Earlier in 2007 the Soil Association organized an amazing conference, "One Planet Agriculture: Preparing for a Post Peak-Oil Food and Farming Future." Many talks from this conference are recorded and transcribed here, and I daresay if these are issues with which you are unfamiliar (or issues on which you are worse than unfamiliar because you have settled for mainstream mediated vacuities), devoting a lazy holiday afternoon to these marvelous talks might be a positively life-changing experience for you.
It is the Closing Address of the Conference delivered by Vandana Shiva that I want to draw particular attention to -- not because I think it is the best of them, but just because I hope it will be a point of entry into a deeper engagement with Shiva's work for some of my readers.
There are so many key themes registered in this short address that Shiva expands considerably in her writings elsewhere:
-- how high energy input industrial agriculture models create the superficial impression of surplus at the real cost of catastrophic depletion,
-- how imposed monocultures are simply not resilient enough to do the work of planetary agriculture to meet existing human needs and how we must redirect our thinking to local polycultures instead,
-- how enclosure of the commons -- whether geographic, genomic, or creative -- is always a matter of confiscation and exploitation,
-- how facile versions of "pro-technology" rhetoric are used by corporate-military incumbents to exacerbate precarity and consolidate structural dependency of vulnerable populations like local farmers,
-- how this precarity and dependence are the actual source of some social instability, terrorism, and "epidemics" of suicide that otherwise perplex social scientists as to their causes,
-- how there really is something schizophrenic about a culture which deplores the labor of self-sustaining farming while at once fetishizing gym work-outs,
and many more provocative ideas.
Given what sometimes seems the terribly undercritical and overgeneralized techno-fetishization and techno-philia of some who read Amor Mundi regularly and occasionally comment here (and of course all are emphatically welcome here!), I can already imagine the protests that Shiva is really just a "Luddite" (by the way, the historical Luddites were right to fear for their lives and lifeways and that should possibly matter in our assessments of them) that she is engaged in a shrill "anti-technology" discourse, and so on.
I want to stress in the most emphatic terms that it is my view that Shiva is offering up (or at any rate providing indispensable material from which can be formulated) a technoscientifically literate, technodevelopmentally democratizing advocacy of planetary permaculture-polyculture.
Advocating for appropriate technology is not "anti-technology," directing our attention to politically pernicious deployments of technodevelopment exploiting the vulnerable and profiting elite-incumbents is not "anti-technology," delineating the catastrophic impacts of false models and marketing hype is not "anti-technology."
As I keep on insisting, time and time again, "technology" doesn't exist at a level of generality that properly enables one to affirm a "pro-technology" or "anti-technology" stance in any kind of monolithic way. Technology is better conceived not as an idol to affirm or as an ethos with which to identify but as an interminable process of collective technodevelopmental social struggle in which a diversity of stakeholders (not all of them necessarily even human) are constantly contesting, collaborating, educating, agitating, organizing, appropriating, and coping with ongoing and proximately emerging technoscientific changes, costs, risks, and benefits.
Vandana Shiva redirects us to that level of specificity for the technodevelopmental outcomes with which she is most concerned (and of course there are others that are likely to matter just as much as these: p2p democratization, for one; consensualization and universalization of non-normalizing genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive medicine; weapons proliferation -- that is to say, all the key drivers of the Technodevelopmental Quartet), while at once opening us to the connections between permaculture politics and planetary democracy struggles.