Every year, some 26,000 plant and animal species die. If the global temperature rises by 2.5 degrees by the year 2050 -- as some scientists expect -- every third species will become an endangered species. The aim of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Bonn is to find ways of countering this development. The renowned Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva is attending the two-week conference, which started on Monday.
Vandana Shiva is one of the world's leading environmental activists
“I know that every part of my body was given to me by nature. So I know what Mother Earth means. That is why I am fighting for a world, in which all people consider the Earth as their mother, and not just something that can be exploited and raped again and again.“
Statements such as these make the Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva the darling of the media. The 55-year-old eco-feminist always captivates her audiences.
Born and brought up in the green valleys of Dehradun in northern India, Shiva often recalls her quiet childhood days, when she would stroll around the jungle. She says that it is such memories, which compelled her to return to India after finishing her PhD in quantum theory in Canada, to work for the survival of biodiversity.
Full of wisdom and science
“Biodiversity is a form of cultural diversity,” Shiva explains.
“It is full of wisdom and science. For example, there are plants, which can act as natural dams against floods. Or, if salt water intrudes, some plants can take the salt out of the poisoned soil.”
“But the fact is that if we develop science and technology against nature, biodiversity becomes a museum piece, or a means to get to the raw material, the genes. Some think it is OK if the plants die, so long as the genes can be used.”
In 1993, Vandana Shiva won the alternative Nobel prize for her theories, especially those of eco-feminism, which she explains thus: “The destruction of the environment and the supression of women both derive from the same process.”
“The process started in the West in the early days of industrialisation. For the first time ever, a lot of things which were usually done by women were done by machines. Women became unproductive and deprived of work. This whole process, which started in Europe, which was spread by industrialisation and is being accelerated today by globalisation, has changed the role of women.”
“I have seen that in societies where nature is protected, women have a very high social status -- they are productive and also integrated in the decision-making process.”
Special relationship with nature
Women have a very special relation to nature, she adds. In many societies women are the ones who know about indiginous plants, which can be used to treat illness for example. Because women tend to be the carers in society and those who manage resources in the home, they are often the first to be affected by water scarcity, polluted soil or air pollution.
Shiva knows the challenge of protecting the environment is huge, especially because of corrupt governments, profit-seeking companies, and the lack of awareness among ordinary people. However, she says that if people stand united and remember that the laws of nature stand above those of any government there is hope for the future.
Experts and officials from 190 countries are taking part in the two-week UN conference, which started on Monday in Bonn.