Vandana Shiva and Eco-Feminism

photo of Vandana Shiva

Last week, in an University speech, Vandana Shiva Shiva spoke about the importance of solidarity between feminists transnationally. The even was presented by the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE.

I want to outline some of the important points of her talk that I think are beneficial to think about for urban agriculture and Dig In!’s activism.

Shiva began her talk by asking, “Is the future feminine?”

This question comes from the Cartesian logic that is challenged by ecofeminist philosophies. Cartesian logic, as described by Shiva states that everything can be understood in a set of binaries, with one set being inherently better than the other (in my example, its the former). For example:

  • culture/nature
  • masculine/feminine
  • good/bad
  • hot/cold
  • science/traditional knowledge

Shiva states that Cartesian logic lead to the anti-feminine domination of nature, which created a disconnect from traditional knowledge systems that realized the idea of interconnectedness. The idea of interconnectedness works against binaries to understand things holistically. It was ideas of interconnectedness that values the environment and saw the vital connections between the survival of people with the health of the earth.

Shiva made the important observation that the Cartesian logic is still at work today, and can be found in the way that capitalist constructs are being realized personally. Despite the fact that capitalist constructs do not benefit us, we continue to reproduce these values. An example of this reproduction of capitalist values is what we consider to be valuable/not valuable. Our ideas of value are based in market values. So that the life sustaining work of women in the home, or farmers who do not export their corps are seen as invaluable or not producing value. While the producing of consumer goods, and the consuming of cash-crops from international exporters is seen as value. The contradiction here is that what is value is life and earth sustaining and the other is life and earth destroying.

There is where Shiva explained the importance of finding value in practices that sustain life — like creating productive food spaces in underused land, to benefit students and other community members. These practices are important for moving away from embodying capitalist principles that hurt us and the earth. This is important to understand the work that we are trying to do: sustaining life, and seeing this practice as advancing ecofeminism.