Above: Women workers stage a silent protest while practicing social distancing to mark Labor Day on May 1, 2020, in Quezon City, Philippines. Millions of workers and daily wage earners living in poverty in the Philippines suffer the brunt of work stoppage during the government imposed Enhanced Community Quarantine in a bid to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. (Photo: Jes Aznar/Getty Images)
All three pandemics have their roots in an economic model based on profits, greed, and extractivism, which has accelerated ecological destruction, aggravated loss of livelihoods, increased economic inequality, and polarised and divided society into the 1% and 99%.
On this May Day, the world is witnessing three pandemics simultaneously. The first is the Coronavirus Pandemic. The second is the Hunger Pandemic. The third is the Pandemic of Destruction of Livelihoods.
Thus far, he coronavirus pandemic has infected 3.19 million and killed 228,000. The World Food Programme has warned the world community of the looming “hunger pandemic,” which has the potential to engulf over a quarter of a billion people whose lives and livelihoods will be plunged into immediate danger.
According to the world food program more than a million people who are on the verge of starvation, and 300,000 could starve to death every single day for the next three months.
There is also a pandemic of loss of livelihoods. According to the ILO “as a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living. This is due to lockdown measures and/or because they work in the hardest-hit sectors.” As pointed out by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General: “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security, and no future. […] As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.”
All three pandemics have their roots in an economic model based on profits, greed, and extractivism, which has accelerated ecological destruction, aggravated loss of livelihoods, increased economic inequality, and polarised and divided society into the 1% and 99%. On this May Day in times of the Corona Crisis let us imagine and create new economies based on Earth Democracy and economic democracy to protect the earth and humanity. Let us address all three crisis through democratic participation and solidarity. Through compassion let us ensure no one goes hungry. Through solidarity and democracy let us participate in shaping future economies to ensure no hands are without work, no person is without a voice.
The multiple crises are a wake-up call that the economy run by the 1% is not working for people and nature. The 1% is talking of 99% being “useless people” in their idea of the future based on digital agriculture and farming without farmers, automated factories, and production without workers. We have an obligation to create economies that do not destroy nature, do not destroy livelihoods and the rights of workers, economies that do not destroy our health by spreading disease and pandemics, do not destroy livelihoods and the freedom, dignity, and right to work, and do not create hunger. Let us create #ZeroHunger economies by protecting the livelihoods of small farmers who provide 80% of the food. Let us shift to Poison Free organic farming to protect human health and biodiversity. Let us create local circular solidarity economies that support livelihoods of hawkers and small retailers, create community while reducing the ecological footprint.
Post Covid-19, let us regenerate the economy with the consciousness all lives are equal and that we are part of the Earth. Let us acknowledge and embrace that we are ecological, biological beings; that working is our right and is at the heart of being human, and that care for the Earth and each other is the most important work.
There are no disposable or useless people. We are One Humanity on One Planet. Autonomy—meaning dignity, work, freedom, and democracy—are our birth-right.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist, and ecofeminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including the 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.