- David Kortenauthor of When Corporations Rule the World. He is the co-founder of Positive Futures Network and publisher of the magazine YES! A Journal of Positive Futures. His most recent book is titled The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.
The International Forum on Globalization and Institute for Policy Studies is hosting a three-day teach-in this weekend titled “Confronting the Global Triple Crisis: Climate Change, Peak Oil (The End of Cheap Energy) and Global Resource Depletion & Extinction.” We speak with, among others, David Korten, publisher of the magazine YES! A Journal of Positive Futures and author of “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.” [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: A new study from the nation’s preeminent scientific advisory group has revealed that less than 2 percent of the money spent by the federal government on climate change research is used to study how climate change will affect humans.
According to the report issued by the National Academies, the U.S. Climate Change Research Program spends just $30 million a year on examining the impact of global warming on humans. To put that figure in perspective, the United States is spending an estimated $275 million per day on the Iraq war and occupation.
Spending cuts have also resulted in the grounding of earth-observing satellites. The authors of the report state, “The loss of existing and planned satellite sensors is perhaps the single greatest threat to the future success” of climate research.
AMY GOODMAN: This weekend, the International Forum on Globalization and Institute for Policy Studies is hosting a three-day teach-in titled “Confronting the Global Triple Crisis: Climate Change, Peak Oil (The End of Cheap Energy) and Global Resource Depletion & Extinction.”
Today, we’re joined by four of the guests in that forum. We begin with Vandana Shiva and David Korten.
Vandana Shiva, world-renowned environmental leader and thinker, director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, and the founder of Navdanya, “nine seeds,” a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds. Dr. Shiva was the 1993 recipient of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, the Right Livelihood Award. She’s the author of many books, her latest, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.
David Korten, also with us, author of When Corporations Rule the World, co-founder of Positive Futures Network and publisher of the magazine YES! A Journal of Positive Futures. His most recent book is called The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! David Korten, let’s begin with you. The Great Turning, explain.
DAVID KORTEN: Well, essentially, this gets to the basic theme of the conference, that we humans have come up at a defining moment in our experience, in which we’re confronting the limits of the ecosystem at a time when we are in a condition of extreme inequality between the rich and the poor, and we’re dependent on an economic infrastructure that, in turn, depends on the assumption of everlasting cheap oil. Now, we’ve essentially come up to the limits.
What my book, The Great Turning, does is puts it into our current situation to the deeper context of 5,000 years of human experience, organizing ourselves, both our relations among nations and among — all the way down to among family members, based on dominator hierarchy. And what this — the underlying pattern of societies, with a few people on the top, many people on the bottom, and the majority of the society’s resources being expropriated by the ruling elites in order to maintain a system of domination. And we have played that out for 5,000 years, empire through empire, each one falling in turn, is it, through internal corruption and the devastation of its resource base. And now we’re encountering that on a global scale.
And what — the key point of this conference is that we are facing a monumental decision point in human experience in which we have to actively choose our future. And virtually none of the options on the table being discussed deal, in any adequate way, with the depth of the problem, and many of them are actually ultimately counterproductive. What the establishment is doing is looking for solutions that will maintain the system of power, but not necessarily deal with the fact that we have to address in fundamental ways our human relationship to earth and to the life support system of earth.
And in an already overpopulated world, we absolutely have to deal with the issues of equity and redistribution of not only income, but ownership, control and access to resources, so that everyone has a secure means of living. We also, of course, have to be fundamentally reconstructing our infrastructure to create an infrastructure that is consistent with living and balance with the earth, localizing our economies, bringing an end to war and violence and the massive misuse of resources to support military establishment.
So what this conference is doing, which is also what my book The Great Turning does, is bring all of these various crises that we’re facing as a species into a common framework that helps us see the depth of the solutions and the very dramatic nature of the solutions turning from systems of domination to systems of partnership and reestablishing a sense of human community and of living communities that bring us humans into balance with earth.
JUAN GONZALEZ: David Korten, in the United States we’re confronted here with a mass media system now where the oil companies and the chemical companies are actually the ones advertising their changes now, in terms of dealing with global warming. It’s an enormous hypocrisy that the very companies that are involved in the worst aspects of what is happening to the world are now the ones that are promoting in their advertisements a consciousness about it.
You talk about the prosperity narrative and how the prosperity narrative distorts the reality of what’s happening with global warming. Could you talk about that?
DAVID KORTEN: Yes. Part of breaking out of this, breaking out of what I call the cultural trance of empire, is to recognize the stories, essentially the lies, that the system feeds us to keep us locked into this trance. And the key in the empire prosperity story is the idea that money is wealth, that economic growth is the key to prosperity, that when people are making money, they are creating wealth, and the idea that inequality is essential to growth because the rich people have the money to invest, and so we should honor rich people, we should welcome inequality, because in the end it makes us all better off. Now, we’re seeing that play out, of course, in the corporations now, you know: We’re benevolent, and so forth.
But the thing that — you know, I spent 30 years of my life working on third world development, on the effort to end poverty in low-income countries. And it took me a long time, but I finally came to realize that mostly what economic growth is about is rich people expropriating the resources of poor people to turn them into the garbage of the consumer system in an accelerating rate in order to make money, which increases the power of people who — for people who already have more than they need.
Now, what we need to come to recognize is that real prosperity is grounded in the health of our children, our families, our communities and nature, and that a real economic system promoting real prosperity is one that is serving the health of children, families, community and the environment. And it absolutely requires a substantial degree of equity and sharing of resources to assure that everyone’s needs are met. And you begin to see the — you know, the stories fundamentally contrast, and they lead to totally different kinds of outcomes, in terms of how we allocate resources and even how we think about what it means to be human at our most foundational values.
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva, talk about how this plays out on the ground in places like, well, your home country, India.
VANDANA SHIVA: Well, the triple crisis is really seriously converging on India, India being one of the preferred spots for outsourcing of all the pollution and energy-intensive production of the world. We hear of outsourcing of jobs in the information technology sector. We don’t often enough hear about the outsourcing of pollution to the third world, the resource-intensive, resource-hungry industry like steel and iron and aluminum and automobile manufacture. India now is going to be the home of making cheap cars for the rest of the world. But every car then requires land, which is grabbed from tribals, peasants. It requires aluminum and steel, which needs to be mined. It requires coal, which needs to be mined.
And just as when the first colonization took place, it was assumed that the earth was empty, terra nullius, no matter how many indigenous people existed. India, a land of 1.2 billion people, is being treated as an empty land for global capital, making 80 percent of India redundant.
But people are fighting back. And place after place, in Dadri, in Nandigram, in Singur, people are just getting together in a new earth democracy and saying, “This land is our land. We will decide what we do with it. You cannot force a polluting industry on us. Globalization cannot force it.” And we are really seeing a whole new political practice emerge.
India is engaged in this debate also centrally in another way that brings the resource question: the alternative — fuel alternatives to global warming, as well as the new militarization, on a global scale together. The three, four options being offered to contain emissions are biofuels, which, in fact, will increase emissions; carbon and emissions trading, which is reversing the “polluter pays” principle and is making the society pay the polluter, rewarding them with credits. Most of these credits are then being given to polluting industry: HFC companies, sponge iron plants, cutting down forests and then planting palm oil. These are becoming clean development mechanisms, which are really dirty.
But the dirtiest of all, dirtiest of all the new clean options is nuclear. The U.S.-India nuclear agreement is being offered as a clean energy option, as a solution to climate change. But it is, in effect, an instrument of permanent war. In the Hyde Act, which overrides the India-U.S. agreement, Iran has been mentioned fifteen times. An agreement between India and the U.S. mentions a third country fifteen times. This is about a new security policy, a new security policy in which a militarized empire seeks the last resources of the poorest person and wants to use the worst form of violence to appropriate the resources that people need for living.
And across the world, people are saying, “No. We want peace. We want democracy. We want sustainability. We will live in a different way.” And those alternatives are growing. Our work, in Navdanya, we are saving seeds that can tolerate the salt after cyclones, seeds that can survive the floods, in which we have lost 2,000 people in India this particular extreme monsoon. And around the world people are creating alternatives, so we really have these two trends right now: one, a declining trend, but very visible trend because it’s so violent, and violent is always visible; and the other, a peaceful trend and nonviolent trend, quiet, but much more pervasive.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Vandana Shiva, you’ve been a spokesperson for years over the impact on the world’s agriculture, of this corporate dominance. A new battleground has developed recently in Burma with Bayer and Bayer’s efforts, the German giant, in terms of rice. Could you talk about that?
VANDANA SHIVA: Yeah, but it’s not just the German giant in Burma. It’s the American giant, Monsanto, literally killing Indian farmers. Since 1997, I’ve been doing studies in every area where farmer suicides have happened. These happen to be the cotton belt, the cotton areas where Monsanto has now gained total monopoly. The Bt cotton seeds that Monsanto is selling have pushed farmers to the edge, because of the high prices, because of the high levels of failure and the high requirements, exactly like the rice of Bayer for Burma will be.
As the corporations that came out of warfare gained control over the chemical industry for warfare, they became agrichemical giants, because they deployed chemicals used for war into agriculture. Over time, they bought up the seed industry. Over time, they bought up the biotech industry. And, of course, these guys are the same people who sell us the medicine in pharmaceuticals. So what we’ve got, a convergence of death. We’ve got a convergence of destruction.
And in India, we are witnessing this destruction from the seed end through Monsanto’s monopolies on seed, and that is why I have been working with Indian farmers, both to save our native seeds and save our freedom, and do the seed Satyagraha, like Gandhi a hundred years ago in South Africa — and we’re remembering Steve Biko today — when Gandhi started the Satyagraha, the non-cooperation with an unjust brutal regime. But the global economy has become an unjust brutal regime. And everywhere — we are defending the Yamana, because they want to even use the land where the rivers flow for real estate. I don’t know why land becomes real estate when it moves into the hands of the rich, and it’s treated as nobody’s land, no man’s land, when it’s generating survival for the poor. So India is definitely at the heart of the new debate about the real democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva and David Korten, I want to thank you for being with us. Vandana Shiva’s latest book is Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace. David Korten’s latest book is called The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. They’re both part of the International Forum on Globalization that is holding a conference this weekend in Washington, D.C., at George Washington University at the Lisner Auditorium.
When we come back, we’ll be joined from two others who are participating: the author and professor Michael Klare and the British climate change activist Simon Retallack.