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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Small Planet, Carbon Footprints, and Eating Sustainably

In the beginning, there was Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, which tied vegetarianism to ending world hunger, changed the way most Americans ate in the 1970s. Lappe went on to author many other books, offering recipes for "complementary proteins" and vegetarian cuisine that also helped readers consider the impact of their food choices on the larger planet. Lappe is often credited as the first person to popularize and promote the idea that producing beef used exponentially more resources than consuming the plant-based foods used to fatten up that meat. A twentieth anniversary edition is now available, updated with new recipes, nutritional advice, and focus on how the world is today. Today, Lappe continues to publish like crazy, with books just being one of many outlets she employs to spread the message of positive solutions to world hunger and global resource exploitation.
Even better, Lappe's daughter Anna is an anti-hunger, living democracy food activist in her own right, publishing the amazing Grub cookbook with the vegan soul food activist Bryant Terry. In Hope's Edge, mother and daughter travel to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe, looking for evidence of other ways to live and transcend consumerism and capitalism towards ethical economic and social living. Like most of Lappe's books, these include recipes. With her mother, Anna Lappe has founded the Small Planet Institute, which provides multiple outlets to explore how people across the globe create living democracies, using their own power to make governments and programs from the ground up. According to their mission, the Lappes see their role as supporting "this historic awakening through collaborative public education efforts with colleagues worldwide and through our own books, articles, websites, speeches, and other media." For a change-the-world cookbook that the Lappes would probably feature at the Small Planet Institute, check out Cool Cuisine: Take a Bite Out of Global Warming.
Laura Stec, a San Francisco chef /educator and Eugene Cordero, Ph.D., climate scientist and professor of Meteorology at San Jose State University use a clever and informative format to demonstrate how the current food system is responsible for a good portion of global warming. More than just feeding a household, Stec and Cordero consider opportunities for eating together. The authors combine explanations of waste emissions, global energy use and methane problems with recipes for grass-fed meat, all-vegetable meals, and organic omelettes. They even provide information on parties -- and how you can offset the miles your guests drive to get there by contributing directly to carbon offset programs.

Both the Lappes and the Stec-Cordera team try to find ways around the industrial-chemical-agricultural-marketing system that ultimately creates a less healthy, less tasty food system. By reconnecting to the sources of our food and acknowledging the central role it plays in our lives, both sets of authors focus on reclaiming a human global value. As individuals, by valuing where our food comes from and the land, animals, and farmers who give it to us, these books enrich bodies as well as our minds.

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