||Winter Bulletin 2008
Vol. 24 No.4
Now that the US election is over and there is a new administration about to take office with a mandate for change we're tempted to set our spade a little deeper and our sights a little higher as we think about what really needs to change if we’re serious about meeting challenges that seem to grow more daunting every day. I’m talking about the challenges of world peace, world poverty and hunger, injustice and global warming, to name some of the biggest ones. Let’s agree that war, poverty, hunger, injustice and global warming are neither inevitable or natural. War and oppression are the result of human choices. No one chooses to be poor or hungry. Global warming, we now understand, is the result, primarily, of human activity. In other words, these are all changeable conditions. One of the most revered and commonly held tenets of those of us who came together to build the Farm in 1971 and founded Plenty in 1974 is the simple belief that if you want to change the world, you must first change yourself. As a matter of fact, the only thing you have very much control over is yourself. If you want peace, be peaceful and so on. The thinking behind taking the name “Plenty” was along the lines of “there is plenty if we share” and “in all fairness, there is enough to go around…plenty.” So how is that the world’s economy is in such terrible straits, and millions are losing their jobs and hundreds of millions are going to bed hungry? If the planet earth were a company, we’d have to consider firing the managers. Oops, the managers are us, so let’s see how we can be better managers.
After Plenty was founded in 1974 some of our earliest inspiration came from organizations like Food First and its founder, Francis Moore Lappe, author of “Diet for a Small Planet” (1971), which argued that the real causes of world hunger are not related to shortages of food, but rather the way access to food is controlled by the food industry. We read “Small is Beautiful: Economics as If people Mattered” (1973) in which the author, E.F. Schumacher, wrote, “Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”
While the industrial food cycle including the fertilizer and meat industries and the ever expanding distances involved in transporting food from field to table now combine to make this sector of human activity the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases, around a third of all emissions, there is substantial evidence (reported recently by Food First) that “In small-scale organic farming systems…carbon [a major contributor to global warming] is actually stored in the soil at the rate of about four tons per hectare.” (or 2.5 acres). Another early Plenty influence, the Rodale Institute, has estimated that "we could save 25% of US greenhouse gas emissions by converting American farmland [and agricultural practices] to organic.”
In a recent article for the magazine, Vegetarian Voice, Plenty’s own Lisa Wartinger wrote: “Through the years we have increasingly focused our [development] efforts on sustainable food and agriculture projects to get the resources for food production into the hands of local people. Supporting local food self-sufficiency as opposed to mono-cropping for export is key. This entails…support for small farmers, community, family and school gardens, nutrition education, organic methods as well as local food processing. Good nutrition and reduced hunger, in turn, produce better maternal and child health, lowered child mortality and increased productivity, which ease the grip of poverty and reduce negative human pressures on the environment...”
Small is beautiful, but it is also more practical, more healthy, more ecological and more sustainable. It just hasn’t been very fashionable over the last few decades that have brought us hummers and SUVs, big box stores, suburban sprawl, clear-cutting, mountain top mining and the “fast-food nation.” It’s apparent that we still need to think globally, while acting, eating and living more cooperatively and more locally.
Wishing you good health and happiness over the holidays and in the coming year. We're grateful for your partnership.
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