Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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11 Nov 2009

Vandana Shiva on how Transition initiatives in the North can best help the South

While Vandana Shiva was in Berlin recently promoting her book ‘Soil Not Oil’, Andreas Teuchert and Thomas Finger of Transition Berlin, who were filming the event, spontaneously asked her for her thoughts on what the Transition Towns movement could do that is of real use for people in the southern hemisphere. Here is her answer.

Our thanks to Andreas for allowing me to post this here.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


11 Nov 9:48am

“southern hemisphere”?

I don’t think she’s from Australia 🙂

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gabriel Liljenström, TT web: Ed Mitchell. TT web: Ed Mitchell said: Vandana Shiva on how TT initiatives in the north can best help the south: from @robintransition […]

11 Nov 10:49am

She uses the term ‘South’ and ‘North’ in the same way that one might say ‘Developed’ and ‘Developing’ nations, or ‘First’ and ‘Third’ world… although not geographically correct as you note, it is the least condascending of the other available options (although I always liked ‘two-thirds world’).

[…] “Vandana Shiva on how Transition initiatives in the North can best help the South” 2009 A video posted on the Transition Culture blog […]

T. B.
11 Nov 5:58pm

Eastern Europe and much of Asia also are exceptions to the talk about the “North.”

These short-hands are better (yet, nevertheless, inadequate) –
(a) ‘South’ and ‘East’
(b) ‘North’ ‘West’

“North”-“South” terminology is common though.

That language has been used a lot in the recent and ongoing climate negotiations. Here’s one important example –

Here’s a different example –
Last year I was chastised for not settling for that oversimplistic “North”-“South” terminology when I wrote a course paper about development issues. (That professor thought that a footnote would have been enough to convey my concerns about “North”- “South” language.)

[…] Go to video at Transition Culture→ […]

Shane Hughes
11 Nov 6:34pm

many have swapped it with the “majority world”. but we’re getting a bit off topic. i’d like to see more of this. While transition inherently works in ways that supports the suggestions put forward by Vandana it’s like the PO and CC argument. Where you can potentially reduce emissions by half and still be vulnerable to peak oil. We could effectively reduce consumption by half but still be putting the majority world under life threatening pressure. Until Trasition adequately and directly addresses issues of poverty, social justice and peace, it’s only a part transition.

Dr Richard L Munisamy
12 Nov 5:20am

Simplistic nonsense.

It is not true that only multi-national companies grow cash crops for export from developing countries. In Mauritius sugar is produced by local companies and small planters and exported by a cooperative. If you stop buying sugar from us it will massively impact our balance of trade, we will not be able to buy the goods and services we need to continue our development. In fact you will send us backwards. Is this the kind of transition you want to impose on us?

What is needed is fair trade. Where you pay a fair price to our farmers instead of giving massive profits to mercantile middlemen and supermarket chains. Where you stop subsidising your own farming so that we can compete with you on a level playing field. Don’t stop importing our crops if they come by sea. If necessary we can revert to sailing ships when the oil runs out. But if you insist then send us your technology for free so that we can achieve a fair standard of living. Or is “Contraction and Convergence” an empty phrase for you?

Shane Hughes
12 Nov 3:40pm

Dr Richard. i’m not sure we sore the same clip??? She talks about the importance of continuing to purchase core commodities like coffee and spices etc…

Dr Richard L Munisamy
13 Nov 3:37am

Shane, we saw the same clip. What is clear is that we do not share the same background understanding of the issues. In Mauritius we do not grow coffee, spices or cotton. We grow sugar (exported by sea) which can easily be substituted in Europe by sugar beet. The unilateral decision to do so without helping us make a transition to other crops would devastate us.

Even this woman’s argument about fresh vegetables is fallacious. May I suggest you read the fact sheet from FairTrade from which I quote:

“While reducing the carbon footprint of food is important, the issue is not black and white. Air travel for fresh produce represents a tiny portion of overall emissions, 0.1% for the UK. Fairtrade vegetables represent an important source of income for marginalized farmers and workers in countries responsible for only a fraction of overall global emissions.”

Many people in Africa do not own land on which they can grow food. They rely on plantations for work. No exports = no work = no income = no education, health care, etc, etc. Africans do not want to return to subsistence farming. They aspire to the quality of life you take for granted. What are you doing to help them?

Shane Hughes
13 Nov 1:06pm

No one is suggesting raising the draw bridge and driving towards “no exports = no work = no income”. You’ve inferred that end and it would indeed be “simplistic nonsense”.
Vandana’s video is 1.53mins long and covers a few headline points which i don’t see are at odds with what you’re saying. I understand your fears especially given Transitions heavy focus on localisation but i think you’re making this more black and white than it needs to be…

“What are you doing to help them?”

without seeing your body language it’s difficult to see if this was posed as an accusation but i’ll respond anyway.
Much of my extended family are South American, some of them farmers grappling with the issues that you discuss. I lived and worked in South America for 7 years working with people and on projects areas of my environmental passions and will soon return. Now that i’m in the UK i consume very little (as Vandana rightly suggested) which hopefully reduces pressure on scarce and needed resources. What i consume a consume aware of origin and impact.

You’ll note that i believe and i try to influence the Transition network that “Until Transition adequately and directly addresses issues of poverty, social justice and peace, it’s only a part transition.”

I’d have to say that your sugar cane example isn’t black and white either. Mauritius is close to being in the top 3rd per capita economically and suffers from the same stark contrast in rich and poor as South America. One could say that to bare this down to an issue of trade would be “simplistic nonsense”.


[…] How the Rich Can Stop Hurting the Poor: Sharon Astyk adds her own recommendations to the Transition Initiative’s recommendations, in an interview with Vandana Shiva,  to help reduce …: […]

[…] did see a video recently, however, in which Dr. Vandana Shiva (author of Soil Not Oil) talks about what […]