On Earth Day, Democracy Now! spoke to Vandana Shiva, the prominent environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India about the nuclear catastrophe in Japan and what it has meant for India.
"We have a very, very strong anti-nuclear movement in India," Shiva said.
The anti-nuclear movement has gained momentum recently over efforts to stop the construction of a new six-reactor nuclear power station on the coastal plains of Jaitapur, India, in an area known for mango and cashew production. On April 18, Indian police opened fire on hundreds of protesters at a demonstration against the nuclear power plant, killed one person. More than 20 people were arrested.
"And the difference between the Indian movement and any other movement is it's not just about the stupidity of splitting the atom to boil water, which is what nuclear power ultimately is, creating huge amounts of radiation hazard in the process, but in India it involves the typical violence of land grab," Shiva described. "And one of the most fertile parts of India in the Western Ghats, the Ratnagiri district, this planning to set up the biggest-ever nuclear power plant of the world, being built by a French company, AREVA, violating every right of the people, including local democracy, where people have a right to decide what happens. All the local authorities have resigned. And the protests continue. And just two days ago, there was a killing, when the police fired on peaceful protesters. So, in India, the costs are even higher, because the human costs join with the costs of nuclear hazard. And from 23rd to 26th, a march is being organized--and I'm part of the organizing group--from Tarapur, which is the oldest nuclear power plant of India, to Jaitapur, which is where this giant mega nuclear power park is being set up."
On a recent Democracy Now! program, British environmentalist George Monbiot defended his support of nuclear power, despite the ongoing crisis in Japan. Monbiot has written extensively about the environmental and health dangers caused by burning coal for energy.
"I'm very worried that the global response to what's happening in Fukushima will be to shut down nuclear power stations around the world and to cancel future nuclear power stations, and that what will happen is that they will be replaced by coal," Monbiot told Democracy Now! March 30. "Now, coal is hundreds of times more dangerous than nuclear power, not just because of climate change, though, of course, climate change is a big one, but also because of industrial accidents and because of the impacts of pollution on local people."
Democracy Now! asked Shiva to respond to Monbiot's position.
"I personally get disappointed when friends like George Monbiot think they are the wisest ones on this planet," Shiva says. "And just because they have a column, they [think they] can switch everyone's way of thinking. ... Well, what we really need is a coal-free and nuclear-free future, because the sun's energy is so abundant, and we've not even started to tap it in sensible ways. Alternative renewable energies, if only we would put the investments in that direction, would be affordable."
Shiva continued, "Most civilizations of the world, for most of human history, have seen the world in terms of relatedness and connection," Shiva says. "And if there's one thing the rights of Mother Earth is waking us to, is we are all connected. And it's in that connection we can't have arrogant solutions, like nuclear is clean. Just because you don't see the radiation doesn't make it clean."
Democracy Now! also interviwed leading environmentalist Maude Barlow about the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a resolution proposed to the United Nations by Bolivia last year. Barlow was at the U.N. this week to participate in the General Assembly's "Dialogue on Harmony with Nature."
"We eventually want the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth to be a companion piece to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Barlow said.
This is just an excerpt of an extended interview with Vandana Shiva and Canadian environmentalist Maude Barlow. Click here to watch the entire interview.
To watch the entire Democracy Now! Earth Day Special Program, to read the transcripts, share the interviews or see additional coverage of environmental issues, check out the Democracy Now! news archive . Join us on Facebook and share with a friend!