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Frances Moore Lappe Lecture

by Alexandra Kilduff
News Editor

Last Thursday author and activist Frances Moore Lapp? delivered the keynote address for the 2004 International Festival at Carnegie Mellon. Her speech, titled ?Exploding the Myths of Hunger One Pop-Tart at a Time,? focused on global perceptions of world hunger and efforts aimed at reducing the problem that, according to thehungersite.com, affects over one billion people worldwide.
After being introduced by festival coordinator Emily Half, Lapp? asked the audience, ?Why hunger?? Lapp? has written several books on the question, including Diet for a Small Planet and her most recent publication, Hope?s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet.
Lapp? explained that she first attempted to answer the question ?Why hunger?? in graduate school, during a period when experts thought that the world food supply could not keep up with the growing population. ?In fact,? said Lapp?, ?there was more than enough food to make us all chubby.... Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food, but by a scarcity of democracy.?
Lapp? went on to explain that in a country where one in five families in Oregon and New York City do not get enough to eat, an estimated 16 pounds of grain is used to produce one pound of processed steak. Lapp? also said that India, which has the highest concentration of hungry citizens on the planet, keeps tons of surplus grain in storehouses while officials look for export markets. ?Wherever one finds hunger,? Lapp? said, ?democracy?s promise is still unfulfilled.?
According to Lapp?, most democratic failures in the United States were the result of an American ?frame of orientation? that created ?false realities.? Citing Erich Fromm?s book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Lapp? said that Americans see themselves as ?competitive, ego-centered consumers ... and that we are too flawed to make decisions for the common good.? As a result, Lapp? said we rely on ?the magic of an impersonal market.?
Lapp? also cited our ?culture of fear? as a reason for allowing hunger to exist. ?We?re afraid we?re going to be left out,? she said. For this reason, individuals rarely attempt to make an impact outside their own sphere of influence.
However, Lapp? also mentioned projects in various countries that are designed to reduce and end world hunger. A ?revolution in human dignity,? as she called it, was behind such efforts as the Landless Workers? Movement in Brazil, where families have been relocated to 17 million acres of undeveloped land to form their own farms and businesses. According to Lapp?, the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is the only city in the world to have declared that ?food is a right of citizenship.?
Lapp? also discussed the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which ?has used tree planting as an entry point to community development,? according to its website, greenbeltmovement.org. Begun by activist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai , the Green Belt Movement originally aimed to help rural women by having them plant trees to anchor their environment and livelihoods. Today it has expanded to other projects, and has planted roughly 20 to 30 million trees.
The third organization that Lapp? mentioned was the Grameen Bank program in Bangladesh, where local women could participate in the micro-credit system and eventually become bank shareholders. Lapp? described the combination of ?capitalization and charity together? as a major accomplishment.
After the speech, Lapp? presented photographs of the continents she visited during the writing of Hope?s Edge. A reception, where Lapp? signed copies of her book and answered questions, followed her speech.
?Frances Moore Lapp? is my new hero,? said Katherine Cummings, a sophomore biology major. ?Her lecture was magnetic and extremely thought-provoking. She has certainly made an impact on the world and, now, my life.?
?I believe that the first antidote to fear is trust,? said Lapp?, explaining the motivations behind her activism. ?The second antidote to fear is ... what I think of as focus or attention.... The third antidote is humility.... I do believe that I am part of something larger.?
Lapp? also recalled a discussion she had with one of the organizers of the Landless Workers? Movement. Upon asking the woman why she had decided to take on such a challenge as ending hunger in her country, she was met with a tearful admittance that the woman had known it would be difficult to face such a problem.
Tearing up , Lapp? remembered the woman?s next comment. ???What I didn?t know,??? Lapp? said, quoting the organizer, ???was how easy it is to end it.???