An Evening Without Vandana Shiva

I was saddened today to learn that Dr Vandana Shiva was unable to travel to Calgary for her public presentation for the Calgary Peace Prize 2011.  However, even after learning of this bad news, I decided to go to the event anyway, as an impressive lineup of speakers had been retained on very short notice.  While I was disappointed that Dr Shiva was not there, I was thoroughly impressed with the speeches and presentations delivered by the panel.

Unsurprisingly, the primary focus of the panel members’ speeches was on food democracy, food security, and sustainability.  Some speakers even spoke at length about urban agriculture, which is something I’ve become very interested in of late (you may have noticed this if you’ve seen my blog recently).

Seeing as a focus of the evening was on sustainability, though, I was somewhat surprised that only the final speaker of the evening (a gentleman whose name I cannot recall, but who delivered a very long but excellent speech) who alluded to (but did not explicitly state) the definition of sustainability that came out of the Bruntland Commission in 1987:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. (Our Common Future, 1987)

This is a key concept that has been emphasized time and again in courses for Sait Polytechnic’s Environmental Technology (EVT) program.  In conjunction with this definition is the premise that, in order to be sustainable, one must balance the environmental, social, and economic domains.  This is most often thought of in terms of government implementation, and is represented by the simple Venn diagram:It does not take a genius to see that fulfilling the demand of sustainability can be a tall order in any political climate.  With her campaign for food security, food democracy, and sustainability, Dr Shiva is making great strides.  She has already made great progress in India, and her voice is getting louder in the West.  I just hope that the reason the good doctor was unable to speak to us tonight was because of a visa SNAFU and not politically motivated.  One can never be too sure these days.

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