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Updated on April 6, 2010

Indian Female Environmental Activist

As a child I was fortunate to live in an area which was covered with evergreens, oaks, maples, elms and other large trees. We lived close to a beautiful lake, and I spent much of my youth and college days near the lake. My grandfather was an organic farmer who started farming near another beautiful lake in the Great Depression. He sold vegetables, fruits, Christmas trees and eggs to grocery stores. We visited the farm often, and I fell in love with the beautiful flowers, woods and lake. These experiences gave me a great appreciation for the natural world and was the beginning of my love affair with Mother Earth.

Vandana Shiva also grew up with experiences steeped in nature. She was born in the Dehradun Valley in India on November 5, 1952. Her father was a conservator of the forests, and her mother was a school inspector who later became a farmer. She learned Hindu values in her youth. One of these values was that "you can't take more than you basically need." Simplicity was another value she learned from her parents. According to her, "Hinduism is an  ecological religion concerned with the daily practice of living: how you practice agriculture, how you eat your food, how you care for others."

Her parents encouraged her to obtain an education, and she attended Catholic schools in Dehradun. She received her B.S. in Physics and M.A. in Philosophy of Science at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario in Physics. She also conducted research at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Banglalore in interdisciplinary studies in science, technology and environmental policy. She started her own institute on the topics.

She became involved in the Chipko Movement in India as a researcher. The Chipko Movement promoted protecting the Himalyan forests. Staying Alive, one of her numerous books, is about women who lived in the forests. The women would go and tell the forest goddess: "I'm sorry for hurting you, but I know you understand I need to take this much firewood and this much fodder to look after my family. I promise I will never take more than I absolutely need." What if we all lived that way? Only using what we absolutely need.

She started collecting seeds "in response to the erosion of biodiversity, genetic manipulation and patenting" of seeds. Neem is a sacred tree in Hinduism and has healing qualities. She worked against the patenting of neem in India the last ten years. She also worked to stop dams in the western ghats of Karnataka, on the Krishna and on the Ganges of Tehri. She has also been involved with grassroots movements in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria against genetic engineering. She has published numerous scientific papers and has been involved in numerous worldwide environmental films (including one with the Dai Lama).  In 1993 she received the Right Livelihood Award (a/k/a the 'Alternative Nobel Prize') for her work emphasizing women, ecology and farming. She has received numerous other awards for her environmental work. She is a very dedicated human being for takes care of the environment. One of her best ideas is the promotion of women-focused farming in Asia.

Three principles of Vedic teachings she promotes are: 1. Let all beings be happy. 2. Do not take more than we need. 3. Encourage everyone to be a teacher or leader. She lives these principles in her work as a philosopher, environmentalist, author and eco feminist. Later on, in the month, I will be writing about efforts to green Hindu practices and mandirs, which will describe practical steps Hindus can take in taking care of the Mother Earth. Vedic Ecology by Ranchor Prime (2002, Mandala Publishing) is the book where I learned about Vandana Shiva.  Many other Vedic ecological practices are described and promoted in the book. Happy Spring and Happy Earth Day!




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