Monday, March 7, 2011
Frances Moore Lappe
Frances Moore Lappe
Frances Moore Lappe was born early in 1944, when the Allies were beginning to organize the Normandy Invasion, and Allied troops were still bogged down at Anzio. She came to prominence in 1971 with the publication of her best selling book, Diet for a Small Planet, in which she made the case that livestock require many times the protein, in the form of legumes and grains, than they yield, and that it would be more economical for the world to consume the corn and beans directly. (Lappe included nutritional information to assure that readers who changed their diets would get enough protein, and recipes for the unfamiliar new ingredients.)
With co-author Joseph Collins, Lappe followed Diet with World Hunger (Ten Myths), then expanded Ten Myths into Food First, in which she and Collins posed and answered fifty questions which mostly represented misconceptions about hunger and how it might be conquered. The misconceptions include the notion that there are too little arable land and too many people. With copious references, Food First shows that landowning elites make hunger inevitable by planting luxury crops and commodities for export (sugar, coffee, cocoa, beef, corn for ethanol) instead of the crops that would feed local sharecroppers and farm laborers. The book finishes with recommendations for American readers concerned about world hunger:
Don't accept conventional wisdom, be empirical about hunger, and communicate your understanding; work for our own food self reliance; work for American land reform (for instance by changing tax laws so that heirs don't have to sell the farm to pay onerous taxes); eliminate American support for corporations and governments whose agricultural policies starve people.
Lappe has gone on to write and advocate for democracy and justice. She advocates for what she calls "living democracy" as opposed to "thin democracy." The difference is that thin democracy is limited to elections and supporting candidates -- the democracy of consumers -- while living democracy is a way of behaving -- the democracy of doers. It happens in our culture and at work. Living democracy is an "enlivening culture in which the values of inclusion, fairness, and mutual, accountability show up in a wide range of human relationships."