Thursday, January 16, 2003
Last February, Lappe was joined by her 28-year-old daughter Anna to continue the original message with Hope''s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet. The book grew out of a round-the-world journey the two women took to investigate new and encouraging projects in community-building, sustainable agriculture and democratic decision-making.
This Wednesday in Pacific Grove Anna Lappe will talk about what she and her mother discovered, and explore the relationship between food, finance and political control, at the opening night of the 23rd annual Ecological Farming Conference.
Lappe, a writer and public speaker who studied economics and international affairs at Brown and Columbia, has lived on four continents. She taught high school in South Africa, and later worked for a youth development program in the United Kingdom and an advocacy organization for low-income women in New York City. She is co-founder (with her mother) of the Small Planet Fund, and is presently at work on a project to increase what she calls "media democracy."
In order to write their book, the mother-and-daughter research team visited projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and across the United States, all of them working to end malnutrition and hunger in imaginative ways. Anna Lappe will share some of those stories Wednesday in her talk, which is called "Building Hope: Uprooting Hunger."
Lappe says that she has found reasons to be hopeful about the state of world hunger.
"If you''d asked me two years ago, I would have said I wasn''t," she says, speaking by phone from her East Coast home. "But researching this book has totally transformed my understanding. I don''t know if it''s my generation, but I felt hope was Pollyana-ish. Working with my mother and meeting the people we met, seeing how incredibly hopeful they were while up against the biggest odds, made me realize that hope isn''t a calculation you make--it''s something each of us can become, because we take action."
Lappe points to Belo Horizonte, a city in Brazil that in 1993 declared food a basic right of citizenship.
"Here we have a city saying, ''What if it''s not only possible, but a fundamental duty of government to make sure people have access to healthy and nutritious food?''" Lappe says. "And they''re spending just one percent of the budget to do it."
One thing the city does, in partnership with a local university, is to publish each week the lowest market price for 40 basic foodstuffs, and make that information available to the public in newspapers and on billboards.
"That''s thinking outside the box," Lappe says.
Lappe says there are plenty of other such stories: a microcredit program in Bangladesh; a seed-saving program and farmers'' network in India; the anti-desertification campaign of Kenya''s Green Belt Movement; small family farms in Wisconsin that are linking up with cities; the Bay Area''s Edible Schoolyard Project.
"Each of these places and groups are working on different issues, but in every one of them people are getting empowered and hopeful by acting through a specific entry point," Lappe says. "In Kenya, it''s trees--getting women to find their power by planting trees. Then they begin to ask, why should the dictatorial government sell off the trees for profit? Through that, a pro-democracy movement emerges."
Organic agriculture is a key part of the picture, she says. "All over the world, everywhere we went, people are fighting to reclaim organic agriculture."
Despite that, she notes that even in the United States, it''s more difficult every year to get money for research into organics and sustainable agriculture, even as millions of dollars are being poured into biotechnology and research on genetically-modified food.
"It''s harder and harder to get funding unless you''re doing research for a corporation that will profit from the results," she says.
But, as evidenced by the small-scale projects the Lappes investigated and wrote about, living better doesn''t have to take a lot of money. It does take political will and community initiative. "I feel hopeful every day," Lappe says. "I feel I''m living what I believe."
Anna Lappe speaks Jan. 22 at 8pm at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove. $15. Admission to any half-day session of the Eco-Farms Conference, which runs Jan. 23-25 at Asilomar, is $50. Call 763-2111 visit www.eco-farm.org.