Eco-activist Vandana Shiva finds reasons for hope in the climate crisis

Vandana Shiva is an environmental activist who has made it her mission to fight against the trend of genetically engineered foods. Her background in physics, her Vedic culture, and the decades she's spent creating seed banks shape her pragmatic view of the climate crisis... and fuel her hopeful outlook.

Climate change may be wreaking havoc on the world, but environmental activist Vandana Shiva believes we should have hope that humanity can fight ecological crises.

"Trends that are beyond our power are something we can't change. But trends that are triggered by human irresponsibility can be changed by human care when it comes to the environment and climate," Shiva told Tapestry host Mary Hynes.

For more than thirty years, Shiva has campaigned to promote biodiversity, especially in her home country of India and the nearby nation of Bhutan, where she has helped create 122 seed banks to preserve species.

But preserving the environment is no easy feat. According to a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund, between 1970 and 2014, the world lost 60 per cent of its wild species.

The only way to maintain these diminished ecosystems - and avoid further decline - would be to prevent global temperatures from increasing by 0.5 degrees, reported the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It is an enormous undertaking that would require international co-operation and co-ordinated policy changes, according to the report.

Despite those challenges, Shiva said she doesn't allow herself to succumb to hopelessness.

"I don't think we have the option for despair," said Shiva.  "Hope is something we cultivate in our daily consciousness through our daily actions."

Cultivating hope

Shiva explained that it takes a lot of practice to cultivate hope. One way to begin is to reflect on the intimate relationship between the environment and our everyday lives.

While biodiversity may not seem like a problem for people, the disappearance of species can negatively impact food production. For example, between 2000 and 2018, roughly 150 livestock breeds have gone extinct across the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

One way to keep your attention on the value of agriculture is to look at food as a sacrament, in the way many cultures and faiths do, Shiva said.

"So everyone who is feeling a little hopelessness needs to get engaged with turning bread into a sacrament at every meal," said Shiva.

"As all our cultures teach us, we say, 'Thank you to the bread, thank you to the creator, thank you to those who grew it.' If each of us not just became conscious in our eating, but became engaged in the political and social activism, to recognize that in our daily bread is an interconnectedness of care for the earth and care for the community, in it is the link between ecological action as well as social justice action and health action and political action... it's all in that food that we eat two to three times a day."

Shiva says we can find deep peace in the midst of the climate crisis by shifting what we focus on and what actions we take.

"My joy comes from the awareness that I'm part of this amazing earth. I'm part of this amazing universe. And then the next step in the build-up of joy comes from flowing with the paths that are laid out for us. You can call them ecological paths. We can look at the collapse and despair and say 'Oh my god, we are going over the precipice', or you can take that one seed and plant it, and ask everyone around you to grow their own seeds of change, seeds of joy, seeds of freedom, seeds of hope."