Shiva, Vandana. Soil Not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil, and Food Insecurity. 2008. Zed Books UK.

“We can either keep sleepwalking to extinction or wake up to the potential of the planet and ourselves,”

Soil, Not Oil is another of this well known environmentalist´s pithy treatises on topical and important issues. Shiva has a knack of bringing together issues we often see as separate and linking our awareness to these connections. And indeed these three issues are more than connected; they are closely intertwined.

She starts out by writing that this triple crisis is a triple opportunity. This awareness gives us a chance to change our attitudes and acceptance of industrial farming which is based on petroleum from the use of chemical herbicides and fertilizers to the use of gas—guzzling large machinery and the transportation of food all over the world.

“We can and must respond creatively to the triple crisis and simultaneously overcome dehumanization, economic equality and ecological catastrophe.”

“Climate change demands we reduce fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions.”
What better and more immediate way than to change our food habits. We can buy local, support small organic farmers, start a garden and ignore the out— of” season travellers that entice in our supermarkets. Strawberries in February? They taste like cardboard, picked green for their journey and are saturated with chemicals.

Shiva encourages us to power down our consumption as we power up our creativity which includes using democracy and human energy for change. She encourages us to relate to small farmers who practise sustainability and live near us. Build community institutions — like the farm markets we already have — to support people—centred agriculture.

In the chapter: Sacred Cow or Sacred Car she documents how the car eats people — through the use of land for growing biofuels instead of food, building roads and parking, the effluent and emissions of the industry poisoning our soil and air and wasted resources. She uses some European cites similar to Victoria, Freiburg and Strasburg, as examples of the decrease in car use by creating pedestrian zones, expensive parking, and traffic calming while, most important, building up efficient public transit.

And as we, the rich minority of the world, may still think it is our divine right to consume finite resources, our consumption is not only causing massive eco— injustice for the majority world but also produces effects we ourselves cannot escape — climate change and environmental degradation all around us.

Shiva has summed up many of the issues, grounding them in her own country but also in our northern world, and she outlines many possible responses. Soil not Oil is easy to read, straightforward and realistic. There is no time to wait for governments or corporations to act ´voluntarily´. Action is up to us —now.

Filed under Book Reviews, Vandana Shiva