Dr Vandana Shiva has, over the past 35 years dedicated her life to the protection of nature and defense of people’s rights to nature’s resources – forests, biodiversity, water, land. She was born in 1952 in Uttarakhand, India. Her father was a conservator of forests, and her mother was a farmer with a deep love for nature. Her parents were staunch supporters of Mahatma Gandhi, and Gandhi remains a profound influence on her thought. Echoing Gandhi, she says, “I have tried to be the change I want to see.”
Dr. Vandana Shiva combines the highest of holistic, systems science with activism; she joins resistance to giant corporations seeking to privatize and own seed and water with building alternatives so that the basis of life stays in the commons and supports all life.
Her passion for the protection of biodiversity began in the 1970s with the Chipko Movement (the hug the trees movement started by the women of Uttarakhand). Chipko also became the ground for seeing the links between nature’s protection and provisioning of basics needs of food, water and energy for the poor, as well as the links of women and ecology. This led her to develop her philosophy of ecofeminism and founding the movement “Diverse Women for Diversity.” Her contributions to women and environment have been globally recognized. Forbes Magazine identified her as one of the top ten feminists of the world in 2010 and the UK Guardian named her one of the 100 most influential feminists in 2011. She was honored by the State of Uttarakhand on 8th March, 2011 (International Women’s Day) with a State Award.
In 1984, as a result of the tragedy of Punjab (extremism took the life of 30,000 people) and the tragedy of Bhopal (a gas lead from Union Carbides’ pesticide plant killed 3000 people in one night and 30,000 since then), Dr. Shiva focused her attention on the violence of industrial farming (the Green Revolution) and the need to build non-violent ecological alternatives. She questioned the paradigm of the Monocultures of the Mind, and created a diversity-centered paradigm for thought and action.
In 1987, Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya (which means both “nine seeds” as well as “new gift”) to start saving seeds as an alternative to corporations rushing to patent and genetically engineer seeds and using the WTO to impose GMO’s and seed monopolies on all countries. Navdanya is based on the philosophy of saving and sharing seeds and knowledge. It is therefore committed to not allowing the duty of saving seeds to be converted into a crime through Intellectual Property Rights on seeds. Dr. Shiva has played a pioneering role in challenging patents on life, since life is not an invention. She has inspired movements at a global level, which have started new trends for recovery of the biological and knowledge commons.
Dr. Shiva has played an important role in building the movement for GMO free food and agriculture. Complex issues related to the Agricultural Agreement and the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the WTO have been demystified by Dr. Shiva for farmers movements in India and the world. She has been called on by governments for advice on biodiversity and agriculture policies. She is on the Scientific Committee advising the Government of India, The Regione of Tuscany in Italy, and President Zapatero of Spain. The Prime Minister of Bhutan has invited her to advise him for promotion of sustainable agriculture. Dr. Shiva serves on the National Board of Organic Standards for India and is member of the expert group on Environment of the Planning Commission.
What is unique about Dr. Shiva is she effortlessly combines scientific research with action, resistance with constructive creative action to build alternatives and grassroots involvement with global transformation.
As a thinker and public intellectual, she has contributed to a paradigm shift from violent predatory, exploitative science, technology and economic organization to non-violent, compassionate, cooperative systems of knowledge, production and consumption.
Among Vandana Shiva's many honors is the Right Livelihood Award—also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”—for her work in placing women and ecology at the center of the international development agenda. She is the author of more than 300 papers in leading scientific and technical journals, and her book-length publications include: Soil Not Oil (2008), Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development (2010), Violence of the Green Revolution (2011).