It’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, Women Unscrewing Screwnomics will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.
Since artificial fertilizer has depleted soils and contaminated water, and artificial ingredients in our corporate food chain has led to chronic diseases, must we misstep again with artificial intelligence?
Transnational corporations with media megaphones have sold us all three, and behind them is “patriarchal capitalism”—a phrase Vandana Shiva used in a recent interview with Ms.
Dr. Shiva, an internationally awarded physicist and proponent of traditional organic farming and local food sourcing, is one of our earliest eco-feminists—and delightful company.
She anticipates the question:
“What is eco-feminism? It’s taking off the blinkers of patriarchal capitalism that says nature is inert and dead, that women are dumb, and recognizing that nature and women are alive and creative.
“And secondly, removing from patriarchal capitalism the fear of everything that is alive and free. It is fear that leads to ecocide, genocide and femicide. The violence against women is increased.”
Dr. Shiva has written more than twenty books on the systemic violence of commercial agriculture, sold as progress. Her latest book, “Oneness vs. The 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom,” examines the “mechanical, military mindset” that routinely wars against a living planet and its people.
“We know from the best science today that all life is intelligent,” she points out. “If microbes were not intelligent, we wouldn’t have antibodies. If plants and insects were not intelligent, we wouldn’t have Roundup-resistant super weeds and super bugs.”
She says life always evolves and adapts, the very essence of intelligence.
An abundance of surveillance and digital data is not intelligence, she argues. There’s a conflict between living cells’ intelligent self-organizing, its adaptive flexibility and the rigid money power behind today’s virtual world and mega-corporations. She names these “The Toxic Cartel” and, in her latest book, identifies their shareholders and the ways they work to undermine democracy.
In the last century, familiar names like DuPont, Monsanto and Bayer sold explosives and poisons to both sides of two destructive world wars. Backed by the banks of the richest, their fortunes grew huger.
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In peacetime’s 50s, they updated their poisons but not their attitude. They continued warring with pesticides and herbicides, new markets that bridged them to Vietnam and Agent Orange, to Iraq and the nerve agent Sarin. On the way, they blasted Rachel Carson and her book on DDT poisoning, “Silent Spring.”
By the 90s, they were taking seeds as prisoners of war and, a little like Dr. Mengele, began re-engineering their genetic sequences, or swapping out one species’ genes for another. None has been as successful as predicted, and the field itself has been called out as an unprecedented danger. Industrial agriculture hosting GMO seeds and monocrops depletes soil and its life, demolishing traditional practices that respect and cultivate a gentler diversity.
Dr. Shiva says the latest move of “the Silicon Valley boys” is to patent life forms for profit. “Oneness vs. the 1%” shows how Bill Gates first patented BASIC software that public scientists had developed; his record of ruthless takeovers is well documented here and elsewhere.
But Shiva also shows us Gate’s philanthropy is as deadly strategic as his business plan. With close ties to Monsanto and Bayer and global subsidiaries too numerous to name here, his charity masks a move to patent the life found in plant genes, claiming ownership and profit from formerly free seeds—even in countries like India that make this illegal.
New Strategies; Same Old Racism and Colonialism
Pirating the life of seeds is a new story, Dr. Shiva smiles, though it’s really an old story of racism and colonialism, she adds. Explorers of the European kings used letters patent to declare ownership of new lands and their resources; they enslaved or murdered any native defenders. At least the chains of those times were visible, she says. Today’s chains are harder to see and just as real in results.
Shiva counts herself lucky because she grew up in India, where traditions taught her that the mind is not separate from the body, or humans separate from nature. European intellectuals of the 17th century, still glorified in schools today, built an architecture of patriarchal ideas to rationalize human separation and hard-heartedness, she points out. The supposed superiority of the male mind and misogyny were foundational.
This same period—called without irony “the Enlightenment”—brought Europe decades of religious violence with a special focus on torturing witches.
To prove her point, Vandana Shiva quotes Sir Francis Bacon, revered as the father of science, who sought the secrets “locked in nature’s bosom” or “laid up in the womb of nature.” He advised his followers. “…[B]ind her to your service and make her your slave…Nature must be take by the forelock [her hair]. It is necessary to subdue her, to shake her to her foundations.”
The #MeToo movement wouldn’t tolerate such a Daddy. But surely Bill Gates’ example, carrying on this mental tradition, is rare today. NOT.
The guys at Google have a secretive research facility called “X,” and in 2019 spun out a new life sciences unit they call Verily. Dr. Shiva and Financial Times report that when its CEO Andy Conrad was asked why a twenty-first century company would choose a medieval word for its name, he answered they were on a quest to “defeat mother nature” through “truth.” Verily. He said that.
Dr. Shiva points to a new scientific field called epigenetics, which challenges the simplistic notion of gene sequences to rearrange like alphabet blocks. Genes are alive and intelligent, Shiva and others argue; they interact with the environment, as well as with each other, often with unexpected, far removed results.
It’s complicated, in other words. We don’t know nearly enough and might consider humility.
Recent reports have documented the failures of a much-vaunted Green Revolution in Africa. GMO seeds require extra water, industrial farm equipment, and tons of artificial fertilizer, profitable for transnational corporations, but not so much for farmers. African failures were foreshadowed in India decades ago, where the same Green Revolution changes brought financial and health ruin to small farmers. The U.S. food supply and our own farming communities have similarly suffered from Big Farma Factories. Yet agricultural engineering and a militaristic, mechanical mind still dominates our food policy.
Dr. Shiva says feminists must speak out about our food supply and a farming industry dependent on fossil fuels, contributing hugely to the climate crisis, notes Forbes. It’s the same climate we humans count on to help grow our food, remember.
If capitalism remains stuck in a rigid, male military-mechanical mindset, if it is now enamored with digital data, AI and algorithms, that’s no reason we still-sane women of earth must follow suit.
With Dr. Shiva’s latest book in hand, keep your feet on the ground, and demand our banks and tax dollars invest in organic farmers, healthy soil, and safe water. These are all three connected as one—just as you, a living body of intelligent creativity, are too.