Hope’s Edge

Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

Frances Moore Lappe may be better known for her debut book, Diet for a Small Planet, written about 30 years ago. That book had a big impact on me at the time. I learned that by choosing to eat whole grains, soybeans and plant-based protein, we can stretch teh world food supply to feed all the hungry  people in the  world .

Lappe stresses in her more recent  Hope’s Edge, that people are not starving because there isn’t enough food. It is the choices people make (especially in the developed world) that lead to malnutrition and starvation in the third world.

If we feed all the soybeans and grain to people and not to cattle, there would be enough food. American aid to poor countries has often been in the form of chemical fertilizer, seeds, and teaching agricultural techniques. Unfortunately this lead to production of a cash crop for export and native crops needed for food were no longer grown.

Gomoku Soybeans

One example was that wheat production was encouraged in Kenya to the exclusion of native crops like cassava and  pumpkins. This kind of mono-culture can lead to economic collapse when the world market prices for wheat, coffee or cacao plummet.

I learned about GMO (genetically-modified organisms) , the effect of pesticides on the people who handle them and how certain fertilizers will pollute the water supply of a whole province with nitrate so it cannot be drunk.

I enjoyed meeting the people she introduces in each country and learning about their movements to bring back food that can be safely eaten. Maybe you have heard of Wangiri Maathai in Kenya who has done so much to fight desertification by teaching people to plant trees and edible plants.

But I still think Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet was the most singularly  helpful book in teaching me how to get all the good out of the vegetable protein sources. Anyone who contemplates a vegetarian diet should read this one!!


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