More from My Chat with Vandana Shiva

(an excerpt from our recent podcast together)

Earlier this week, I shared episode 49 of my podcast, Post-Woke. It was mostly a conversation between me and Vandana Shiva. In case you missed it, here’s a brief and slightly edited excerpt. I trust it will inspire you to listen to the full podcast right here.

Mickey Z: I first saw you speak in person in New York City in 1996 at the Riverside Church. I know it was definitely you and definitely Ralph Nader with several others. You exuded power and optimism and motivation then but I sense even more of that now. How is this possible and how can people listening tap into their own well-spring of possibilities, resourcefulness, and innovation, and that sense of wonder I just heard in your voice? How do we build up our resilience and would you assign some of this mindset to any type of spiritual perspective or practice?

Vandana Shiva: Well, anyone who connects to life, who connects to the sacredness of life and every expression of the sacredness of life whether it be a river or the forest or the soil, that’s a spiritual practice. There can be a spirituality of separation where it’s only about you. But I think true spirituality is what the word yoga really means. Yoga means to join any joining and seeing the interconnectedness is spirituality and it’s making whole. It’s becoming one.

Chipko was of the forest in the 1970s. By 1982, I had become an environmentalist and an ecological expert (laughs) and the Ministry of Environment asked me and a team to do a study of mining in what was my hometown. I was at that time in South India, in Bangalore, and, of course, I jumped on this opportunity. I did the study on mining and our study led to the closure of the mines.

Our research showed that the limestone left in the mountain served as an aquifer and created a water ecology that became the basis of many economies. But limestone extracted for cement or steel, of course, benefited those two or three companies but it left ruins and the rivers were in flood. The same kind of devastation that we’d seen with deforestation when the mines were stopped because of a Supreme Court order which used our study to say we have Article 21 in our constitution which says every citizen of India has a right to life. I wish the “right to life” debate in America would widen out to see the right life of every being on this planet.

So Article 21, they interpreted it and said when commerce undermines life, and our study showed that commerce was undermining life, they said commerce must stop because the state must guarantee that life continues. This was the first legal decision on environmental destruction in India.

However, a little mine in a corner had not been put on the map that was given to us. So one fine day, I’m sitting in my mother’s cow shed which became my office for the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, and I see a group of women marching in. They said, “What do you have against us? Why did you shut our mine?”

And I said, “I didn’t know it exists. Here is the map that the government gave us. Your mine doesn’t exist in it. So they said, “If we start a Chipko of the mountain, will you join us?” And I said, “Of course, I’ll join you.”

I did their studies for them. I would go back whenever they needed me. One day, they were attacked while literally hugging the mountains. They made a base camp to prevent any equipment from going up to the mountain to mine the limestone. One day, the goons showed up. Of course, all extractive industry is based on mafia rule. I call the chemical companies the poison cartel. Rockefeller was part of the poison cartel. So they brought a bunch of goons to physically attack the women with iron rods and chains. Someone drove to me and informed me this had happened. I said, “Oh, I’ll come and visit.”

I thought the women, having been hurt and beaten, would be in their homes and I’d visit all their homes. But they were sitting in the same tent where they had been protesting. Bandages on their head, bandages on their arms, casts on their broken legs. There was a lovely woman, 60 years old at that time. I asked her, “You’ve all been attacked so badly and here you are back again.”

The question you asked me is the question I asked her: “Where do you get the power? And where do you get the shakti?”

In our language, the inherent power is shakti. She and I were walking on the stream bank on the grass and there were the oak trees around us and grasses around us. She said, “We are working on the grass. We are trampling on the grass but the grass bounces back. We collect the leaves of the trees and we feed them to our animals but the leaves come back. That same power that’s in the grass and is in that leaf and is in the tree and is in the universe is the power in us.”

Listen to the full podcast right here!

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.