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India has the highest growth rates worldwide along with China. But with growth poverty and environmental destruction are also increasing, says the renowned civil rights activist and ecologist Vandana Shiva on Kontext TV. Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award (better known as the "Alternative Nobel Price") in 1993. The biggest part of the profits would go into the pockets of the nearly one hundred billionaires of India. Patenting seeds has bestowed the U.S. agro-biotech corporation Monsanto high growth rates and at the same time driven millions of peasants into a debt trap. A quater million farmers committed suicide in the past ten years. At the same time climate havoc is happening in India. Droughts and floodings are destroying the livelihoods of farmers.


Vandana Shiva, Civil Rights Activist and Ecologist, India. Recipient of the Alternative Nobel Price


Fabian Scheidler: The inhabitants of rich countries like Germany are consuming 80 per cent of global resources, while making up only 20 per cent of the world’s population. At the same time, people in developping countries are hit hardest by environmental degradation and climate change. The United Nations are predicting 200 million climate refugees until 2050. The world’s poorest are going to pay the bill for the growth of the rich. Our guest at the studio is now Vandana Shiva from New Delhi, India. She is a physicist and worldwide renowned as a civil rights activist and ecologist. In 1993 she received the Right Livelihood Award. Welcome to Kontext Kontext TV, Vandana Shiva.

Vandana Shiva: Thank you.

Fabian Scheidler: Mrs. Shiva, you are going to hold one of the opening speeches for the congress „Beyond Growth“. Why do you think that we need to go beyond growth?

Vandana Shiva: I think it should have been clear that we need to go beyond growth all along. But after 2008 when the financial bubble burst, when the instruments on which growth rests where proven to be totally detached from reality and disconnected, while they cause a lot of pain to people I think to continue to talk about growth is to continue to live in an illusion. The first reason why we need to move beyond growth is that growth only measures commercial transactions at the national and the international level. It leaves out all the tremendous productivity of local economies. It leaves out all the amazing production of goods and services by natures eco systems. The second reason why we need to go beyond growth is money is the only measure of growth, money is now making itself. There is three trillion dollars moving around the planet every day. Seventy times more then the goods and services that are available. It has become an illusion. And there is a third reason why we need to move beyond growth. Because when it is said that a country has 10% growth the story that is never told is where the accumlation of wealth goes. And we know in India that we are among the outstanding growth performers. But we are also a new inequality creating country of scales we have never experienced which is now becoming a thread to our very political stability.

David Goeßmann: Talk about the connection between growth and consumption for example here in Germany and the impacts in developing countries like India? How are people there affected by our lifestyle and production here?

Vandana Shiva: Just before I came to this studio I had a coffee in my hotel. I hadn’t had lunch so I ask if they had a croissant or something. They didn’t. But they had a little biscuit, a tiny thin little biscuit wrapped in aluminium, each individual biscuit with it’s own coating of aluminium. That aluminium begins somewhere like in the Niyamgiri mountains of Orissa. It begins as bauxite. Consumerism anywhere means a ecological footprint somewhere on the planet. And what globalisation has in short is that for every aluminium foil every aluminium package that pressure is now in the third world because all resource intesive, pollution intensive and energy intensive industry has moved out of the industrialized world. Germany has been the steal capital of the world. Show me a working steal plant. But Orissa, one of our most important indigenous culture regions is pockmarked with aluminium plants and steal plants today. And everywhere where there is a steal plant being created or an aluminium plant being created people are resisting. Farmers don’t want to give up their land as in the area of POSCO where 20 batallions of police have been deployed to push them off their land to set up a 100 % export orientated steal plant for Posco. Which seems to be a Korean company but in reality is a Wall Street company because most of the shares are opened and owned by Wall Street including 5% by Warren Buffet. Farmers earn huge amounts from the cultivation of paan, a beetle wine. Paan does not figure as a global agriculture commodity. It’s to specialized to India. It doesn’t even figure in our national agriculture statistics. But a tiny farmer makes four million rupees per acre. Of course no beetle wine farm is acres, they are tiny, but the farmers earn a lot. That prosperity is being destroyed by police action. And every bit of steel somewhere is destroying a community like that. In the bauxide hills of Niyamgiri. The tribals, the ancient tribals called the Dongria Kondh  have been refusing to allow mining. We supported them, we did a lot of solidarity action, we worked with the political system of India to say that this mountain is the source of water, 32 streams start from it. Source of the very universe, Niyamgiri is the name of the mountain. It means the mountain that oppose the universal law. The tribal say you destroy this mountain, you destroy our world. Last August we were successfull in stopping the mining of bauxide. But that is the story of aluminium, that’s that story of steal, that’s the story of consumerism. Or take your clothing. If you’re wearing cotton today the guess is 95 % of is toxic cotton. It is cotton grown from BT cotton which is owned by Monsanto. Genetically modified BT cotton. India used to be the home of cotton. We span our freedom through cotton. Today 95% of the cotton is genetically engineered cotton. It has a toxic gene in it. It has royalties associated with it. Ten billion Rupees are extracted from poor peasants annually in India who are left in debt. Indebted peasants are getting so desperate that they are committing suicide. A quarter million farmers have committed suicide. Most of them are in the cotton belt, most of the cotton is now Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton. That’s where a shirt is linked.

Fabian Scheidler: You already mentioned it. India is often praised for extreme growth rates of 8 or 9 per cent. But when I went to India recently, I was baffled by the extent of extreme poverty and environmental degradation. Who is benefiting from growth in India today and who isn’t? And is growth the best way to get rid of poverty in developping countries?

Vandana Shiva: Because growth only measures commercial transactions and it externalises the degradation of nature and it externalises the destruction of the lifes and livelihood of the poor growth in fact is a process that is creating and deepening poverty. It is not solving poverty. Two days ago I was with farmers of villages called Batabasol. This is an area around Dehli. Dehli is expanding like a cancer. The land around Deli is a huge source of speculation. But it isn’t market forces that work to get the land because no farmer would sell to the market. This is their livelihood for the future. So an old colonial law of 1894 is used to get the goverment to appropriate the land 300 Rupees a square metres. Which then the businesses get and sell at 600.000 rupees a square meter. 300 to 600.000 rupees is huge growth. That growth is in the hands and pockets of a hundred new billionairs that have emerged in India. Every new Indian billionaire has become a billionaire to accumulation of land and real estate. Which has been possible through militarized action of the state. That poor peasant who lost their land has nothing. They got cashious compensation. Communities who used to hard work in the sun, in the rain, they get cash they don’t know how to use it. The boys become drug addicts, alcoholics. There is a million unemployed youth in this area. Where land is been grabbed outside Delhi a formular one race track has been built. We are always told those is for development. It’s luxury housing 20 % of which is unoccupied. We are always made to believe that every house built the poor will get to live in it. The poor can’t afford this. Middle classes can’t afford it. It’s speculators who own this housing. Hundred new billionaires controll one third of the Indian economy of 1.2 billion people. That is where growth is going. It’s at the cost of nature, it’s at the cost of people.

Fabian Scheidler: India was recently hit by extrem droughts and unusual patterns of the monsoon. Talk about the impacts of climate change on Indian people today. And what is to be expected in the future?

Vandana Shiva: 2009 was the year we had a very severe drought we are in some pockets of India about 75 % rainfall failure. In my region, and I come from the central Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, a new state that was born a Himalayan state, we did a primary survey, village to village. 75% of the streams have run dry. Women were waiting four days, five days for a tanker to bring water. The source of water, the Himalayan, is drying up. The glaciers are receeding even though the very artificial discussion was created  that there is no receeding of glaciers, the Ganges glaciers is receeding 23 meters a year. I travelled to our regions in Jharkhand, where we save seeds. And thank godness we had saved seeds. Because our farmers in our networks could grow a crop with millets which only takes 255 milimeters of rainfall. Farmers who were waiting to grow green revolution paddy with chemicals which needs irrogation had the nurseries waiting till end of August when the transplanting should have happened in June. They had no crop, no, absolutely no harvest. Last year we had so much rain that entire regions were flooded. In my own region the landslides drains increased, villages started to slip down the mountain side. A rough estimate one in 2009 showed that untimely rains cost India 30 billion dollars of damage. That is what the entire world is talking about globally as the climate adaptation fund. And it’s not even going to be a fond. It could be investment it could be any other instrument. So one season in one country costs through climate damage as much as the keeping for the entire world. The destruction of Indian agriculture and agriculture in other parts of the world, the forrest fires in Russia, the floods in the Indus basin last year, 200 people were washed away in the upper region of the Indus basin in Ladakh, from where the Indus starts. And 2000 people died in the floods in Pakistan. So we are talking about climate change taking lives today. I call it climate kills and climate havoc. We have been made to believe that the signs of climate change is wrong by the climate skeptics. And the fossil fuel industry would lie to continue to destroy this planet. And to continue to make their profits. The cost are too high and we see it today, this is not about future models, it’s not about a hundred years down the line, it’s about today.