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Environmental Activist Questions the Goals of Globalization

In the fourth installment in a series of conversations about the impact of globalization, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman interviews Vandana Shiva, an activist at the forefront of the fight against globalization for nearly three decades.

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  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    For three decades, physicist Vandana Shiva has been a key activist in the fight against globalization, especially in her native India, where she says it threatens hundreds of millions of peasants still down on the farm.

    She's accused beverage companies of stealing the people's water in India, this footage by a new documentary by Swedish filmmakers PeA Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian.

    Outside the European patent office, Shiva challenged corporate patents of seeds, what she calls the biopiracy of natural resources.

  • VANDANA SHIVA, Physicist:

    Our world is not for sale.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    She joined protests against the World Trade Organization in Cancun.

  • VANDANA SHIVA:

    WTO is an instrument of corporate unilateralism.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    At home at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, Shiva is trying to hold back the forces of globalization, and return to what she says would be a more sustainable way of life, traditional agriculture. She's using the Indian farm she grew up on to preserve native crops by maintaining a seed bank, promoting the use of India's equally native fertilizer.

    This had led the likes of free-market think tanker Barun Mitra to bestow a B.S. award on Shiva for sustaining global poverty.

  • VANDANA SHIVA:

    Why did you give me an award in Johannesburg for making the world starve because of organic farming?

  • MAN:

    It is because the agriculture today is not economically viable.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Everywhere she goes, Shiva fights globalization. We met up with her recently at the University of Oregon Law school, and its 25th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, where Dr. Shiva was to give a keynote speech, before which she sat down to answer some questions — among them, doesn't Barun Mitra have a point, that small-scale farming isn't viable?

  • VANDANA SHIVA:

    Farming on small plots of land is viable if it's done without generating super-profits for agribusiness and the seed corporations.

    Our farmers in the organic movement are doubling their incomes and their production, and are not in a desperate situation. Farming, as a vocation, is something the small farmer of India or the small farmer of Africa or the small farmer of Latin America is not voluntarily giving up.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But we have a term, a phrase in America: How are you going to you keep them down on the farm after they have seen Paris? There's a draw to urban areas, to the excitement of the city, to the idea that you can better yourself. You don't have to stay down on the farm.

  • VANDANA SHIVA:

    Yes, but for one indicator. The new national sample survey of India, which is the official data collection, shows there's absolutely no growth of employment in urban areas at all.

    Slums are being cleared out. Earlier, you get flushed out of the rural areas, went and settled in the slum, somehow did some petty servicing, and made a living. Today, for the poor, either it is a dignified and free life as a peasant or nothing, because the options in the cities that used to be able to become the alternative are also closing down under globalization.

    They have to now become investment centers for foreign direct investment. Cities have to get cleaned up of people.