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Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

The book Hope’s Edge, by Frances Moore Lappe and her daughter Anna Lappe, (Putnam, NY, 2002) includes economic, political, psychological, health related, environmental, cultural and scientific connections between plants and human societies. This book is wake up call, urging us, while there’s still hope, to reclaim our democracy for the good of humankind as a whole. It reminds us that we are all interconnected in this vast web of life and that the further away we stray from the source, the less aware we become. It reveals how corporate global capitalism doesn’t value the individual or community. This book documents accounts from around the globe of the emergence of action sparked by hope. These courageous and motivated groups are experimenting with different approaches to healing the planet, and themselves in the process; through creating communities and uniting our minds and ideas on how to best have a symbiotic relationship with nature. They are freeing themselves of “global thought traps”, networking, and brainstorming for innovative solutions for sustainable alternatives to corporate global capitalism’s cold and destructive methods. These people are serving as examples to us all, stepping up to the plate, making choices, changing themselves and their ways, and consciously creating the lives that they want by organizing, planning, and working together toward a common goal. These groups are becoming citizens with choices instead of just passive consumers.

UN food tallies estimate that the planets population is just seeking by proportionately as far as food to people availability goes, but there are those that beg to differ. The authors of this book, with plentiful references and thirty years of research, claim that nature is abundant, and that there isn’t a shortage of food, but rather a misuse of resources and strategies. They point out that the UN doesn’t take into account on their tallies wild foods collected worldwide, mini gardens, or the fact that ½ of the world’s grains (not to mention massive quantities of water, 2,500 gallons for each pound of hamburger, while within 30 years 2/3 of the world is facing a water shortage/crisis, no less) are fed to slaughter bound livestock. Grain fed livestock is bad economics- we invest a great amount of grain protein (1,700 calories worth) to feed the livestock, which in return only provides 400 meat calories. That’s not a very sound investment when half the world is underfed; while one out of every six of us starves to death! I guess it’s making someone rich. There are also other prices we pay for the large scale slaughter of cattle, like: environmental destruction- massive contributor of topsoil erosion (85% of erosion directly linked to livestock agriculture)(in the last 40 years across the world, 1/3 of our food growing land has eroded, and topsoil is eroding 30 times faster than it’s being created), cattle’s digestion releases tons of methane gas into the air; a major contributor to the global warming trend, pollutes water supply more than all other industries combined, cattle grazing has historically been the #1 cause of desertification (1.5 acres of rain forest cleared PER SECOND to create grazing land), and is also a bad fossil fuel investment: producing one pound of steak, requires 20,000 calories of fossil fuels, and only returns 500 calories of food energy.

Then there are the prices we pay for eating meat in our health, physically and mentally. The chemicals and pesticides we ingest from the fatty tissues of the animals that ingest them, becomes more concentrated 2nd hand (called “bio-amplification”) and residues of growth hormones and antibiotics that the livestock are pumped up with are causing cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. The American Medical Association has called livestock producers to stop routinely adding antibiotics to all the cattle’s feed, because misuse is causing the creation of drug resistant strains of bacteria. There are no labels required to alert customers of the cancer causing hormones included. While so many people are trying to survive on under two dollars a day, Americans are spending 1/9th of their health care dollars on obesity related issues (created in part by the high fat meat /fast food diet), and 1/12 of that money on the diabetes epidemic (created in part by the high sugar/fast food diet). These companies do not value human life.

“There’s not enough food! “, the fertilizer companies scare,” If you use our fertilizer your crops will grow faster, yield more.” Like crack dealers, they gave the farmers free fertilizer. When, the soil became so bad from the fertilizers, it required the addition of other fertilizers, which of course the fertilizer companies were no longer giving away for free; in fact they were steadily raising the prices of it. Nitrogen fertilizer has caused worldwide nitrate levels to double in the last 200 years. Its runoff is causing oceans to “die” in areas. Just in the US, ¼ of the drinking wells contain nitrate above the safety standards. These companies do not value human life.

A similar situation occurs with pesticide use. The free pesticide ends up killing the “good” bugs too. This disturbs the natural balance of good: bad bugs, fungus, etc. Then the pesticides are no longer free. Plus, pests evolve, rendering the pesticides useless. The US alone uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides each year! Besides environmental degradation, pesticides cause 200,000 deaths and 3 million poisonings a year! Due in part to pesticides, the suicide rate of farmers is three times greater than the general population. In Andhra Pradesh, India 300 farmers have committed suicide, many by drinking the pesticides that ruined them. These companies do not value human life.

What about genetically engineered foods? Did you know that about 70% of the food on our grocer’s shelves contains GMO’s? No? That’s because they don’t have to tell us! So, our children and we are the guinea pigs? GE disrupts ecosystems, introduces new allergens, and creates new strains of “super resistant pests”. These companies do not value human life.

Have you noticed how many small businesses these companies that do not value human life are squeezing out of existence? Have you noticed how these companies that do not value human life are now taking over previously government controlled systems? Public schools are advertising havens, and their cafeteria’s let in fast food chain vendors. Prisons are being privatized; there’s big money there ever since the “War on Drugs”. 2/3 of inmates are there for nonviolent crimes. Water is about to become privatized. Big business and government are two powerful forces united. The businesses line the pockets of the politicians, and keep corrupt ones in office, who in turn relax laws and slacken regulations and restrictions to the companies, while granting them subsidies gleaned from our taxes.

Not only have they ‘bought’ everybody; they even dominate the media, which is why we rarely hear of these issues. In fact, journalists who are about to cover stories they’ve researched on topics revealing the publics best interest concerning a multitude of issues are fired, discredited, careers ruined, or otherwise stomped down. Plus, advertising is a powerful giant. Have you noticed how these companies that do not value human life are merging with each other? A handful of corporations now monopolize every sector of our economy. Coke is Africa’s largest employer, and every five hours a McDonald’s is opening somewhere. Ten multinational corporations control ½ the US’s food and drink sales. Only five agrochemical companies own all the seed patents. Of these companies, Monsanto controls 85% of the GE market. What’s up with patenting a seed anyway!?! They engineer the seeds produced by the crop to be sterile, fostering dependence on the seed company, forcing the farmers to purchase seeds every year!

What’s going on here right under our noses? Is Aldous Huxley’s “Brave new world” manifesting? We aren’t merely consumers, we’re human beings! If we lose our voice on issues regarding land, seeds, credit, trade, costs, worker treatment, and food safety we’ll lose our choice! We are the consumers, we should have a say in what we want to buy, the methods used to bring it to us, testing used, health/safety regulations, etc.

Lappe describes food as “our most primal need and common bond to one and other”. This is in accordance with philosopher and humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory of a “hierarchy of needs”, food and water are the needs of the bottom rung of the Maslow’s ‘ladder’. They are the basic needs that must first be fulfilled in order to be able ascend to the next rung of the ladder toward happiness and ultimately self-actualization. As we realize that we need to have a voice and honor ourselves and other human beings, we find the confidence we need to initiate change, resulting in personal growth, allowing us to perceive even bigger changes that we weren’t previously able to grasp.

Hope’s Edge gathers the following inspirational worldwide examples of people organizing and creating communities, solutions, and alternatives to globalization and its negative effects to humankind.

The Edible Schoolyard What schools used to do a hundred years ago is being replicated across the US. Students design, plant, tend, harvest, and prepare vegetables for each other. Math, science, and English curriculum needs are met during the process. This changes children’s view of the world, instills confidence and awareness of connectedness in tomorrow’s leaders.

Prisoner’s Organic Farms and Greenhouses In the US 10,000 inmates have been involved so far. A 20-year study tracking 300 inmates found that they were less likely to return to jail. The inmates gain positive benefits, including the experience of fulfilling the human desire to feel useful, to have a meaning in life. Every six months the jails donate 20,000 pounds of food to their communities.

The Landless Worker’s Movement – MST (Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terre) of Brazil. Consists of ½ million members, have settled ¼ million families onto idle land over the past 16 years. In the process, thousands have been killed, and thousands more injured, jailed, harassed, or received death threats. Land that was legally appointed to the landless via the government’s revised constitution has still had to be “wrestled” from the large previous landowners. MST does the government’s job for them because they’ll never actually do it themselves. While Brazil is a world-leading exporter of food, 10,000’s of children starve annually. When these families finally have land again, they organically and cooperatively farm it, live on it, and barter other services, goods made there. The MST realizes that hungers, health, gender, education, leadership, philosophy, are related. They teach their youth to question, and not just accept that things just are the way they are and can’t be changed, that by working together, they can create the world they want.

Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon), Brazil This city decided to make it a right of citizenship to have food security! They believe that even those too poor to be consumers are still citizens. This “new social mentality” believes that quality food available to all benefits all. They follow through by: giving produce sellers the best sales space at great prices as long as the vendors agree to sell below market price, cutting out the middle man, serving four nutritious meals a day at city schools, serving 4,000 meals a day at half the market price at a city restaurant (and no one has to prove that they’re poor to eat there), linking up small, local, organic farmers with bulk buyers like hospitals, schools and restaurants, providing seeds and seedlings, and educating the public on eco-friendly farming, and it supporting community and school gardens.

Grameen (“village”) Bank, Bangladesh Started by an economic teacher named Muhammad Yunus when he saw the trap of moneylenders to the poor. He lent $27 to 42 people, and this was enough to liberate them from the moneylenders. His strategy was to do the opposite of what all other banks do/don’t do-loan to the poor with no collateral (Only 2% of the world has “credit”). This system is called “microcredit” and is now replicated in over 58 countries.

The Green Belt Movement, Nairobi The forests here have shrunken to less than 5% of what they once were. The Green Belt Food Security Program believes that people will be able to sustain themselves once they realize the interconnectedness of all things. By actively fighting soil erosion and the hunger caused by it, this movement has planted over 20 million indigenous trees in the last 20 years.

Fair Trade Producers are promised a fair price for their goods “as a way to end poverty and powerlessness at the root of hunger”. Most of those people living on less than two dollars a day are small farmers. Most fair trade agreements pay 60% to the farmers six months in advance so the farmers have money to work with and carry out their plan.

Community Supported Agriculture Farms This idea came from Germany, Switzerland, and Japan during the 1960’s. There are currently over 3,000 across the US. At the beginning of each year members pay $400 a year/or work for crops, then their organic produce is delivered to them at 80% of retail price.

“Grow Biointensive” Farming Being used in over 100 countries; it blends traditional wisdom with modern science.

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