This month we review a sequel to one of the most signicant works of the 20th Century.
Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 2002
Instead of revising the book for a thirtieth anniversary edition, Lappé decided on a different course. She and her daughter, Anna, would embark on an odyssey that would take them to nine countries on five continents. Their mission was to gather material for a book "that takes off where the original stops." They would try to answer a new question, "Why have we, as societies, created that which as individuals we abhor?" They discovered that there is still scarcity and hunger amid abundance as society devotes unlimited resources to put meat on the table.
As in 1972, Lappé examines our relationship with food. We have permitted the creation of a fast-food society where people living in abundance are actually malnourished by a diet where almost half of the calories come from fat and sugar. This meat-focused diet has brought sickness and disease to the entire planet. Quite staggering is the statistic that 151 million people in the world suffer from diabetes.
The same economic system that promotes this unhealthy diet devotes excessive resources to meat production. As much as 70% of grain in some countries is grown to feed animals instead of people. This wasteful diversion of resources brings animal protein to Americans at the same time it causes environmental problems and hunger in the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, multinational corporations are spreading the fast-food doctrine around the world as chemical conglomerates promote pesticides and genetically modified crops to increase agricultural production and thus solve the hunger problem. These campaigns have instead brought the poisoning of land and people in developing countries as well as decreasing the crop yield and driving the farmers into bankruptcy.
In a capitalistic system that favors multinational corporations, governments that are totalitarian or democratic allow a disparity of wealth and a situation where the poor have little or no opportunity to the right to have food on their tables.
In their journey the Lappés discovered that small groups of people working together are able to change the system and thus improve the quality of life for those whose existence appeared hopeless.
All of these people confronted their fears to seize the day and bring themselves to hope's edge.
Fundamental in reaching hope's edge is to be aware of the Five Thought Traps and the Five Liberating Ideas:
The book contains two extensive recipe sections. The first, Recipes from Pioneer Vegetarian and Whole Foods Cookbook Authors, includes menus and recipes from Mollie Katzen, Laurel Robertson, Anne Somerville, and Anna Thomas.
The second, Recipes from Pioneer Chefs and Restaurants, features contributions from renowned chefs of famous vegetarian restaurants across the United States. This section ends with an index of all the recipes included in the book, including the ones sprinkled throughout the chapters detailing the journey.
Entry Points provides information on the groups discussed in the book with the hope that readers will want to learn more and become involved in providing assistance. A Short List of Recommended Readings, a bibliography, Endnotes, and an index complete the book.
On the very last page of the book the Lappés make an appeal for contributions to The Small Planet Fund (http://www.smallplanetfund.org) "that supports initiatives across the globe addressing the root causes of hunger -- not a lack of food but a lack of democracy."
By focusing on individuals and groups in situations that appeared almost hopeless, the Lappés have demonstrated that people joined together can effect change and make the world better. What makes the book so compelling is the stories of people who risk their lives to work against societal structures in their countries that are both inequitable and harmful to citizens.
The Lappés have shown that multinational corporations motivated by greed need not win the battle to control the world's agriculture and food supply. A few Americans have joined in efforts to block genetic engineering and restrict the use of pesticides, but most are apathetic.
The Lappés are not satisfied with just writing about world problems, but have assumed the leadership in raising funds for the groups they have described and are encouraging others to focus their energies to promote progressive social change. Hopefully, Hope's Edge will be for the 21st Century what Diet for a Small Planet was for the last quarter of the 20th Century.