Dr. Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental philosopher who has enlightened many people by publicizing her original ideas about love for nature and protecting the dignity of life. Her sharp insight has exposed the contradictions in modern ‘development’ and ‘globalization’ from the perspective of women and the poor.
Dr. Shiva was born in Dehra Dun in northern India in 1952. After receiving an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the University of Guelph, Canada, she studied Quantum Theory at the University of Western Ontario, and received a Ph.D. in Physics. When she returned to India, she used her expertise as a highly-qualified scientist as the basis for founding, in 1982, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy (later, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology) in order to explore the points of contact between nature and human beings.
During the 1980s, India was in the middle of successive waves of reforms, and there was series of new movements led by ordinary citizens. In her home village in the mountains, women were fighting against developers to protect forests. One such struggle was known as the Chipko Movement for its nonviolent tactic of ‘chipko’ (clinging to trees) to stop deforestation in the Himalaya Mountains. Dr. Shiva let the world know about this grassroots movement and called for support. She became an active exponent of ‘Ecofeminism’, a new ideological movement which combined ecology and feminism.
During the 1990s, Dr. Shiva worked on the issue of protecting farmers’ livelihoods which were forced to change rapidly under the influence of the global market economy. She founded an NGO called Navdanya in 1991, and started to work towards the conservation of traditionally used seeds, organic farming and fair trade. In 2001, she founded an international college for sustainable living. The core philosophy behind these activities is ‘Earth democracy’. This is a principle which connects the particular to the universal, the distinctive to the mutual, and the local to the global, in order to pursue values such as peace, justice and sustainability. Through this principle, she appealed to people to protect a community for living creatures on the earth, that is, a ‘family of the earth’.
She has written a book about this principle, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability and Peace, and a number of others. Many of them are translated into Japanese, such as The Violence of the Green Revolution; Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Survival in India. In 1993, she received the Right Livelihood Award known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’.
For her powerful messages and the initiative in mobilizing people in a grassroots social movement, Dr. Vandana Shiva rightly deserves the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.