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The Grassroots Address

November 4, 2011

 A weekly column about sustainability and intentional living

This past Tuesday, I traveled to Iowa City to hear Frances Moore Lappe speak about sustainability and worldwide democracy. Lappe wrote a three-million copy Diet for a Small Planet, a critique on world hunger policy, and recently co-founded the Small Planet Institute, an organization that works to bring democracy to life. Titled “Sustainable Foods and Climate Change: Fixing A Broken System,” the speech focused on Lappe’s broad conceptual realizations about agribusiness and world hunger.

Lappe began by stating that the world currently produces more than enough food to feed every mouth and that food scarcity is, in fact, a created concept. We practice this “scarcity mind” because we constantly feel a sense of lack, brought on by the general representation of our resources. This illusory sense of lack holds us back from enacting known solutions to age-old environmental and social problems.

Paradoxically, humanity actually wastes 55-77% of all energy produced. Reducing this waste does not just mean minimalist living though. Lappe calls for the realization of our ecosystem’s cycle and the rejuvenated effort to work cooperatively with it.

She then showed how putting faith in the market economy to solve our economic and social problems, as we have done, only serves to increase injustice. The term “free market” assumes that anyone can participate, but many people do not even have the chips to buy in. As anyone who has ever played a game of monopoly knows, wealth perpetrates more wealth and eventually forms a concentration in capital. This leads to a private government, private power and private food.

With this said, Lappe shifted her focus to human nature. The concentrated wealth, lack of transparency (both social and political) and constant blaming of the “other” so prevalent in current society brings out the worst in human nature. Studies show humans are biologically programmed to feel empathy, yield cooperation, search out fairness, desire power and need meaning. If society instead practiced continual dispersion of power, transparency, and mutual accountability, the best aspects of human nature would be accentuated and commonly practiced.

Once society makes a shift from the belief in a lacking and individual separatism to the idea that we are all connected participants in a democracy, we can start to manage problems like global hunger. To make this grand lunge into the abyss of equality, Lappe suggested money must not be the driving force of our government. Above all though, Frances Moore Lappe emphasized that we must exercise bold humility by rethinking power and trusting our capability to work collectively.

So what do you think? Just socialist malarkey about a utopian democracy? While the goal of Lappe’s speech may have been to insight belief, that is consciously not the intent of this column. Search her facts, find her generalizations or soaring truths, and try her thinking on for size. Explore the Occupy movement’s relation to this way of thinking. Discover your own feelings about the equality of the market economy.

Make a change.

William J. Terrill
Contributing Writer

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