Acts of Rebel Sanity: Finding ways to navigate the challenges of living on a small planet.

AuthorLappe, Frances Moore

I am a child of the sixties, fed by its energy and hope.

In 1962, in its Port Huron Statement, Students for a Democratic Society called for participatory democracy, and it sure made sense to me.

Fresh out of college in 1967--and pumped up by recent, historic civil rights and voting rights wins--I joined Lyndon Johnsons War on Poverty. I tried to live up to its premise of "maximum feasible participation" as I worked in Philadelphia side-by-side with single moms seeking decent housing.

But by the late 1960s, a very different energy gripped our culture: fear.

In 1968, Paul and Anne Ehrlich's Population Bomb exploded, warning that we were nearing the limits of Earths ability to feed us. At the same time, Garrett Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" argued that we were having too many babies, saying we can preserve "precious freedoms" only by "relinquishing the freedom to breed."

At the time, millions of people were dying in African famines.

I had to know: Is scarcity behind all this suffering?

Fortunately, I had access to the agricultural library at the University of California, Berkeley. With my dad's slide rule and a friendly librarian's help, I dug in. Soon the math was undeniable: Our world was producing enough food for all, but our meat-centric food system involved staggering amounts of waste.

We couldn't blame population growth for hunger and starvation. Instead, our supposedly bright species was actively creating scarcity, regardless of how much food we were growing.

I was shocked. I had to share the great news: We are not fated to overrun the Earth. Since we humans are creating the problem, we can fix it.

So I began with a one-page handout, and soon my book, Diet for a Small Planet, was born.

Having discovered the vast waste built into our meat-centered diet, I wanted no part of it.

For me, choosing a "plant-and-planet-centered" diet was an act of rebel sanity. Every day, I could say no to our destructive and unjust food system. In my new food choices, I was no longer a mere victim or observer but a locus of power for the good of the Earth, others, and myself.

But, simultaneous with my "eureka" moment, a new tide of fear was rising.

What in the 1960s stirred hope--the possibility that all might gain their rightful voice in our democracy--now felt downright threatening to some. The movements against poverty and war and for civil rights and women's rights terrified many in the ruling class.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce enlisted Lewis F...

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