The Small and the Sacred

Agricultural Conference at the Goetheanum: Earlier this month, author, and environmental activist Vandana Shiva spoke about ‹Rediscovering the Sacred in Agriculture›.


Vandana Shiva at the Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, 2017. Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg, CC 4.0

Shiva can speak authoritatively about the ‹sacred› in part due to her experience of the ‹profane›. She has seen the ‹Green Revolution› – and the associated use of fertilizers and genetically modified crops – destroy her country’s ancient agricultural traditions and the foundations of its prosperity. What was touted as the wonderful future of agriculture has had a destructive effect, and this has motivated Shiva – without pause – to seek a solution and expose the injustice of the neo-colonial agribusiness. One way she has manifested her resistance is by establishing a seed bank to protect indigenous seeds from the grip of genetic engineering and intellectual property rights. As if taking a cue from David and Goliath, this is a smart understanding of the strength of the less powerful against mechanisms that seem overwhelming. But it is not just a matter of seeing worldly power in seeds. Like Rudolf Steiner, Shiva’s mission and message draws our attention to the wondrous nature of the seed – that tiny storehouse of life ‹in potentia,› a way station in an eternal cycle. Shiva, who has a PhD. in quantum physics, talks about how, at the subatomic level – the level below the Newtonian, mechanistic worldview – a ‹law of inseparability› operates. Everything in the universe is interwoven with everything else. In the same way, seeds, plants, and food weave the underlying web of life upon which we depend – the sacred.

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