Skip to main content

Imagining the future of food

portrait Vandana Shiva
October 31, 2014

To bring together a diverse array of voices to articulate relevant problems and discover real-world solutions to the food, health and nutrition challenges of the 21st century, the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, with support from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, presented physicist, food activist and author Vandana Shiva as an IHR - Wrigley Lecturer on Oct. 30.

“Through the Wrigley Lecture Series, the ASU Wrigley Institute brings to ASU internationally known thinkers and problem-solvers to engage in conversations that represent a multitude of perspectives,” said Gary Dirks, director of the ASU Wrigley Institute and ASU LightWorks initiative. “Our goal is to invoke ideas and discussions that lead to sustainable solutions across the world.”

The lecture, titled “Future of Food: Dictatorship or Democracy,” is part of the IHR’s Humanities for the Environment international project and four day workshop, which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes in partnership with Evil Twin Booking agency. The theme of the workshops associated with the Mellon project is Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice. The Institute for Humanities Research is the North American headquarters for the grant.

Shiva, who completed her doctoral degree in physics from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, is a renowned activist who has focused her work on protecting the diversity and integrity of native organisms, especially seeds, and promoting organic farming and fair trade. She is the co-founder of Navdanya, an organization that works with local communities and groups in India to conserve seed varieties. She also founded Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in India.

“For over four decades, Dr. Shiva has inspired change and empowered others through her optimism, strength and her unwavering determination to demonstrate the ways in which scientific knowledge, collective knowledge and collective action can lead to positive changes in the world,” said Regents’ Professor Sally Kitch, founding director of IHR.

“Her prescient insights, including the importance of organic farming in feeding the world in the future, are similar to the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. They provide many good reasons to invite her to talk about the future of food,” added Joni Adamson, professor of English and environmental humanities at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and senior sustainability scholar at the ASU Wrigley Institute.

In addition to the lecture, Shiva also participated in a transdisciplinary workshop called “Dinner 2040” that attempted to imagine the future of food systems in Maricopa County. According to Kitch and Adamson, the exercise engaged academics from humanities disciplines with community partners in the culinary arts, indigenous communities, agriculture and organic farming, public health, policy planning and food markets to construct new paradigms for integrating sustainable food practices into local food growing and eating practice. 

“Sustainability scientists know well that human decisions, behavior and choices – with regard to energy use, recycling and food, for example – are not dependent primarily on statistics and factual findings about a problem,” explained Kitch and Adamson. “In this project, we are bringing the largely untapped resources of the humanities – as a source of insight into human motivation, interpretations and agency – to bear on environmental challenges in order to stimulate productive change.”