Words of the Food Revolution Summit:
Frances Moore Lappé, who is author of eighteen books, including the three-million-copy culture-changer, Diet for a Small Planet. Frances is the cofounder of the Small Planet Institute, and for more than 40 years she has been studying the interface between the personal and the global. She delivers a rousing call to action and an inspiring voice of insight.
Frances Moore Lappe helped to bring the connection between diet and our planet into global consciousness with the 3-million copy bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, was our final speaker of the morning. She delivered non-stop moving commentary:
“Washington now has roughly two-dozen lobbyists for every person that Americans elect to represent us there.”
“We don’t have a shortage of food, we have a shortage of justice. As we shift to focus on our relationships with each other, and with the earth, as we align our lives and our economy with what is true about our nature and is harmonious with the wellbeing of nature, we find answers to so many of the questions we face today.”
“I am neither an optimist not a pessimist. I am a possiblist. I believe in working for what is possible.”
“Hope is not what we find in evidence, it’s what we become in action.”
"We need to seek out others who are in action, already engaged, and believe that we will become more like them as we work shoulder to shoulder. If we want to become more courageous, we have to hang out with courage."
The following is a small excerpt of the interview:
Ocean Robbins: Welcome to The Food Revolution Summit where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food. This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined by my dad, John Robbins in welcoming our guest now Frances Moore Lappé. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of 18 books including the three-million copy culture-changing Diet for a Small Planet and the just released Eco Mind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want. She is the co-founder of Food First, The Institute for Food and Development Policy and also of the Small Planet Institute which is the collaborative network for research and education helping to bring democracy to life which she leads with her daughter Anna Lappé. Frances and her daughter have also co-founded The Small Planet Fund which channels resources to democratic social movements worldwide. She’s received 18 honorary doctorates and degrees from distinguished institutions and she was named by Gourmet Magazine as one of 25 people who have changed the way America eats. My dad and I have been working with Frances and also with her amazing daughter Anna for 25 years now and I think I speak for both of us in saying that she’s been one of the real luminaries that’s inspired our work as well as a treasured friend on this journey. So now Frances, my dad and I both hold you in great regard, as you know, and I am so happy that we have the pleasure of welcoming you onto this call and here to interview you is my dad, John Robbins.
John Robbins: Thank you Ocean and I echo Ocean’s appreciation for you and it’s not just us who feel it. The latest story Howard Zinn once said that “There are a small number of people in every generation who are forerunners in thought, action and spirit who swerved passed the barriers of greed and power to hold a torch high for the rest of us.” He named you specifically as one of those and I could not agree more. It’s an honor to speak with you today.
John Robbins: A recent report from the group’s aid called The Children tells us that there are now nearly half a billion children worldwide who are at risk of irreversible damage from malnutrition, stunted growth, undeveloped brains. Chronic childhood malnutrition today they say kills more than 300 children every hour of everyday and affects 1 in 4 children globally. Meanwhile in this country a third of our kids are overweight, 1 in 5 is obese and a child born today has a 35% likelihood of eventually developing diabetes. It seems that a huge part of humanity is suffering from diseases of nutritional deficiency and then another huge part, mostly in the industrialized world, is suffering from diseases of nutritional excess. You have for decades been one of the most persistent and illumined voices pointing out that there is enough to go around; that we suffer not from a food shortage but from a shortage really of justice and democracy. There really is enough to go around but some of us are eating far more than our share, consuming massive amounts of grain in effect by cycling it through the animals we eat while the word’s hungry don’t have access to food supplies because they can’t afford to buy it.
One of the great contributions you made to our common understanding in writing Diet for a Small Planet was to point out that modern meat production and particularly feedlot beef has become a protein factory in reverse. What is that our listeners need to remember and what is it they can do in order to be part of the solution?
Frances Moore Lappé: First is shedding this very dangerous myth that seems to have its grip on a lot of people still as you say the idea that there is just not enough and that scarcity is what characterizes our situation from food and beyond. We have to constantly prepare ourselves to resist that message that is still being perpetrated through the media and even people who might well know better but somehow that frame just still persists. So if we let go of any sense that there is a quantitative lack then we’re forced to get curious about what are the root causes, what are the relationship causes? And so we shift from this quantitative more or less; “Oh, if we can just grow more food.” Wait, wait, wait, we have more food and yet more hunger. This is what exists when we continue to just think quantitatively.
What my work is about is saying as we shift the focus on our relationships with one another and our relationships with the earth and align those as…one of my favorite words in the English language now is the word align – A-L-I-G-N – and we are mal-aligned. That our economic laws and our assumptions about our nature are actually perversely aligned with what is true about our nature and what works in nature as now the dominate corporate dependent, chemical dependent agriculture is failing in all the ways you so neatly and powerfully outlined for us. They are failing both in the “wealthy” countries and in the poor countries. We look then and the answer is to believe ourselves that we can let go of the false frame and then look for ways to align our own daily choices with what is best for the earth, best for our bodies, best for other human beings. The great thing is that the answers to all those questions are pretty much the same. This is what I got so excited about in my twenties. I said, “Wait this is a win, win, win, win.” As I choose a plant-centered diet and now of course when in society more and more local so that we don’t waste energy transporting food around the world needlessly. People are rebuilding community around food so that that human connection is made, that this is what is all part of the answer that feeds our souls as it feeds our bodies.
The first challenge is letting go of this limiting myth and frightening myth of scarcity and the “What can we do?” is all about thinking of all the ways that we can align. When I say the best in human nature are the positive qualities in us, what I mean is that alignment means looking at both the good the bad and the ugly about our own nature and thinking about what are the contexts? What are the social conditions if we were any other organism in the environment? What are the conditions that really brings forth the best in our species? I think if we’re very clear-eyed about it, we see that that involves the continuous distribution of power which means that we have to step up and take more power for ourselves or exert more creative power ourselves. And it means making things more transparent which brings out the best in our species and stopping the blame game and realizing that if we’re all connected, we’re all implicated meaning that we can’t just point fingers. We have to see also the possibilities for ourselves to be part of the solution.
Frances Moore Lappé: ... I think food also has this great educative power if you will to allow us to follow our curiosity and to really nail the heart of the matter which very much includes the concentration of political and economic power in our governing systems. Food is a great educator.
John Robbins: It is. You know the industry tries to educate in its own direction towards the corporate agenda of industrialized food production. When I talk with people in the meat industry, they usually refer to meat as protein as if they were one and the same.