India’s voice of the future

Vandana Shiva is one of the world's most prominent radical scientists, and among the most articulate. Through her several books she has made the case- quite forcefully- for a variety of causes. An early book of hers, Staying Alive, will shortly become available in a second edition, from Women Unlimited.

The earlier edition was described so: Inspired by women's struggles for the protection of nature as a condition for human survival, this book goes beyond a statement of women as special victims of the environmental crisis. It attempts to capture and reconstruct those insights and visions that Indian women provide in their struggles for survival, which perceive development and science from outside the categories of modern western patriarchy. These oppositional categories are simultaneously ecological and feminist: they allow the possibility of survival by exposing the parochial basis of science and development and by showing how ecological destruction and the marginalization of women are not inevitable, economically or scientifically.

Shiva writes provovatively, and inevitably polarises. However, her work has been praised quite lavishly in diverse quarters. The Guardian said Staying Alive defines the links between ecological crises, colonialism, and the oppression of women. It is a scholarly and polemical plea for the rediscovery of the "feminine principle" in human interaction with the natural world, not as a gender-based quality, rather an organising principle, a way of seeing the world. The Greens' Dalia Sapon-Shevin says Shiva’s powerful narratives allow us to hold a piece of food in our hands and, in a thought process we have never been taught to follow, lets us trace backwards the story of the land it was grown on, the cultural and economic toll on the ecosystem and people, the sacrifice endured so that it might be made, the full weight of environmental devastation present in its existence.

A book worth reading, in our Gender and Ecology and Environment Sections. In paperback, 253 pages, Rs 300. ISBN: 9788188965588