Monday, March 9, 2009

Wow - Natural Products Expo

I had the opportunity this past weekend to go down to the Natural Products Expo. A truly amazing experience, not only because of all the amazing new products but also because of the many awesome people I got to meet and talk to.

This weekend reaffirmed yet another reason that makes me feel so proud to work at the co-op: I constantly heard throughout the day so much positive feedback on our store. It seemed like every other person either shopped at the co-op or dealt with us as a vendor and had nothing but encouraging, friendly comments. A few people even named a couple employees as friendly favorites.

The highlight of the show for me was being able to listen to Dr. Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmentalist, speak on "Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis". During her talk she spoke about big business and its tendency to try to suppress nature, by trying to take what is natural and attempt to patent it to make a profit. By mapping the seeds they are taking natural and cultural knowledge and trying to claim it as their own. She likened this tendency to colonialism where countries would put a country on the map and claim ownership. Shiva called this acts of "bio-piracy."

In order to combat these larger corporations, through her organization, Navdanya - which means nine seeds, she has preserved crops, plants, traditional knowledge and culture through seed banks, education and activism. Through the sharing of the seeds the organization has collected, they can help areas recover quickly from natural disasters such as flooding and drought. Additionally, by giving the area flood or drought tolerant strains of seeds they can help insure disaster doesn't strike twice. Her organization also hosts classes and educates farmers on best practices. As she put it, natural knowledge should be "open source." Given the knowledge, people have the ability to change, grow, find substitutes for toxins and develop better, alternative systems to the current ones available to us.

Big business has tricked many people into believing that their way - i.e. the way of petrochemicals, genetically modified seeds and industrial agriculture - is the only way that we're going to be able to feed the world. This just isn't true. Industrialized agriculture, by in large, is hugely inefficient, having to put in 10 oil calories to get just 1 food calorie out. Since we are running out of oil, we must think of alternative ways to get our food, we must think of ways to take less and give back more. Only through biodiversity and respect for all life can we survive. As Shiva said, "The more we build the natural economy, the more freedom and democracy we'll have. So let's cultivate the earth, let's cultivate more peace, happiness, and joy together!"

What an inspiration! I'm so glad I was able to hear her speak and I'm also really glad to be part of an organization that is doing its best to help cultivate the community.


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