Sustainability and Sheroes

Dr. Nadana Shiva during a CBC radio Interview

Living Future 2012

I love Portland in the springtime – especially when I’m here for Living Future 2012, an annual conference developed by the Cascadia Green Building Council “to promote the continuous evolution and adoption of sustainability in the built arena.” As is common with this event, the intention of the opening keynote is to move us outside of our silos, jurisdictions and prejudices and spark conversations.

This year’s theme is Women Shaping the World. The event kicked off with an amazing talk by world-renowned environmental leader, Dr. Vanadan Shiva about our planet’s agricultural future. Here’s a recap of her passionate and inspiring message:

• The scarcity of food is a distribution problem not a supply issue
• The science of food production is flawed in its narrow approach and exclusion of externalities
• Removing nature from humanity creates a non-living commoditization of natural resources
• The majority of food produced in the world comes from small farmers yet they are not counted in the food equation as they consume rather than export what they produce
• Scientific-based agriculture creates more yield but degrades quality
• Health problems are directly related to the commercialization of food production and livestock farming
• Degrading the land results in a vicious cycle of needing more chemicals to support agriculture and eliminate pests

As a physicist, Dr. Shiva clearly understands that scientists often times work in silos and therefore fail to see life’s interconnections and externalities. This systemic pattern has huge consequences to people and the planet.

Dr. Shiva’s call to action includes:

• Growing and buying organic
• Supporting local farms and farmers
• Championing biodiversity
• Managing our soil and water resources
• Developing seed banks to support food security

Her non-profit is dedicated to these goals through education and resource sharing. Learn more about it at

Dr. Shiva and this conference reminds us that looking at the world through a woman’s lens means bringing nurturing, compassion and community into the conversation around development and growth. Her leadership, courage, tenacity and passion serve as a reminder to our building professional community that we must actively apply our collective potential and create a sustainable living future.

Women Shaping the World / Living Future 2012