Hope’s Edge

Diet for a Small Planet was a 1971 bestseller. It was the first major book to note the environmental impact of meat production as wasteful and a contributor to global food scarcity.

Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of this book, author Frances Moore Lappé stresses how her philosophy remains valid today, and that food remains the central issue through which to understand world politics.

“More than any other this book that taught America the social and personal significance of a new way of eating– one that remains a complete guide for eating well, forty years on. Featuring: simple rules for a healthy diet; a streamlined, easy-to-use format; delicious food combinations of protein-rich meals without meat; hundreds of wonderful recipes, and much more.”

Ten years ago Frances, with daughter Anna, published, Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (2006)

Tying today’s many different food movements together

“If I could somehow orchestrate it all, I would want us to have more of a common theme song, and that theme song has the word “democracy” in it. That we are redefining democracy through activism around food, the most basic of all our needs, linking our diets to the earth and to each other, whether it’s school gardens or anti-GMOs [genetically modified organisms]. I would love to see us always tying it back into what we share, the concept of what I call living democracy.

“I would love to have more of a canopy of hope over all of our work, the hope that we are agents of a deeper practice of democracy that will reclaim our rightful roles as citizens, despite the dominance now of private entities over the public. That’s the tension I live with all the time, between celebration and yearning for that seed, a real voice for regular people.

A recognition of human dignity

“The struggle is not just that everyone has enough nutrients, the struggle is ultimately about whether we all recognize each other as people worthy of a voice, and therefore people with dignity, who are not just recipients, but co-creators. That’s what could unite us: recognizing that this is not just about supply, but about extreme imbalances in our power relationships. We’ve created structures which give such huge numbers of people in the world so little capacity to act in their own interests, and in the common interest.

Links between the food movements and the sharing movements, the commons?

“In Germany, they have sharing centres where if people have too many leftovers, they can just drop off the food. Some of them have significant refrigerators, and anybody can drop off food and anyone can pick it up. Everybody is responsible for themselves. Food waste is such a totally avoidable outrage, and that idea that, of course, we don’t just throw away good food, and making it easy for people to feel good about sharing with others.

Now there are 28 countries in whose Constitution, food is an explicit human right. I think of the city that Anna* and I visited for Hope’s Edge, Belo Horizonte in Brazil, the idea of food as a public good. As the leaders there explained it to us, what has really changed is social mentality, from food as a private good to food as a public good, like education. You realise that an educated people is a benefit to everyone: if your community is educated, of course, everyone benefits.

* Daughter Anna Lappé, also a respected author and educator, is known for her work as an expert on food systems and as a sustainable food advocate.

Democracy’s Edge (2006) [pdf], Frances Moore Lappé

Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet [ePub], Frances Moore Lappé.(2003)