Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Dr. Vandana Shiva
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Dr. Vandana Shiva ( is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor, and author of many books. In India she established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights, and she directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy. Her most recent books are Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge and Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.

She relates that she first got involved in ecological issues because of the destruction of the Himalayan forest and the emergence of a movement called Chipko. “The women came out and hugged the trees and said, ‘You can’t let our trees be destroyed’ and ‘you’ve got to kill us before you kill our trees, our forest.’ I left university teaching in 1982 and started an independent institute to do research with communities on ecological issues. I was doing that through the early eighties, also movement building and women’s support. And then in 1984, there were certain events that forced me to move into agriculture, in spite of being a physicist. The Green Revolution was spreading the use of fertilizers, irrigation, and other factors that poor farmers couldn’t afford and may have been ecologically harmful as well, in addition to promoting monocultures and loss of genetic diversity.

“The Green Revolution was a combination of polices and technologies – essentially, industrialized agriculture – that had received a Nobel Peace Prize. Yet I saw it pushing our country into civil war, extremism, even assassinations and an epidemic of farmer suicides. I saw 3,000 people die because of a leak from the Union Carbide pesticide plant. This was the Bhopal disaster, the largest man-made environmental disaster in human history. I started examining the roots of these impacts, this terrorism. And I had to ask, ‘What kind of agriculture is it that must kill so many people?’”

In reaction to that tragedy, Vandana wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution. “This helped spark an agriculture debate with the global giants, challenging the idea of owning life through patents. The word ‘patent’ was first used to describe documents given to people like Christopher Columbus, letters of announcement which basically said ‘Go conquer lands on our behalf and make them our property.’ Takeover was thus defined as progress and improvement – irrespective of what the original inhabitants might want to do with their land, water, seeds, biodiversity, or culture. ‘We’re improving your agriculture. We’re improving your forest. We’re improving your river.’ For centuries that mentality has been used to legitimize hijacking and piracy.

“In 1987, when I got exposed to all of this through a United Nations meeting in Geneva, I realized I was going to save seeds for the rest of my life. To save seeds so they could stay free, so nature could evolve freely, farmers could have seed freedom, and people would have decent food. From 1987 onwards, this is all I’ve done! We’ve had impact, but we’re a small organization that manages to do effective things in the face of all the financial giants of the world. For instance, we’re having a positive impact fighting the privatization of water. The other day I was at the World Bank with Paul Wolfowitz, the new president. I was visiting with the trade unions of the water utility to tell him on behalf of the citizens of Delhi, ‘We don’t need World Bank loans to run our water systems. We have competence enough to do it. And we definitely will not allow our water to be privatized.’

“I think the biggest impact that we’ve had is the recognition that nature’s tremendous diversity is not there to be restricted. Our duty as humans is to protect it. And I think we have reversed the thinking in agriculture, which was driving towards monocultures. We have changed the paradigm to respect diversity in farming. We might not have succeeded in getting these criminal corporations out of the life of our people, but I think we have succeeded in showing that they are criminal. Monsanto is a criminal corporation. Coca-Cola, when it steals water from the village of Plachimada, is a criminal corporation.”

We asked Vandana if she believes the emergence of organic farming techniques to be the antidote to The Green Revolution. “The fact that the organic movement is growing is good,” she agreed. “Farmers using their intelligence and working with nature’s intelligence can actually produce more food and higher income. We don’t need the toxins and genetic modifications (GMOs) of The Green Revolution. Ten years ago I was considered outrageous for even questioning chemicals in agriculture. And today we have a government commission on organic farming. That is a huge shift.

“But organic farming was originally driven by small communities and family farmers who just wanted to produce in a non-violent way, in accord with nature rather than at war with it. The fact that it is now being taken over by giant corporations means that the option of rejuvenating agriculture, rural communities, and ecosystems is being forsaken. Organic, to me, means that which is connected. That which is connected to the earth, that which connects the producer to consumer, and that which allows a rebuilding of economies as a return to the earth and producing communities. I believe that an organic movement that is only a consumer movement will never be fully organic, because it will violate the very meaning of the term. No real change will happen through consumerism alone. We have to recover our Earth citizenship, partly by making the extra effort to ensure it’s the small farmer who is supported by one’s consumption.”

Does Vandana feel it’s likely we will make the flip to Right-Side Up agriculture and consumerism? “I don’t think anything is ever inevitable in human history or in evolution. The possibility of our making the shift is as real as the possibility of our destroying the planet.
There are always probabilities and possibilities. Right now there’s a probability that the machinery of destruction will continue without enough resistance building in society to shift the direction. On the other hand, I also firmly believe there’s a possibility that we will elect an overall shift by making little shifts in our lives, and that we will be able to prevent the extinction of human life. Human beings will rise in collected consciousness as a species, not just as a few with a heightened consciousness. I wouldn’t do the work I do if I didn’t have that hope and that possibility.”


The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

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