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Oct 14 2010

Nobel Conference: Frances Moore Lappé

“Getting a Grip—Gaining Clarity, Creativity, and Courage for the World We Really Want”

Frances Moore Lappé, author and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The final lecture of the conference was delivered at the banquet. It was delivered, not by a scientist, but by an activist and writer who has spent decades understanding how various parts of the world make food work. As before, below is my summary of the lecture. Only a small amount of note-taking was delivered in tweets before my battery died, so I’m faking much of it below. The full lecture is available on YouTube.

  • “It is far too late and things are far too bad for pessimism.” [Thanks to geofisch for finding the source: Dee Hock, founder of Visa International (re: Y2K)] We cannot afford despair.
  • We don’t each actively choose a world in which starvation and climate change happen. Our feeling of powerlessness is our enemy.
  • We have solutions for most of the world’s food problems or they’re within our reach very soon.
  • The problem right now is confirmation bias: What we see, we believe.
  • If there are already cheaters, why not cheat? Current narratives are scarcity, lack, competition, selfishness.
  • Ironic but worth knowing that Monopoly was developed by a Quaker as an object lesson.
  • We have a privately held government. Skewed wealth negates even broad agreement when it comes to legislation.
  • Alienation leads to depression, which is the leading U.S. cause of disability. 50% more suicides than homicides.
  • Shock has the power to induce cognitive dissonance and clarity. One such moment led to the microcredit movement.
  • “There are no ‘parts’ in an ecological worldview. There are only participants.”
  • If we stop looking through a lens of lack, we can instead examine the conditions that promote pro- and antisocial behavior.
  • Cooperation stimulates some of the same parts of the brain as chocolate.
  • Humans have a need to “make a dent” in their worlds. Leads to less depression and feeling more in control.
  • Supporting the Fair Elections Now Act can help remove some of the influence of wealth on our government.
  • Having power concentrated in the hands of a few brings out the worst in us. We fail to be responsible for ourselves. We blame instead of acting.
  • Travels for book research: “I knew how out of step I was and how much hunger there was. What I didn’t know was how easy the solutions were.”
  • Brazil declared access to food a right. It didn’t lead to “big government” but to community involvement in fixing the problem, brainstorming solutions.
  • Diary cooperatives in India employ more people than the entire high-tech industry there.
  • We’re good enough to solve these problems if we have the backbone to break from the pack.
  • Fear is just one more idea, without inherent meaning of its own.
  • We can model ourselves on those more courageous than we are.