On 23 June 2021, Navdanya International hosted an online event – Which Future for our Climate? Technofixes vs Biodiversity-based solutions. This workshop and discussion was organised as part of the European project ClimAlt, co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme and developed in partnership with four other European organisations. During the event, we were joined by Dr. Vandana Shiva, President of Navdanya International, and Nicoletta Dentico, journalist, and Director of the Health Justice Programme of the Society for International Development (SID), who discussed real and false solutions to climate change. Attendees also had the chance to find out about Navdanya International’s recent report on the dangers of techno-solutionism in relation to climate change, to learn about the ClimAlt course and game, and to share their thoughts and ideas in real time with a collaborative online board.
Ruchi Shroff, Executive Director of Navdanya International, introduced the event by reminding us that climate change is one of the most critical issues of our time and is expected to have disastrous effects on human populations and biodiversity. The climate crisis is being exacerbated by the industrial food system which is both very vulnerable to climate change and a significant contributor to it. A global transition to biodiverse and local food and farming systems can be key both for mitigating and adapting to climate change. But instead, large corporations are promoting a whole range of ineffective and sometimes dangerous false solutions through ‘innovative’ technologies, such as GMOs, geoengineering, biofuels, precision farming, and so on.
Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder and President of Navdanya and Navdanya International reminded us how in 2002, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, both the Climate Change Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity were discussed at the same time and for the same reasons. The same globalised industrial economic system is leading to the disruption of the health of the Earth, its planetary climate system, biodiversity, as well as our health, our local economies, and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and small farmers. Our life depends on the integrity of the Earth system, we are not separate from the Earth. Many processes in the Earth’s surface essential for the conditions of life depend on the interaction of living forms, especially microorganisms. The ecological and biodiversity crisis, and hence climate crisis, are caused by the disruption of Earth’s systems and rooted in a world vision that sees the Earth as a dead container of raw material to be exploited.
The vast majority of industrialized crops, such as corn and soya are primarily used as animal feed or converted into biofuel. While using 75 percent of the total land, industrial agriculture based on fossil fuel, chemically intensive monocultures produce only 30 percent of the food we eat, while small farms, which use 25 percent of the land, provide 70 percent of the food. When we lose sight of the Earth as a living system, we cannot see the very nature of food as the web of life, and the nutritional value of biodiversity. When food is seen as a commodity, we grow uniformity instead of diversity, and we bend nature to industrial needs for profits, while in the process, we break the ecological balance of the Earth. Ecological and organic farming mitigates climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in plants and soil.
Organic farming takes excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, where it doesn’t belong, and through photosynthesis puts it back in the soil, where it does belong. It also increases the water holding capacity of soil, contributing to resilience in times of droughts, floods and other climate extremes. Organic farming has the potential of sequestering 10 Gigatons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the amount needed to be removed from the atmosphere to keep atmospheric carbon below 350 parts per million, and an average temperature increase of 2 degrees centigrade. So, we know what the solutions are. We know how working with the Earth gives us systems that give us solutions to climate change.
Protecting life on earth makes ecological, local agriculture and organic farming an imperative.
There exists a vibrant and growing alternative approach to food security and food production based on biodiversity, which maximizes the benefits to the health and wellbeing of the planet and its people. Across the world, farmers’ agroecology networks are springing up, based on circularity, reciprocity and sharing. We need to be the change we want to see in terms of climate action. The same actions that address climate change, can regenerate biodiversity and water, can relieve hunger and poverty, and improve our health.
The Navdanya International team then presented their latest report, “Bill Gates & his Fake Solutions to Climate Change”, which details the reasons behind Bill Gates’ attempts to focus the debate on miraculous technologies to fix climate change. Gates’ many investments allow him to impose his techno-solutionist strategy through direct influence over all types of global development protagonists. The report highlights one of Gates’ most recent prescriptions: synthetic food, which aims to replace animal products with highly processed ingredients. Ironically, these plant-based meat alternatives, which claim to be healthier and to save animals and the environment, are instead directly contributing to the food system that is destroying wildlife, polluting the soil and water, warming up the planet and threatening our health. The patenting of these artificial food growing techniques as well as the other technological innovations, ensure the further concentration of failed industrial models guaranteeing corporate and billionaire profit-making, while shifting power away from farmers and toward biotech companies. These false solutions only work to divert attention away from the deep systemic changes that are needed to address the current crises.
Nicoletta Dentico, journalist, and Director of the Health Justice Programme of the Society for International Development (SID) joined us to talk about the corporate hijack of the global development agenda. She pointed out that both Covid-19 and climate change are systemic crises: they are the concurring elements of a system collapse caused by industrialization and globalization. But instead of addressing the root causes of these crises, billionaires and corporate leaders are imposing their own solutions by pushing their ‘technofixes’ on the international community. This web of investments and overlapping billionaire interests control the development agenda and the global governance arena, including the United Nations. The oncoming UN Food Systems Summit is a very telling example about how the FAO has been bypassed by private interests and a capitalist mindset, sidelining peasants and grassroots communities. Nicoletta concluded by saying how urgent it is to name and shame the corporate actors that are pushing these agendas, as well as the states and UN agencies that are buying and executing them. At the same time, we need to claim real ambitious policies for the future of our societies and for the future of this planet.
Finally, the Navdanya International team presented the ClimAlt project. ClimAlt is an educational project on Climate change co-financed by the EU within the Framework of the Erasmus+ Project. It was carried out by four partner organisations – A Sud, Italy; Door, Croatia; Za Zemiata, Bulgaria; Play Agency, Denmark; and Navdanya International. The project aims at raising young people’s awareness on climate change and encouraging their critical thinking and action towards the containment of this global challenge. The initial project, which first began in January 2019, has involved over 130 people aged 20 to 30 from a variety of different European countries. The activities included an online course, thematic webinars, youth training and so on. As part of the course, Navdanya International prepared the lessons and webinar linked to Food Systems and Climate. Given the success of the online course, an open e-learning platform was developed, and is now available to anyone interested in learning about climate change. Lastly, the ClimAlt partnership, under Play Agency’s leadership, launched a game aimed at stimulating young people’s constructive outlook towards climate change solutions. The game provides a deeper understanding of the key topics through first-hand experimentation.