In a time when we are reaching the peak of world oil production and simultaneously facing a global environmental crisis brought on by a changing climate, the demand for alternatives that are energy efficient and ecologically friendly has never been higher. While environmental issues are everywhere on the dial, so far very few in the industrialized West have realized what the rest of the world has known for some time: We are precipitiously close to a massive food catastrophe. Healthy food is in shorter supply than ever before and the future fertility of much of our farm land is in jeopardy. As the cost of bread soars and rice riots erupt the world over, it is becoming increasingly clear that our collective survival hinges not on two interrelated global crises, but three: peak oil, climate change, and world hunger.
Most of the solutions proposed to the problems of peak oil and climate change have been dangerously narrow in scope, and most prescriptions for the food crisis are more of the same. Few have proposed innovative solutions. And almost no one has had the courage or foresight to show how environmental, economic, and agricultural degradation are deeply connected, and that any attempt to solve one crisis without the other will get us nowhere.
With Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (South End Press, 2008), Vandana Shiva speaks with a bold and visionary voice that compels us to address an imperiled food supply and the destruction of our environment simultaneously and before it’s too late. Accessible and bearing Shiva’s inimitable style and insight, Soil Not Oil exposes the myriad ways in which industrial agricultural practices not only destroy the environment but actually cause hunger and poverty. By connecting the dots between the environment, food production, and social justice, Shiva puts forward an urgent question: Will we choose soil or oil?
Condemning biofuels as “pseudo-solutions” that allow the privileged to continue their way of life (for a few more years) while millions more starve as their lands are seized for fuel production, Shiva warns us that the globalized industrial economy can not continue in its current fuel-dependent form. Never one to only name problems, Shiva does not stop there. With Soil Not Oil, she shows us that we can create a new world that is not only ecologically sustainable, but truly just and equitable. Shiva’s argument that food production and social justice must be at the center of any movement to save the environment is borne out in the real-world solutions that she proposes in Soil Not Oil. Calling for a return to local economies and small-scale food production, she provides concrete examples of how we can use sound agricultural principles, based on values of sustainability and actual democracy, to build a new society that respects the earth and all of her inhabitants.
An essential book that reminds us why Shiva is one of our most important environmental thinkers, Soil Not Oil guides us through the often murky discussion on agricultural reform and climate change, and dares us to imagine a truly sustainable world. The choice is ours.
Praise for Vandana Shiva
“Shiva . . . has devoted her life to fighting for the rights of the ordinary people of India . . . her fierce intellect and her disarmingly friendly, accessible manner have made her a valuable advocate for people all over the developing world.”–Ms.
“A leading thinker who has eloquently blended her views on the environment, agriculture, spirituality, and women’s rights into a powerful philosophy.”–Utne Reader
“[Shiva] has had a vast impact on a range of issues from forest conservation to GM crops, from world trade policy to organic farming.”–The Guardian
“Shiva has made it her mission to fight for social justice in many arenas.”–Time
About Vandana Shiva
Born in India in 1952, Vandana Shiva is a world- renowned environmental leader and thinker. Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, she is the author and editor of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed; Water Wars: Pollution, Profits, and Privatization; Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge; Monocultures of the Mind; The Violence of the Green Revolution; and Staying Alive.
Shiva is the founder of Navdanya (“nine seeds”), a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds, which has been praised by Barbara Kingsolver in the pages of the Washington Post and established a US branch in 2008. She is also a leader in the Slow Food movement and the International Forum on Globalization. She addressed the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, 1999, has appeared in films such as The Corporation, and won the 1993 Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award). In October 2008 Shiva will be awarded the LennonOno Grant for Peace by Yoko Ono.
Before becoming an activist, Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists. She holds a master’s degree in the philosophy of science and a PhD in particle physics.