Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet
indisputably ultimate, we can break through the limits of the inherited mechanistic worldview and discover the real meaning of the era of ecology—that our very being is dependent upon healthy relationships. We can find in the focus on relationships—the key insight of ecology—the beginning of what we need to meet the multiple crises affecting us, from homelessness to the environmental crisis itself. We can create an ecology of democracy —democracy not as fixed structure but as a rich practice of citizen problem solving, grounded in the democratic arts and equal to the challenges of our time.
    Amidst such obvious social decline and environmental devastation—yet with the possibility of rebirth—more than anything we each need to find sources of hope. Hope that we can be part of such an historical awakening. Such honest hope, as opposed to wishful thinking, demands hard work. Cynicism is easy. Honest hope comes only as we experience ourselves changing, and are thus able to believe that “the world” can change. For 20 years, responses to Diet for a Small Planet have been for me a primary and continuing source of hope—always reminding me of the words of Chinese writer Lu Hsun I have framed on my bedroom wall:
    Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist.
It is just like the roads across the earth.
For actually there were no roads to begin with,
but when many people pass one way a road is made.



Preface
    I GAVE MY first speech as the author of Diet for a Small Planet at the University of Michigan in early 1972. I recall how hard I worked on that speech—locking myself in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house while upstairs she cared for my baby son. I remember standing at the podium, shaking like crazy but delivering what I thought was a rousing political speech. Then, the question-and-answer period. A young man far back in the auditorium raised his hand. “Ms. Lappé,” he asked, “what is the difference between long grain and short grain brown rice?” In the 1975 edition of this book, I described my reaction:
    I wilted. I had wanted to convey the felt-sense of how our diet relates each of us to the broadest questions of food supply for all of humanity. I had wanted to convey the way in which economic factors rather than natural agricultural ones have determined land and food use. Was I doing just the opposite? Was I helping people to close in on themselves, on their own bodies’ needs, instead of using the information to help them relate to global needs?
    Five years later, in 1980, before I was to give a lecture at the University of Minnesota, a man approached me. “I have an apology to make to you,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for eight years to make it in person. I was that student at the University of Michigan who asked you the difference between long grain and short grain brown rice. I just wanted you to know that, although I am still eating well, Diet for a Small Planet also launched me into a broader social commitment. I didn’t get stuck—as you thought I did.”
    You can imagine my surprise. We both laughed hard. And then it dawned on me that, yes, the circle was complete. It was time to do the tenth anniversary edition. It was time to chronicle the change that took me from a narrow, personal concern to the courage to face the bigger questions—questions not so easy to define as the differences among rice varieties.

Part I
Recipe for a
Personal Revolution

1.
An Entry Point
    N O ONE HAS been more astonished than I at the impact of Diet for a Small Planet . It was born as a one-page handout in the late 1960s, and became a book in 1971. Since then it has sold close to two million copies in a half dozen languages. What I’ve discovered is that many more people than I could ever have imagined are looking for the same thing I was—a first step.
    Mammoth social problems, especially global ones like world hunger and ecological destruction, paralyze us. Their roots

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