Gandhian Activist Sunderlal Bahuguna at Navdanya. ~ Carrie Stiles

Create a New World: The Creative Head, Compassionate Heart & Constructive Hand. 

“Today our heart is very small, especially the young people… The heart of one is enclosed. You know the formula of love (is) whomsoever you love you will get love in return. So why don’t you inspire for more love from many people. Love not only from human beings, but other beings. Love from nature, love from trees, love from rivers and mountains. Develop your compassionate heart.” ~ Bahuguna

Control Your Tongue.

“The tongue creates many problems. When you are talking it will say bad things to others… it requires many things like taste. The first thing we have to do is to control this tongue.” ~ Bahuguna

Displacement vs The Spirit of Freedom in the Hills.

How blessed we were to study with the great Gandhian activist Sunderlal Bahuguna at Navdanya Earth University in North India. Sunderlal Bahuguna was awarded India’s second highest civilian honor and the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (The Right Livelihood Award) for his tremendous work leading the Chipko Movement and the Anti-Tehri Dam movement against large dams, mining and deforestation, across the country. Bahuguna Ji fasted for 70 days after which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi granted his request to stop the felling of the trees in the High Himalaya.

“We in Himalaya are facing a crisis of survival due to the suicidal activities being carried out in the name of development… The monstrous Tehri dam is a symbol of this… There is need for a new and long-term policy to protect the dying Himalaya. I do not want to see the death of the most sacred river of the world — the Ganga — for short-term economic gains.”
~ Sunderlal Bahuguna

“I treasure Awards of Ridicule, Neglect, Isolation and Insult, which Every social activist is proud of” ~ S. B.

Cultivating Social Change in the Fertile City. ~ Carrie Stiles

 

A digestible solution to global conflict 

Mercy Corps Northwest’s new American Agriculture Project and Grow Portland forged a transformative partnership to address global conflicts on the local level.

The innovative collaboration supports refugee and immigrant resettlement through local, sustainable agriculture. The program is a digestible solution to traumatic, international conflict. Their approach embodies, and emboldens, the common adage ‘think globally, act locally’. The program is creating space for participants to transplant their uprooted lives, adapt to a new climate and develop market-based skills.

We caught up with Mercy Corps Lead Grower Lauren Morse at the SE Nepalese Gardens to learn more.

Morse explained that Mercy Corps has been invaluable to the expanding population of immigrants, refugees and beginning American growers in Portland since 2006. The 2010 formation of the Portland Growers Alliance with Grow Portland was created to address the challenge of establishing market outlets for the gardeners. “It makes a more sustainable livelihood for everyone involved in the program,” Morse explained.

The alliance is addressing participant’s needs through access to land, equipment, supplies, financial support, trainings, business planning and marketing support. The growers practice organic, ecological agriculture in both Portland and Damascus. You can find the Portland Growers Alliance produce at Portland Farmer’s Market, Lents International Farmer’s Market, Thompson Farm Stand, various restaurants and through their Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Most participants are former subsistence farmers who are now learning to cultivate for local tastes with limited land. Participants originate from locations as diverse as Bhutan, Somali, Russia and Burma. Morse explained to Real Time Farms how cultural and language differences have created a dynamic work environment. “All of these different, little idiosyncrasies make this project crazy. Overall it is amazing what we are doing: producing so much good food and getting it into local outlets,” explained Morse.

 

Why The GMO Free Movement in Europe? ~ Carrie Stiles

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“However one defines it, dialogue is a democratic method aimed at resolving problems  through mutual understanding and concessions, rather than through the unilateral imposition of one sides views and interests. For its part, democracy as a system of government is a framework for organized and continuous dialogue.”

– Lakhdar BrahimiFormer Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General 

The GMO free movement in Europe has mobilized diverse stakeholders to participate in regulating the biotechnology industry.

Yet, important stakeholders are marginalized globally by power imbalances in the international political dialogue over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Indigenous peoples and American Civil society has largely been excluded from participating in the global decision-making process on biotechnology.

European citizens have mobilized on a large scale since 1996 by insisting major food retailers maintain a GM-free policy, demanding respect for the precautionary principle in approving new GM crops and monitoring nations and companies for compliance with the moratorium.

Stakeholders have contributed to the democratic process by holding media-focused symbolic protests against genetic patents, lobbying all levels of government in support of a GM ban and challenging the scientific claims of private industry and government agencies.

European GMO free campaigns have dramatically influenced the biotechnology industry.

Societal demands have influenced governments in Europe to open up the decision-making process to the public. However, the mechanisms of greater participation have not been widely clarified and so participation is fragmentary.

Evaluations of participatory exercises have demonstrated that the actual impact on the decision-making process has been uneven. However, Germany is portrayed as an exemplary model of civic inclusion on biotechnology issues because of clearly defined participatory mechanisms and early engagement on GMOs.

Democratic legitimacy is enhanced when diverse constituencies are included in decentralized deliberations over biotechnology issues.

Many researchers identify a need for the development of social technologies for public participation in discussion, debate and policymaking to counteract marginalization.

Hindmarsh & Du Plessis emphasize the significance of pluralist, inclusive, transparent and accountable decision making in biocivic trends. Through comparative case studies they explore the tensions, needs and opportunities for greater biocivic participation in democratic decision-making. The researchers insist on inclusive public participation at all stages of policy, research, development, release, monitoring and mitigation of GMOs.

Future trajectories of new technologies may be more effectively mapped in terms of potential benefits and harms through early, or ‘upstream’, civil society participation in scientific discourse.

Hayden and Du Plessis (2007) predict innovations in “upstream”, or early public dialogue, will help avoid the pitfalls of the biotechnology industry for future developments. The researchers ask for studies to be conducted on which dialogue processes are most effective that involve a wider group of stakeholders and conceptualize new strategies of engagement.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaguely considers GMOs to be “substantially equivalent” without allowing labeling or providing a clear legislative definition for an evaluative mechanism.

Yet many active civil society groups in the United States, such as those in the National Organic Coalition, have raised concerns regarding the environmental, health and political risks of untested and unlabeled GE foods and crops.

The FDA’s unilateral decision making denies citizens a chance to engage in the democratic process.

As much as 45 percent of U.S. corn and 85 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered (The Center for Food Safety, 2010). Additionally, an estimated 70-75 percent of supermarket foods contain GE ingredients in the United States.

The direct impact of political mobilization on public opinion and corporations vary. However, it is the ability of citizens to influence legislation and policy that has widespread implications.

Experiential Learning at Bija Vidyapeeth: a new paradigm for economic education.

How can you manage your home before you know your home?
Visionary peace pilgrim Satish Kumar routinely poses this intriguing question in his venerated teachings.
To generate insight into humanity’s relationship with nature the director of Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence magazine points to epistemology.
The word ecology comes from the Greek root ‘oikos’ meaning ‘home’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘to know’. Thus, ecology means ‘to know your home’.
Contrastingly, we see economics means ‘to manage your home’ by building on this understanding of ‘oikos’ and elaborating with ‘nomos’ as ‘to manage’.  Thus arrives the question: how can you manage your home before you know your home?
Ecology and economics have come to be seen as entirely separate disciplines, but the two are intrinsically linked.
To manage without knowledge is foolish.
We must bridge the gap between ‘logos’ and ‘nomos’ through a new paradigm that values a relationship with nature and humanity as more than raw materials for mass, industrial manufacturing to create a disposable society. ‘Logos’ is to learn from this earth and observe her cycles; ‘nomos’ is to organize our lives in such a way that we allow these cycles to thrive and celebrate them with our own lives and livelihoods.
Bija Vidyapeeth at Navdanya, School for Earth Citizenship, cultivates creative insights beyond reductionist thinking.
Learners who value meaningful experiences and practical, hands-on study come to Navdanya in search of local solutions to global market exploitation. The movement for Earth Democracy is carried into the mainstream through their personal transformation, practical skills and advocacy. With experiential learning students come to understand the significance of participatory research, dynamic multiplicity and interdisciplinary thinking indicative of holistic science.
 The open learning center gives guidance to environmental activists, encourages independent study and provides space for reciprocal knowledge sharing.
Self-motivated students and interns are committed to establishing a community that values sustainability and relationship building between the diverse walks of life that populate this earth. This relationship elevates the farmers voice so that their vast reservoirs of knowledge for how to live sustainably with the earth might irrigate our dying planet with a stream of elevated consciousness – ‘logos’.
Navdanya’s message, carried in its vast body of functional work, offers an alternative model to the now-imperiled market. The alternative forum encourages dialogue by creating space for mediation in the interest of egalitarian relations. Students are offered the rare opportunity to share in the work of the largest, fair-trade organic network in India.
Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy lives on in Navdanya’s grassroots movements.
The Mahatma’s life and message to the world is founded on the honest integrity of local, sustainable, self-sufficient communities and the power of that integrity to overcome imperial models of development. Gandhian economics and philosophy are imbuing a new generation, in an era of globalization, with a model for sustainable living.
Bija Vidyapeeth is illuminating a path for a process of self-discovery with no destination.
The seed, in this new movement, is a symbol of empowerment just as the spinning wheel was Gandhi’s symbol of timeless freedom.
Navdanya’s network of seed keepers protect India’s biodiversity and indigenous knowledge from the injustice evident in corporate monopolies on the global food supply. The relevance of Gandhi’s four pillars — Swadeshi, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya and Swaraj — are extrapolated during the annual two week course ‘Gandhi and Globalization’. The course is lead by Satish Kumar, Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva and other visionary leaders.
Balancing a socially just livelihood – ‘nomos’ and ‘logos’ — requires that students balance theory with practical application. The ‘ivory tower’, as academia is often called, quickly crumbles when theory is applied to practice with a comprehensive and constructive methodology.
Everything should be Beautiful Useful and Durable (BUD) declares the deep ecology sage Satish Kumar.
This wise framework orientates ones decision-making power in the dizzying onslaught of degrading consumer culture. The BUD framework embodies elegant simplicity that will stand the test of time and tides of destruction.
The prevalent model of development, promoted by institutions like the World Trade Organization, has intruded into the dominant education system. Students in economics are well studied in mathematics and numbers, but this falls short when it comes to lives and livelihoods. This model ignores the experiences of the social majority of earth’s inhabitants. The majority can flourish outside of the industrial-capitalist framework when they rely on their local ingenuity for survival.
Clever marketing, with a vast budget, insidiously shifts mind-sets and generates an avalanche … rapidly tumbling towards monocultures of the mind.
The Market dominates nature’s economy.
Academia’s exclusionary curriculum discredits and marginalizes the lifestyles of subsistence economies by claiming they are ‘uneducated’ and ‘backwards’. The dominant model in economic education widely propagates free market fundamentalism as the only option for development. This model has proven flawed as evident in the current ecological and economic crisis.
The false economy is spread to the detriment of humanity.
Global economic legislator and chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan testified to the US Congress on the financial crisis. He confessed,
“I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak… That is precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well3.”
Yet, the flawed system prevails to the dismay of many; intruding into forests and rivers, ravines and mountain tops.
With a sanctioned and standardized curriculum students are indoctrinated into maintaining the rapidly eroding status quo.
Bija Vidyapeeth offers the freedom of alternatives in validating and supporting decentralized, self-organized communities based on non-exploitative relationships. Food and food production are the foundations of society, the central unit for families and communities.
Quality of life is deeply enhanced if we understand the processes and practice of growing healthy, sustainable food supplies for our food-sovereignty, in a symbiotic relationship with nature. At the Earth University students begin to appreciate nature as teacher with subtle lessons for every subject. Navdanya’s expert farmers and scientists manifest these lessons for an emergent social harmony.
You are welcome to come and enjoy the beauty and joy of Navdanya’s open learning center at the foot of the mighty, melting Himalaya where the possibilities are limitless.

Seven things for the world to know about Bija Vidyapeeth

‘Go and learn from the indigenous people for they are the last reservoirs of knowledge for how to live sustainably with the earth’ – unknown

Inspiration: Nature, Navdanya and our relationships inspire us at Bija Vidyapeeth. Inspired to learn, love, laugh and grow as we engage with the earth. Inspired by visionary leaders such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, Satish Kumar and Sunderlal Bahuguna. We are likewise motivated by one another.

Community: Bija Vidyapeeth grants us the space to share our lives and build meaningful relationships. A sense of belonging and purpose is gifted to each participant, as their work is necessary and valued on the farm. A helping hand is always welcome in the inclusive, familiar space provided by nature. We live in a community WITH nature, not opposed to it. Our community of volunteers is brimming with energy and resources ready to be shared. Our community is as fertile as the fields as we constantly exchange ideas. Our community is the foundation of our transformative experience.

Diversity: As the seasons change life unfolds before you at Bija Vidyapeeth. You become immersed in this diligent and peaceful transition: preparing, planting and harvesting a wholesome bounty. We witness the rich diversity nature revels in and let it transform us. The seed bank stimulates nature’s abundance. Preservation of biodiversity is the foundation for Navdanya: and the experimental farm. And so we learn through saving nature’s abundance, epitomized by the seed, to reform ‘monocultures of the mind’.

Freedom: The luxury of choice is abundant at Navdanya: here you are free! While finding your niche in nature you may holistically garden, farm, cook, meditate, make art, research, administrate or just be! We practice developing a self-sufficient, simple living we will replicate in our futures in the name of freedom. Social movement for biodiversity and indigenous knowledge preservation transforms the external world as we are awakened to new possibilities for a sustainable, just future. We follow the wisdom of Dr. Shiva when she proclaims that the revolution will take place in the kitchen and gardens.

Transformation: Here we prepare for our next bold move.  Bija will awaken you to a new sense of self and determination. A change may be intimately felt if you rotate the crops during your visit. What a joy to synch with nature and be blessed with earth’s vibrant rhythm! A radical transformation is ripe for the plucking when visionaries graciously share their gifts of wisdom. You might be blessed to spend time in the presence of Satish Kumar, and hear his story of an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage, or Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche.

Hope: At Navdanya we cultivate hope for a sustainable, peaceful future where humanity might once again live harmoniously with nature. Hoping that we might transpose Navdanya’s message into our local communities. Change is possible as Dr. Shiva and her allies demonstrate with each bold step taken towards counteracting repressive forces. We are likewise imbued with hope through our new relationships. The feeling that your prospects for a happy future are mutually expanded feels divine. At Navdanya your may realize the hope in building relationships and self-sufficiency.

Gratitude: The Navdanya farm enraptures you in gratitude that such a place exists. The joy and wisdom of traditional farming is shared with us here. Being engaged with natural agriculture and local experts imbues us with a deep sense of proportion. We are humbled as we stumble to taste centuries of knowledge. We are grateful for the freedom to sing, and share stories, resources, references and revolutionary sentiments while tending the fields.