Soil Not OilSoil Not Oil

Vandana Shiva: Soil Not Oil, Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Insecurity, Zed Books 2008, ISBN 978-1-84813-315-0, 145 pages.

This short and easy to read book deals with our three biggest crisis: climate change, peak oil and food insecurity. The book shows how the three crises are interlinked and how the solutions are the same for all three. However, Vadana Shiva puts her investigation into a global context of how to address issues of poverty, equity and justice. Her aim is to create living economies, living democracies and living cultures based on local communities.

Vandana Shiva is an Indian physicist but has devoted her life to be an environmental thinker and activist. Her many books are therefore full of concrete examples of how big government and businesses walk all over poor people but also how these communities are able to fight back. She frequently visits the UK to give lectures at the Schumacher College.

Soil Not Oil gives you the best of where science is today regarding climate change, peak oil and food insecurity, but link these three crisis to how they actually destroy communities around the world, with most of the examples coming from India. The book is particularly good at explaining how the international corporations in food production add to this triple crises and destroy small farming.

Shiva's solution is to mobilise local communities to become independent of these corporations by producing organic food for their local population. This is what she has achieved in communities around India. Among her many projects is the storing of seeds that are resistant to either droughts or flooding, so farmers can meet the challenges of climate change and avoid the use of GM seeds.

This is a book that is as relevant to the rich West as it is to the poor South. We in the West are after all the consumers of much of the food produced in the South. The agribusiness controlling this food chain is based in the West. Shiva's solution on how to deal with this agribusiness is as relevant to the West as it is to the South.

Should I point out any limitations with the book it is only two things: the activist Shiva sometimes gets a bit carried away in her rhetoric like when she suggests that India's transport needs can be met by using living animals. It is also a pity that you only discover at the very last page that you can find the reference notes on the internet. It would have been useful to have this information at the start of the book - or to have the notes at the end of the book.