In this book of searing brilliance, Vandana Shiva goes to the heart of the ideological struggle between industrial capitalism represented by Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Energy and Big Tech and the holistic movements represented by systems science, agroecology and natural and complementary approaches to health – the last has been subject to prolonged and systematic attack by Big Pharma so-called quack busters, which has led to the closure of most courses on these subjects in British universities by attacking the gatekeepers, threatening them with loss of funding and reputation, and bullying them into submission.

In an epilogue only available in the US Chelsea Green edition, Vandana updates her argument in the light of the coronavirus crisis. In criticising the war language used by Bill Gates and widely prevalent in modern medicine – the battle against cancer – she writes that:
‘In fact, the pandemic is not a war. The pandemic is a consequence of war. A war against life. The mechanical mind connected to the money machine of extraction has created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert rawmaterial to be exploited. But, in fact, we are part of the biome. And we are part of the virome. The biome and the virome are us. When we wage war on the biodiversity of our forests, our farms, and in our guts, we wage war on ourselves.’

She continues: ‘The health emergency of the coronavirus is inseparable from the health emergency of extinction, the health emergency of biodiversity loss, and the health emergency of the climate crisis. All of these emergencies are rooted in a mechanistic, militaristic, anthropocentric worldview that considers humans separate from—and superior to—other beings. Beings we can own, manipulate, and control. All of these emergencies are rooted in an economic model based on the illusion of limitless growth and limitless greed, which violate planetary boundaries, and destroy the integrity of ecosystems and individual species.’

These two paragraphs contain the kernel of her argument of the origins of the crisis in the prevailing Western world view and are worth re-reading as the imperialist trajectory contains the seeds of its own ultimate destruction: this is why we urgently need a course correction. ‘Health, she writes, ‘is about life and living systems. There is no ‘life’ in the paradigm of health that Bill Gates and his ilk are promoting and imposing on the entire world.’ Gates has funded global institutions and alliances like the WHO and GAVI to impose top-down analysis and prescriptions for health problems: ‘He gives money to define the problems, and then he uses his influence and money to impose the solutions.’ Plans for vaccine passports were already being hatched in early 2019 at meetings between the Big Pharma lobby and the EU (see Members’ Articles section). All this philanthrocapitalist activity not only makes Gates richer and more influential, but ‘results in an erasure of democracy and biodiversity, of nature and culture.’ In this way ‘philanthropic’ money is a tax-efficient means of buying influence and power while at the same time his Foundation invests in the same companies the manufacture the ‘solutions’.

Vandana continues: ‘The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have revealed even more clearly how we are being reduced to objects to be controlled, with our bodies and minds as the new colonies to be invaded.’ She rightly asserts that ‘this linear, extractive logic is unable to see the intimate relations that sustain life in the natural world. It is blind to diversity, cycles of renewal, values of giving and sharing, and the power and potential of self-organising and mutuality. It is blind to the waste it creates and to the violence it unleashes.’ Chillingly, she concludes: ‘The extended coronavirus lockdown has been a lab experiment for a future without humanity.’ She also points out that in March 2020, Microsoft was awarded a patent ominously numbered 060606 that is effectively a colonising intellectual property claim on our bodies and minds by permitting the mining of data for a cryptocurrency system – Gates is already heavily invested in digital ID (ID2020) and digital currency systems.

This is where awareness raising and resistance come in. She writes: ‘We can seed another future, deepen our democracies, reclaim our commons, regenerate the earth as living members of a One Earth Family, rich in our diversity and freedom, one in our unity and interconnectedness. It is a healthier future. It is one we must fight for. It is one we must claim.’ She then concludes that we stand at a precipice of extinction and asks rhetorically:  Will we allow our humanity as living, conscious, intelligent, autonomous beings to be extinguished by a greed machine that does not know limits and is unable to put a break on its colonisation and destruction? Or will we stop the machine and defend our humanity, freedom, and autonomy to protect life on earth?’ Nothing less is required of us.

Vandana writes with immense clarity, eloquence and passion, as readers can now appreciate. The four chapters of the book cover 1% versus One Earth, One Humanity, the money and technology machines of the 1%, and how the 1% subverts democracy while also evading responsibility for their actions. There are many revealing charts and figures showing the structure of investment conglomerates with their interconnected interests in the current extractive and exploitative system where further monopolistic concentration of money and power is built-in: corporations already control the political and regulatory systems so instead of democratic government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, we have government of the corporations, by the corporations for the corporations. This is nothing less than systemic corruption.

Last Saturday, thousands of people marched peacefully in London for freedom. The crisis has highlighted that humanity is at a crossroads and must ‘choose between freedom through oneness versus slavery to the 1%’ – this may sound overdramatic, but proponents of the ‘Great Reset’ envisage just such a revolution involving the Internet of Things, an untested 5G rollout, widespread automation of jobs, and the capacity for all-pervasive technocratic monitoring and surveillance involving the kind of data mining envisaged in the patent referred to above and already practised in China. Vandana draws on her Indian Gandhian Heritage to propose the three Ss of ‘Swaraj: self-organisation, self-rule, freedom as autopoiesis; Swadeshi: self-reliance and creating local economies; and Satyagraha: the force of truth, of creative civil disobedience.’ All of this is based on interbeing and a ‘decentralised, homegrown, handcrafted mode of production’ that respects the diversity required for balance.

We also have a moral duty not to cooperate with unjust, exploitative and undemocratic processes, but rather to side with and stand up for healing, regeneration, reconnection, renewal and renaissance. We must resist ‘the power of domination and destruction, mastery and ownership’ with ‘the non-violent power of procreation, cooperation, co-evolution that comes from interconnectedness and oneness’ that leads to ‘responsibility and awareness, care and compassion.’ I hope the above exposition will persuade you to order the book immediately and watch the inspiring film about her life at 

Vandana Shiva with Kartikey Shiva
New Internationalist, 2021, 194 pp., £9.99, p/b – ISBN 978-1-78026-513-1
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