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In numerous traditions of indigenous thought, the sharing of food is treated as ceremony.

Each ritual reflects the understanding that giving and receiving is a sacred transaction. You give and receive in appreciation of your interdependence with others—not only with your family and community but also with the farmer, the food provider and the vast non-human family that populates Earth.

Every bird, every bug, every microscopic microbe—every living organism interconnects in the great web of life.

As school students we learn that all life is made of the same basic elements—earth, water, air—yet as adults we tend to forget it. But the facts are the facts: We drink water that circulates throughout the whole biosphere. The oxygen exhaled by the rainforest becomes our own breath. The food produced by the seed and the soil builds up our bodies and keeps them alive. We are one with the earth.

If it sounds like spirituality, it is. But it is also science and—more than ever now—politics.

Before The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, we made a series of short documentaries based on symposia that brought together scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders and policymakers to share research on the world’s besieged water bodies. It was during this period that we met Dr. Shiva and decided to document her remarkable life. 

Here, on the occasion of her Sydney Peace Prize Award in 2010, this scientist (M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics, Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Quantum Theory) talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a concept in Hinduism that describes the world as a single earth family.

It is this “big picture” perspective that makes The Seeds of Vandana Shiva project more than just a documentary film. Along with numerous partners, our goal is to share it with organizations around the world for education and outreach—including to public officials who can influence policy towards a more ecologically sensitive world.

Did we tell you that Patagonia gave us a grant to support distribution? Thank you, Patagonia, along with your in-kind sponsorship through Patagonia Action Works, which will help us to launch!

Namaste!

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While Dr. Vandana Shiva is best known as an advocate for seed saving and small-scale organic food and farming, her work is more broadly to do with natural—let’s say quantum—interconnections. In our last newsletter we talked about the relationship between food and forests and we want to continue with that. Why? Because, in January, a neo-fascist will take control of the Amazon rainforest. And this is very bad news. 

Every climate defying and ecologically destructive decision Brazil’s President-Elect makes will impact us all. The Amazon provides ecological services not only to Brazil but to the whole planet. First, it plays a central role in filtering and reprocessing the world’s carbon output: The rich forest material sucks in planetary carbon emissions and releases much-needed oxygen into the air. Second, through evapotranspiration, the Amazon supplies water to rivers, vapor to rain clouds and even goes so far as to stimulate the world’s ocean currents. Think of the Amazon as the giant lungs of the planet. 

Jair Bolsonaro bemoans rainforest protections as obstructions, intends to convert his country’s forests into cattle and soybean farms, looks likely to exit the Paris Climate agreement and just canceled Brazil’s commitment to host COP25 in 2019. 

Even that hurts. In association with Regeneration International and a number of Brazilian NGOs, we were planning to show The Seeds of Vandana Shiva in Sao Paulo during the UN Climate Talks, along with a teach-in about how organic and regenerative food systems can mitigate climate change and feed the world.

Here’s a film by the brilliant filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand that beautifully illustrates how forests are critical to planetary well-being. We’re honored that his Good Planet Foundation is donating aerial footage to The Seeds of Vandana Shiva. It’s a huge gift and we’re humbled by his support for the film.
And we are grateful for your support! Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. Most of your (tax-deductible!) gifts will go to our archives bill. Though Mr. Bertrand is not the only filmmaker that has donated footage (shout-outs coming) there are other expensive but important clips we must buy for the film. Did you know that TV Networks charge for their clips by the second?
 
Thank you for helping us to reach the finish line.

Finally, if we do anything in 2019, let’s resist, with our Brazilian counterparts, Bolsonaro’s destructive initiatives. They are us and we are them. We are connected.

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Greetings from our kitchen table in Ojai, California.

It’s been twelve months since the Thomas Fire surrounded our town, threatened our house, burned close to 500 square miles of countryside, and destroyed over 1,000 homes. That was our launch into 2018, a year that will be forever remembered for thousands of catastrophic wildfires that raged over our state. Yet, as we grieve for those suffering terrible losses, we read this news: The timber industry is lobbying to deregulate logging laws. We know about trees, so we can fix this, they say. 

We don’t think so. Those trained in the mechanics of exploiting nature are not the same people who know how to heal it. California’s drought, the way our forests and shrublands have been transformed into fuel, are both linked to climate change. Climate change is linked to deforestation. The timber industry and agribusiness are responsible for that.

In the new normal of ecological deterioration, our survival depends on a land-use philosophy that understands that the earth is an interconnected living system with infinite numbers of organisms working in concert to create balance. We need less “management” and exploitation of nature and more awareness of how nature takes care of us—and itself.


It’s the difference between a reductionist, objectifying view of the world and a systems approach: Here, Dr. Shiva explains:

(This iPhone clip is from our most recent trip to India in October.)
This year we showed rough cuts of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva to a number of focus groups—farmers, feminists, filmmakers, friends—and based on the feedback, we’re confident (OK, psyched!) about completing an exciting, thought-provoking and significant film. We attended conferences, worked out a marketing and distribution blueprint with consultants and partners, took advice from a legal team, and hired a researcher to source archival film footage. We’re just months away from a final cut. 

We’ll keep you posted as we progress in 2019. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy and hopeful New Year.

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madeline-hughes-data (1)Who wouldn’t agree? 2017 was a year of mind-blowing events.

We won’t even try to address the politics here. Instead we’ll take a look at a (heretofore) safe subject: The weather. Specifically, what several natural disasters meant for our food supply.

In February, ongoing drought in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia resulted in famine so severe the U.N.’s Under Secretary General described it as “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”

In March, Cyclone Debbie ravaged Queensland, Australia and caused unprecedented losses for vegetable, sugar and horticultural farmers.

April’s monsoon rains in Sri Lanka created the worst floods in decades, compromised up to fifty percent of agricultural land and left nearly a million people food-insecure. (This, by the way, followed the country’s worst drought in forty years.)

In August, more epic flooding in Southeast Asia created severe food shortages and polluted the water supply for 16 million people across Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, costing the United States US$200 million in agricultural losses.

September’s Hurricane Irma damaged up to 90 percent of agricultural lands in the Caribbean, Cuba and the Florida peninsula and Hurricane Maria delivered the same devastation in Puerto Rico.

October brought historic wildfires: Northern California wine country suffered US$3 billion in damages and the fire ruined the livelihoods ofseasonal farm workers.

And, as we write this in December, the largest wildfire in California’s history rages in the biggest avocado and lemon-producing region in the U.S. The agricultural losses are yet to be calculated.

Catastrophic weather events change the DNA of the areas impacted in ways that we may never be able to fully compute. Yes, many of these areas will bounce back. But they will bounce back differently than they were before.

In this era of climate change, can we predict or control what that “different” will be? How do we protect our food supply from future catastrophic weather events? And, afterwards, how can our farms and farmers recover well enough to feed us again?

There is a great source of hope in traditional seed: Because, more than GMOs or hybrid seeds, naturally adapted seed has the best chance of surviving weather disasters to feed us in the future.

Here’s how Vandana Shiva describes it:

Extreme weather/Seed Play ButtonIn addition, organic, biodiverse agriculture that respects the integrity of the soil and natural water systems can also prevent and mitigate extreme weather damage.

Permaculture, biodynamics, agroecology—any regenerative agricultural system that works with nature’s processes—will invariably fare better in drought conditions, recover better after fire or freeze and absorb water better when flooding occurs.

It’s on this hopeful note that we look forward to the New Year. In concert with Mother Earth, we have the tools to restore, to adapt, to feed the world and to thrive.

It all begins by showing some love for the seed.

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Precious and Kale
Meet Precious Phiri who spends her days teaching farmers in Zimbabwe how to mitigate climate change.
 
Specifically, she instructs them in holistic land management, a method that rejuvenates depleted water and degraded soil while drawing climate-changing C02 out of the atmosphere.
 
Originally trained by the Savory Institute, the enthusiastic Ms. Phiri explains that a cornerstone of holistic management is that eco-systems without animals create ecological imbalance. Grasslands, for example, deteriorate when the food chain that keeps them alive is disturbed. Deprived of a symbiotic relationship with ruminants, grass dies and then soil dies. And, in the process, climate-disrupting carbon discharges into the atmosphere.
 
It’s simple but not obvious: Ecosystems need both fauna and flora to thrive. Think of the oceans without whales or Yellowstone National Park without wolves. It’s the great web of life.
 
The phenomenon, sometimes described as a “trophic cascade,” is a biological process that flows between every part of the food chain.
 
Here Precious explains it: 
Precious Phiri Play Button
Here’s another obvious but often-overlooked fact: Healthy humans come from healthy food that originates in healthy soil. And there is no way to support this synergy between our health and the biosphere in an industrial food system: Big Ag and Big Food disrupts precious water cycles, destroys biodiversity, pummels the biosphere with toxic pesticides, and imprisons innocent animals that should be on the land. This isn’t mere sentiment; it’s actually climate science.
 
In a regenerative world, it’s OK to eat meat, but if you’re going to do so, it’s imperative to transition to organic, grass-fed and free-range–and not in the quantities Big Ag and Big Food would have you do. Any other way and we are contributing to global warming, impacting our health and, by the way, engaging significantly in animal cruelty. Of course it’s more than OK to be vegan or vegetarian but, ecologically speaking, there is also an argument for conscious meat eating.
 
Vandana Shiva is vegetarian and also a founding member of Regeneration International, an organization that promotes and researches this stuff. Here’s a clip of her talking about the animals at her Navdanya farm.
Cover for Vimeo 11.15.16
And here are some books to read if you’d like to know more:
 
 
It’s a whole new world of hope for the environment, the climate and our own health. Perhaps the most hopeful story ever that too few people have heard.
 
P.S: About progress on our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story: We’ve just completed laying in additional dialogue, now we’re working on music and B-Roll. Onwards we go!
 
Please contribute to this next phase of our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story here: Every bit helps to get the film completed (and into your hands) sooner rather than later!

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Sheela with Seeds Navdanya

Would you believe it: It’s been four years since we finished our film Sons of Africa and had the idea to tell the life story of Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Yes, filmmaking takes time! And The Seeds of Vandana Shiva is taking great shape.

Here’s why you haven’t heard from us lately: We are deeply immersed in sourcing archival footage and photographs, listening to music to inspire a score, fact checking, cleaning up dialogue—all consuming and important work that is hard to report about when you’re busy doing it. We remain grateful to everyone who has supported this leg of the journey.

But today we’re abandoning all that and hitting the road! First stop, Santa Rosa, California. Vandana is speaking at the inspiring and colorful Heirloom Seed Expo, and if you’re in the area, we encourage you to attend. She’s appearing on a panel with Robert Kennedy Jr., on the issue of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp) that has been named as a probable carcinogen by the W.H.O. Next she’s addressing the tension between our seed supply and corporate interests, as well as the Care What You Wear campaign about how our clothing purchases can impact an ecologically toxic and unjust garment industry.

On the evening of September 6 Vandana will open the Soil Not Oil conference, a powerful three-day event featuring artists, activists and academics sharing new information on regenerative agriculture and the social-ecological health of the earth. The conference was inspired by her book, Soil Not Oil, a must-read in this era of obvious (and heart-rending) climate disasters.

At the end of the month we’re attending the Regeneration International General Assembly at Rancho Via Organica in Mexico. We look forward to filming and connecting with partners and allies to discuss plans for the film’s distribution.

And in case we again get caught up in editing and neglect to write to you before November, we must alert you to the Pathway To Paris Concert (Carnegie Hall, New York, November 5) featuring a line up of amazing musicians—Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Flea, Talib Kweli, Tanya Tagaq, Tenzin Choegyal—plus words of wisdom by Bill McKibbon (350.org) and Vandana Shiva! More than ever now, it’s all about climate change. Food systems play a huge part, not only causing up to 50% of the problem, but also offering solutions to solve it. OK, we admit it. For this one we can’t wait.

In between all of that, we will keep at it, looking forward to when we can show you the film!

BTW:  Our cover picture, taken by Pramod Kamothi at Dr. Shiva’s Navdanya farm features seed keeper and farmer Sheela Godial with an abundant harvest of fox tail millet, a nutritious but forgotten heritage crop being restored at the farm.

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