Normally, the biggest buzz on the opening day of the Hawaii State Legislature is what kind of grinds are being served in each office. However, this year, the focus was not what’s on the plate but what’s in the food of our islands.
The paradigm shift on our plate was shaped by a series of actions by a coalition of civil society. The visit of Vandana Shiva coordinated by Hawaii SEED was the catalyst for changing the conversation.
The main course of Shiva’s visit to Hawaii was a series of speeches on a panel featuring local activists and national advocates focusing on the human right to food. The motivation was to grow a movement in Hawaii. An important addition was to mobilize the audience beyond being present to being active in policymaking.
From the community conversations to the state capitol, the aspiration is to activate citizens to contact their elected officials on a consistent basis for a bold new diet in our democracy.
Shiva’s talks at the campus and capitol illustrated the links between colonial country policies of domination and destruction of indigenous culture from previous centuries with the current corporation practices with the intention of denying the cultural identity. Shiva encouraged people of Hawaii to stand together in solidarity with indigenous peoples around the world for all human rights beginning with self-determination.
Walter Ritte, a Kanaka Maoli activist, explained his involvement in the GMO labeling legislation, “Society has gotten to a point where there is no sacredness. Profit has had freedom to go anywhere anytime.” Ritte noted the experience in Hawaii where GMO corporations didn’t ask permission but patented taro. “They said it was just a plant. For us it was part of our family.”
The farmers and activists have come together in Hawaii in recent years to put pressure on the patents on taro inciting the ripping of those documents. Meanwhile, there have also been seed summits and symposium initiated in the islands.
Vandana Shiva speeches inspired and ignited passion in the people of the islands. Beyond being against the biotech industry, Shiva connected the campaign in the larger colonial challenge of liberty and self-determination of peoples.
Shiva shared that her countryman Gandhi challenged the largest empire in a previous century with a spinning wheel. “The seed has to the spinning wheel of today,” Shiva said.
Gandhi’s strategy to live values of deep freedom to create life of liberty for all peoples is central to Shiva’s steps toward self-determination. Another important is to practice civil disobedience against unjust laws.
Shiva continues tradition of bringing people together to practice own culture and coordinate nonviolent resistance. The principle of satyagraha and the practice of salt march are models for today’s movement regarding seed saving and sharing.
Shiva identified the practices of the corporation as a continuation of imperialism. Also, the focus on indigenous culture and core food crops is a perpetuation of the colonial practices.
“We are doing science,” Shiva said. “The reality is they are releasing a war on our sacred cultures.”
Shiva openly challenges members of Congress and CEOs of corporations that promote a global control mechanism over mother earth. “They gamble on the future of life, like they did on Wall Street.”
“We have to mobilize those aspects of our lives on earth that corporations can’t control and we can determine in our daily lives,” Shiva stated. She claimed the contribution of music and poetry will create a genuine social, cultural and political movement.
“Let’s write our own histories,” she noted. “Let’s shape our own futures.”
Shiva shared her activities around the world regarding seed freedom. The two-week campaign from October 2 World Day of Nonviolence to October 16 World Food Day is a chance to grow gardens.
“We must create gardens everywhere,” she said.”Gardens have diversity and are grown with love. Cultivating the earth is our first duty.”
Shiva also pointed out the need for land reform and cherishing biodiversity in national policies as well as creating GMO free zones.
“Occupy the land,” she claimed. ” Land reform is part of what we must do. We must not treat biodiversity as a luxury, but the very basis of existence.”
“Seeds of freedom and gardens of hope is our goal in 2013,” Shiva said.
People power rooted in love for our planet will prevail according to Shiva and the crowds cheered her vision of nonviolence and freedom.
“What I feel hopeful about is, from various resources around the world, we are realizing our cultures of seed are sophisticated,” she said. “We must continue to resurrect all of our indigenous cultures. Unity rests on diversity, It is unity in diversity that is our strength. I think we will see a world without Monsanto.”
“Corporations claim they own the world,” she noted. “Their destruction is their creativity. Power in violent form is always weaker than power in creative nonviolent form. Even though corporations look all powerful controlling the White House, I believe the power of money will be defeated by the power of our love for earth and each other.”
Power of peace will prevail on the planet as we protect our sacred plants, Shiva shared with the indigenous audience members interested to participate in the global movement to actively share their struggle for taro with indigenous communities facing similar challenges by corporation. Shiva illustrated that India stood up for their eggplant and Maya in Mexico for maize, both sacred and staple diets of their indigenous cultures.
The Shiva lectures featuring local leaders and the opening day march/rally brought down a different crowd to the capitol. It was a brilliant and bold bid to plant seed for change and to grow a movement. The capitol rally featured spoken word by youth, pounding by pa’ia practitioners and even babes against biotech left the beach for opening day advocacy.
In 2013, a goal is to move beyond previous legislative initiatives. Hawaii SEED and other advocates aim for Hawaii to be a pioneer in the right to food with labeling of GMO food and GMO free zones on specific islands of Hawaii.
With the 120th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaii monarchy falling on the eve of the opening off the state legislature, the connections are clear. If indigenous peoples are able to exercise their right to self-determination, there would be no GMOs and corporations wouldn’t be sitting on boards making land decisions. Instead, indigenous elders and practitioners would be guiding the way forward for the nation based on cultural values of aloha aina.