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Environmentalist Urges Decisive Move Toward Organic Farming

Charlie Schlenker
Dr. Vandana Shiva was this year's Adlai Stephenson lecturer in the twin cities.

We are already a water-challenged planet. As global climate change continues, we are likely to become more so, according to Vandana Shiva, a noted environmentalist.

Shiva was this year's Adlai Stevenson lecture series speaker at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State universities.

Shiva said civilization requires water, during a conversation on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Melting ice at the poles and at the fourth pole in the Himalayas, she said, will raise sea levels, dislocating coastal populations and altering rainfall patterns.

"Forced movement of people because of the inability of ecosystems to support them, which is lack of water, which is what desertification is, will create the biggest human crisis which no political system will be able to manage," said Shiva.

Shiva said the trend lines for climate change and the deterioration of the environment all suggest a pessimistic outlook for humans. But she said she prefers to focus on solutions and optimism. In India, groups she works with are trying to introduce dryland techniques of farming for areas that may become more arid in future decades.

Shiva said U.S. farmers have the wrong idea about feeding the world. Most of the commercial ag industry maintains that it's necessary to use petroleum-based fertilizers to achieve the yield needed to feed human life on the planet.

Shiva said the word "yield" is a trap that creates a false definition of farm.

"Because farms produce good soil. Farms produce water. Farms should not emit too much greenhouse gases. They should absorb them. Farms should be producing multiple outputs. That's what family farms of this country used to look like," said Shiva.

Shiva said the current model of agriculture is not sustainable. She urges a conversion to organic farming. She says soil on organic farms is healthier and requires fewer inputs over the long term than soil used in industrial farming.

Dr. Vandana Shiva talks with GLT's Charlie Schlenker about methods to stabilize the environment, agriculture, and human life on earth.

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WGLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio.