sustainable industrial agriculture rather than the sustainable, prudent agriculture that Kaveri used to have. Nature has given enough water for each ecosystem to support itself, if water is conserved. When we start to go against that, water wars are unleashed. Right now, the most important water war has been declared by a handful of corporations against the entire planet, on all the people.

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Stolen Harvest
The Hijacking of the
Global Food Supply
by Vandana Shiva

Q: According to your book Stolen Harvest, “a hijacking of the global food supply” is taking place at the same time. Who is stealing the harvest from whom? And how?

Food is produced by farmers, most of whom in the Third World happen to be women. In India, about 60% of the farming work is done by women. They are the producers of the harvest. Their harvest is being stolen through a trade mechanism. This allows corporations which don’t grow food and don’t work the land, to make super profits at the cost of farmers and to capture markets around the world.

The corporations are enabled to do this through trade rules, through the agriculture agreement of the World Trade Organization, through so-called free trade, which is actually forced trade.

And another means for stealing the harvest from the people and from nature is this amazing invention of calling life itself an invention, the patenting of life. Suddenly, a harvest that originates from nature and from those who have evolved seeds, bred seeds and grown the crop, becomes property of a corporation. And the small farmers are treated as thieves when they save part of the harvest of their own crop for growing the next year’s crop.

Corporations like Monsanto declare people like Percy Smitheson, the Canadian farmer, a thief, after they polluted his field through genetically modified crops. So, the stolen harvest is really the grandest of thefts ever designed, and it’s a theft of the very basis of life. It’s a theft of the food chain, from nature and from those who are the actual producers of food, by those who trade in food and monopolize seed.

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Protect or Plunder
Understanding Intellectual
Property Rights
by Vandana Shiva

Q: According to many of these corporations, by developing patented GM crops, they are helping reduce hunger in the world. What do you think about this?

World Trade Organization Logo

That is the rhetoric. That’s also Mr. Bush’s argument for the new case he started against Europe in the WTO. He argued that, by not eating GM foods, Europeans are somehow creating hunger in the South. Unfortunately, no lie is bigger than the fact that genetic engineering will be a solution to hunger.

In fact, it’s becoming a cause for hunger, it’s becoming the cause for poverty. In India, since globalization introduced new rules for the seed sector, farmers are having to pay so much for totally unreliable seed, which needs huge amounts of chemicals.

They’re getting into debt, they’re spending a hundred thousand rupees per acre for production and earning ten thousand rupees at the end of the year. They get into ninety thousand rupees of debt every year. Twenty thousand farmers have committed suicide as a result of this. The genetic engineered crops themselves are actually not performing because they have been engineered to use more chemicals, not to produce more yields. They have what is called a yield drag.

Monsanto Imagine Logo

When they brought their BT cotton to India, Monsanto announced that this genetically engineered cotton would double the yield, and bring a doubling of incomes. Well, the first year of cultivation showed that this was totally false. There was a 90% decline of yields and increase of farm losses of rupees 6 to 7,000 per acre. Monsanto has just been banned from expanding its cultivation in India for the extremely bad performance of its seed.

In the third world Monsanto is causing hunger, suicides and poverty. In fact, genetic engineering is not affordable in India. Our peasants are poor, and we can’t afford to play the profit-making games of corporations at the cost of polluting nature and biodiversity and impoverishing already marginalized farmers.

Q: Do you think that this kind of development has a negative impact on the so-called Third World countries only? Does it affect people in Europe and the United States, also?

Most Member Countries of the “Global South” are in the Tropics
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If globalization was only affecting the South, we would not have had the huge turnout of people at the WTO meeting in Seattle. We would not have seen Genoa happen and the sacrifices made by innocent citizens in those protests, we would not have seen Evian. People in the North, in the more affluent parts of the world are also getting affected. They’re getting affected in two ways. First of all, the young are beginning to see that in this world they don’t have the kind of future they want. They probably don’t have a future at all. Look at America, the so-called richest country. It cannot place its graduates. They can’t find jobs.
University enrolment in the information technology sector, which was supposed to be the miracle sector, dropped to one third, because there are no jobs.

People can see that in this system corporations can control the economy, but really generate jobs for only 2% of the world’s population. And 98% will lose their livelihoods. This will definitely happen first in the South, creating more misery there. But it is happening in the North, also.

The GATS is leading to the privatization of education, health, water and energy. This denies the access to fundamental rights and basic needs. People can see this. The wonderful thing is that the movements against globalization are movements of solidarity. For the first time, we have gone beyond selfish movements. It is no longer my cause, my need today and I can let the rest go to hell.

There is a clear recognition that this is an issue of everyone’s interest. Water privatization has to be fought for all people on the Earth. GMO’s are being resisted, both in the North and the South. Corporations in agriculture are being fought in the North and the South. In fact, globalization has created an objective situation in which, for the first time, citizens in the North and South have one common agenda for creating alternative systems.

Earthworms in Hand
Earthworms: The Key to Healthy Soil

Q: In your book Stolen Harvest you also mention that earthworms are stolen their food. Why is that a problem for us?

Darwin has been quoted so much for talking about the competition between species and the struggle for survival, but Darwin’s more important contribution was a book on the earthworm. In that book, he wrote that the most significant species on the planet is the earthworm, because it is the most efficient converter of waste into fertility.

All systems of modern industrial farming, whether they be the Green Revolution, chemical agriculture or genetic engineering, assume that the millions of living beings which live in the soil and make it fertile can be killed. They assume that fertility will come out of explosive factories which make nitrogen fertilizers and a handful of other synthetic chemicals. But those synthetic chemicals rob the earthworms of their food, and in fact they create warfare in the soil, though we can’t see it.

The killing of the earthworms is the reason why our soils are getting desertified, production is dropping, our farming systems become vulnerable to disease, pests and environmental stress increase. We need the earthworm for food security, our food security.

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BioPiracy Book Cover
BioPiracy
The Plunder of
Nature & Knowledge
by Vandana Shiva

Q: So it’s basically about respect for the soil and the Earth. In your book Staying alive, you introduced the term maldevelopment, referring to a “masculine mode of knowing”, or a patriarchal mode of development, which harms both women and the Earth. Why do you make a connection between women and ecological issues?

First of all I’d like to clarify that patriarchy is a system of male domination, but it dehumanizes the men as much as the women, and it robs from most men as much power as it robs from the Earth and from women.

The masculine mode of thinking, of doing science, of defining the economy is a mode that gains power for those who control wealth and property through controlling capital.

The reason women and nature are linked is because they are the original sources of creativity. Maldevelopment defines them into passivity. In fact the very word matter comes from mother, but matter today is the inert object around us, it’s that which provides raw material. Matter has lost its creative activity. Soil is mere matter, it’s mere container. Water is purely matter, it doesn’t have any life-nourishing force, therefore it can be commoditized.

The blindness to the creativity of nature and women is the source of power in patriarchal structure and patriarchal organization. It’s a very convenient source of power, because it allows destruction to be defined as the creation of wealth. In fact, after the war against Iraq, the general who was put in charge of reconstruction used a phrase: we are giving birth to a new Iraq. Now, after you’ve devastated a country, you’ve bombed it out, you see that phenomenon as a birthing process. And in my mind I said, generals don’t give birth and life is not born through bombs. But this illusion allows destruction to be interpreted as creation. And that is the ultimate partnership.

The partnership of ecology and feminism is a partnership of liberation. It’s not a partnership of essentially biological determinism, very far from it. It is a political association. It’s a political association that sees that systems that treat nature as merely raw material also treat women as purely suppliers of labor. And all our indicators of measurements of growth and prosperity are gained at the cost of women and nature. In India it translates into the most horrendous and the most violent systems.

Women are walking longer miles for water. Women are having to go into more and more hazardous work. But the worst form of violence we have seen emerge in the last decade is female feticide. This annihilating phenomenon is linked very intimately to globalization. It began to happen in the regions with the highest growth rates, the highest integration into commerce, the highest commoditization of culture.

Q: Isn’t that part of an Indian tradition?

Traditional patriarchy has a male bias and sons are preferred. But until a decade ago, baby girls weren’t killed. The female fetus wasn’t annihilated. The preference for the male child has been transformed into an annihilation of the female fetus by a combination and convergence of traditional patriarchy with its biases and the global capitalist patriarchy with its culture of commoditazion, which translates into a further devaluation of the female life.

Diverse Women for Diversity Book Cover
Diverse Women
for Diversity

Q: You have created a movement called Diverse Women for Diversity with several other women. What kind of world do these women want?

Very clearly a very diverse world. Our movement, Diverse Women for Diversity, is really a triple response. It grew out of defending biological diversity. It grew out of a group of women who were fighting genetic engineering, the biotech giants and the seed monopolies. We were a bunch of scientists, primarily, but we also recognized that we were all from different cultures. While we all wanted to fight monopoly, each of us wanted to defend our way of speaking, our way of eating, our way of dressing, everything that makes us what we are. But it was also a response to the dominant mode.

When India and Pakistan were competing with nuclear tests, and India called its nuclear bomb the Hindu bomb, while Pakistan called its bomb the Islamic bomb, I said: this is the perfect example of diverse men for monoculture. They’re fighting each other around religion and fundamentalism, but they both want the same bomb, the same destruction. For us, diversity is liberation. For us, diversity is precisely the solution and not the problem.

Navdanya Logo
Navdanya

Q: You have also started a movement called Navdanaya, the 9 seeds. In one of your books you mentioned that seeds are sacred for Indian farmers. Is Navdanya connected to this in any way? Do you think that the industrialized world lacks a spiritual approach?

Industrialization is desacralization. Industrialization is a project of hubris which basically assumes that there is nothing like life processes, nature doesn’t have its self-organizing capacities, people don’t have their self-organizing capacities, women have no potential, they are merely the second sex, Third World peasants have no brains, therefore intellectual properties are in the industrialized North. All of these arrogant assumptions come out of a denial of reverence for life and the lack of recognition of that which makes life possible.

All societies throughout history have organized themselves around the maintenance of life and the renewal of life. And systems that are centered on that define spirituality in different ways. However, spirituality is a link. It is about connection. Spirituality is merely the recognition that everything is related. It is what the indigenous Americans call being part of the web of life.

Now, the denial of being part of the web of life is the desacralization that is at the heart of the project of industrialization. It is at the heart of trying to genetically engineer life on Earth, including humans through the new nano-technologies.

Bija Vidyapeeth

Q: You have even started your own college, it’s called Bija Vidyapeeth. What kind of education does it provide?

Bija Vidyapeeth translates into the school of the seed. And it’s basically about living on Earth. We call it education for Earth citizenship. I started it after September 11, because I could see that now the formal education is going to be about hatred, animosity and annihilation, and we need education for love, for compassion, for sustainability and for justice. In the School of the Seed we do short courses, to learn from the seed how to renew ourselves.

Paolo Scopacasa conducted this interview in the summer of 2003 in Milan, Italy. The interview was originally aired on Italian radio.

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