Renowned agro-ecologist Vandana Shiva traveled through Southern California, and stopped by Ojai’s annual Earth Day celebration at Oak Grove School.

The Indian native has founded a network of seed keepers and organic food producers in her country, as well as authored numerous books about food sovereignty, sustainability, food justice and biodiversity. The well-known food activist is an outspoken critic of industrial agriculture. Shiva is also the subject of an upcoming documentary called The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, produced by Becket Films. The film will be out by the end of 2016.

During a rousing keynote speech in front of 500 citizens on a sunny afternoon, Shiva encouraged attendees to get involved.

“Every one of us must become a seed saver,” said Shiva. “Every one of us must become a gardener and a grower, even if we can’t be farmers. Because to take care of that seed, to touch the soil, to know that in the work of putting the seed into soil is the answer to the drought, is the answer to climate change.”

Shiva agreed to spend a few minutes talking with me for UC Food Observer.

Q) You’ve recently toured a number of colleges and universities to discuss organic agriculture and food justice. How is your message being received by young people?

Vandana Shiva: The young people are very supportive of these issues. They can see that the world being created doesn’t represent their values, and they are more open to alternatives. Their intuition may be higher than their knowledge, but you’ll recall that Albert Einstein said intuition was an important step to knowledge.

After the financial crisis in 2008, it was the young people who came up with the term ‘the one percent,’ and now everyone uses that expression to describe the world’s wealthiest citizens. Even if these young people didn’t do all the mathematical calculations, they knew intuitively that something wasn’t right.

Q) What inspires you these days?

Vandana Shiva: Well, things are so bad right now with our food system that the duty to act intensifies in our culture. Seed saving may have seemed trivial 10 years ago. But now that four companies own 75 percent of the world’s seeds, it’s more important than ever to save these remaining seeds from corporate ownership.

The worse the food crisis, the stronger the commitment to find solutions and food sovereignty becomes a larger priority for the world. Each small step taken grows exponently and that fact inspires me.

Q) What key issues will we face in five years?

Vandana Shiva: The issue of basic things we take for granted – such as water and food itself – will become more important and valued than ever. At the same time, we’ll see more flourishing food systems develop, which share common principles and best practices but have approaches that are unique to their different regions.

Q) Any closing words you’d like to add?

Vandana Shiva: The food we eat is vital for our freedom and health, so we shouldn’t place it into the hands of those who may not have our best interests at heart. Seed freedom and earth democracy are very important to me and my work.

Thank you for your time!

You might also enjoy this interview with Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe about food sovereignty.

Seeds Savers Exchange talks with us about the importance of seed saving and genetic diversity.