It’s Time for Earth Democracy

Posted by – November 11, 2015
Categories: Ecology & Sustainability Excerpt Society & Politics

The 2016 presidential election is just about one year away and, depending on what you read or who you listen to, it’s hard to know what the year ahead might hold. Even if some would propose that our form of democracy is working the way it is intended to, the question remains whether it’s too narrow to be sustainable. Are we outgrowing it? Moving forward we’re going to have to get used to the idea that our country is not alone on this planet—we’re just one small part of it. Vandana Shiva’s Earth Democracy calls for a radical shift in the values that govern our democracies, and explores the critical issues our planet is facing. Here, she lays out the ten central tenets of Earth Democracy:


1. All species, peoples, and cultures have intrinsic worth
All beings are subjects who have integrity, intelligence, and identity, not objects of ownership, manipulation, exploitation, or disposability. No humans have the right to own other species, other people, or the knowledge of other cultures through patents and other intellectual property rights.

2. The earth community is a democracy of all life
We are all members of the earth family, interconnected through the planet’s fragile web of life. We all have a duty to live in a manner that protects the earth’s ecological processes, and the rights and welfare of all species and all people. No humans have the right to encroach on the ecological space of other species and other people, or to treat them with cruelty and violence.

3. Diversity in nature and culture must be defended
Biological and cultural diversity is an end in itself. Biological diversity is a value and a source of richness, both materially and culturally that creates conditions for sustainability. Cultural diversity creates the conditions for peace. Defending biological and cultural diversity is a duty of all people.

4. All beings have a natural right to sustenance
All members of the earth community, including all humans, have the right to sustenance—to food and water, to a safe and dean habitat, to security of ecological space. Resources vital to sustenance must stay in the commons. The right to sustenance is a natural right because it is the right to life. These rights are not given by states or corporations, nor can they be extinguished by state or corporate action. No state or corporation has the right to erode or undermine these natural rights or enclose the commons that sustain life.

5. Earth Democracy is based on living economies and economic democracy
Earth Democracy is based on economic democracy. Economic systems in Earth Democracy protect ecosystems and their integrity; they protect people’s livelihoods and provide basic needs to all. In the earth economy there are no disposable people or dispensable species or cultures. The earth economy is a living economy. It is based on sustainable, diverse, pluralistic systems that protect nature and people, are chosen by people, and work for the common good.

6. Living economies are built on local economies
Conservation of the earth’s resources and creation of sustainable and satisfying livelihoods are most caringly, creatively, efficiently, and equitably achieved at the local level. Localization of economies is a social and ecological imperative. Only goods and services that cannot be produced locally—using local resources and local knowledge—should be produced nonlocally and traded long distance. Earth Democracy is based on vibrant local economies, which support national and global economies. In Earth Democracy, the global economy does not destroy and crush local economies, nor does it create disposable people. Living economies recognize the creativity of all humans and create spaces for diverse creativities to reach their full potential. Living economies are diverse and decentralized economies.

7. Earth Democracy is a living democracy
Living democracy is based on the democracy of all life and the democracy of everyday life. In living democracies people can influence the decisions over the food we eat, the water we drink, and the health care and education we have. Living democracy grows like a tree, from
the bottom up. Earth Democracy is based on local democracy, with local communities—organized on principles of inclusion, diversity, and ecological and social responsibility—having the highest authority on decisions related to the environment and natural resources and to the sustenance and livelihoods of people. Authority is delegated to more distant levels of governments on the principle of subsidiarity. Self-rule and self-governance is the foundation of Earth Democracy.

8. Earth Democracy is based on living cultures
Living cultures promote peace and create free spaces for the practice of different religions and the adoption of different faiths and identities. Living cultures allow cultural diversity to thrive from the ground of our common humanity and our common rights as members of an earth community:

9. Living cultures are life nourishing
Living cultures are based on the dignity of and respect for all life, human and nonhuman, people of all genders and cultures, present and future generations. Living cultures are, therefore, ecological cultures which do not promote life-destroying lifestyles or consumption and production patterns, or the overuse and exploitation of resources. Living cultures are diverse and based on reverence for life. Living cultures recognize the multiplicity of identities based in an identity of place and local community—and a planetary consciousness that connects the individual to the earth and all life.

10. Earth Democracy globalizes peace, care, and compassion
Earth Democracy connects people in circles of care, cooperation, and compassion instead of dividing them through competition and conflict, fear and hatred. In the face of a world of greed, inequality, and overconsumption, Earth Democracy globalizes compassion, justice, and sustainability.

Excerpted from Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva. © 2008, 2015, Vandana Shiva. Published by North Atlantic Books.

Tags: Vandana Shiva Food Policy & Sustainability

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.