The Death of Birth and Invisible Work

Death of Birth

According to Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, we are experiencing the “death of birth.” Shiva compared biotechnology to the Green Revolution saying, “Biotechnology is working on precisely the same linear path. The Green Revolution was about selling more chemicals. Biotechnology is also about selling more chemicals. You can make this out by looking at the two dominant applications of the technology to the commercialization of crops.” (Barsamian, 2002) The “death of birth” is being caused by all the supposed improvements that are being brought to farming, such as globalization and hybrid seed, when in fact; many are only contributing to more problems in Shiva’s eyes.

The changes in the way farming is working is bringing impoverishment upon the farmers to the point where they are committing suicide. In a specific example Shiva mentions, she discusses when she began to hear about farmers committing suicide. In Andhra Pradesh, the farmers began to “shift from staples and ecological agriculture done with no purchased inputs to cash crops like cotton, which overtook 99 percent of these regions since globalization started to change [their] agriculture.” (Barsamian, 2002) Now the farmers have to use expensive hybrid seeds and extreme amounts of pesticides over their traditional methods. The farmers and communities in India are losing power to stronger countries and corporations who are creating agricultural monopolies.

Although, as Shiva pointed out, there are some issues with globalization, for many people it has been good. We are able to produce foods at higher rates and create new and more adaptable crops, among other things, but it is important to look at the whole picture, not just the here and now, because these advancements could easily get out of control.

Invisible Work

According to Marilyn Waring, an activist and politician, women are often invisible workers. One of Waring’s major examples comes from women doing dungwork. In many parts of the world dung is used as “fertilizer, a primary source of cooking fuel and is also used as a building material and plaster.” (Waring, 1997)

An excerpt from Waring’s article explains an example of the invisible work of women.

“Making dung cakes to be used as fuel appears to me to be an entire manufacturing process, with clear inputs and outputs of an economic nature. In mining or gas extraction, for example, paid workers harvest the primary resource. Machines transport it to processing plants. The raw material is refined, the product manufactured. It is sold, then consumed. The traditional economic model is followed: workers process raw materials for the market. This counts. But when dung, the “non-product,” is carried as a “service” by “housewives,” to sustain land, dwellings, and households, then, according to the economic model, nothing happens. There is no economic activity. But dungwork is only women’s work, so it is a safe assumption that in the official definitions of productive work it will be invisible.”

Waring goes to point out that in some countries drying dung and turning it into sellable products is considered work and is marketed, but when a women does the same thing it is not. The processes used are similar, the products are similar, and the use is similar, but from an economic standpoint they are two very different entities.

To Waring and myself this is very puzzling. The work of women such as the ones described above is essential to these communities. Without their input their lives would not be the same, but instead of being classified as workers, they are unemployed and therefore not a part of our economy. By doing this we are leaving out a very real, very important section that should not continue to go invisible.



Barsamian, D. (2002). Monocultures of the Mind, and interview with Vandana Shiva. Retrieved from

Waring, M. (1997). The invisibility of women’s work; the economics of local and global “bullshit.” Retrieved from


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