Homo, humus … humilis

Renowned Indian physicist, social activist, and author Vandana Shiva talks to ‘The Journal’ about the much needed shift in perspective which will allow us to develop a more respectful and interconnected relationship with the natural world.

Though the Latin words for “soil” (humus) and “human” (homo) share a root, over the centuries we’ve strayed from nature’s embrace. We’ve come to believe we can control and exploit the earth for profit, blind to the inevitable consequences. Ironically, the Latin word for “humble” (humilis) also comes from the same root.

While acknowledging the environmental damage we have done, we are still in time to bring about positive change through a shift in how we view and interact with mother earth. What is necessary is a shift in perspective which will allow us to develop a more respectful and interconnected relationship with the natural world, says Vandana Shiva, renowned Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminist, and anti-globalisation author.

In a conversation with The Journal, Vandana Shiva says that, to return to our rightful place as members of the earth’s living family, we have to abandon the so-called mechanistic paradigm of separation. This paradigm is a way of understanding the world that emphasises a fundamental division between humans and nature. Humans are seen as separate and superior entities, capable of understanding and controlling nature, while nature is viewed as a machine-like system, made up of independent parts to be analysed, manipulated, and exploited for human benefit. This paradigm has been highly influential in Western thought, particularly during the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. It is associated with advancements in science and technology, but also with environmental problems caused by the exploitation of natural resources.

Vandana Shiva.

What we should embrace instead, she stresses, is an ecological paradigm of relationship, which stands in direct contrast to the mechanistic paradigm of separation. This paradigm informs movements like environmentalism, conservation biology, and sustainable development. It emphasises living in harmony with nature, recognising the intrinsic value of the natural world, and adopting practices that ensure its long-term health. By understanding the ecological paradigm, we can make more informed decisions about how to interact with the environment in a responsible and sustainable way.

We need to move away from tolerating inequality and embrace the truth: we’re all equals on this planet. As Vandana Shiva says, “The soil doesn’t discriminate – it nourishes young and old alike. On earth, all beings are one. We are of the soil, we are the Earth.”

We caught up with Vandana Shiva on the margins of the Green Vision Summit & Expo, in which she was one of the main guest speakers. This first-ever event was held in Malta this week, with the aim of serving as a platform to bridge the gap between  those working on environmental solutions and those with the power to implement them.

“For 50 years I have worked to defend the earth, her resources, and her biodiversity and to create systems that work better for human beings and better for the earth,” said Vadhana. “My main message here in Malta is that, the more you learn about nature, the more you respect nature, the more sophisticated you are in your thinking and activities. That’s true sustainability.”

Vandana Shiva in conversation with ‘The Journal’ editor, Sandro Mangion

Main photo: Binyamin Mellish

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