During my City Farmer years, I was invited to speak at various gardening and food-related events and conferences around North America, so I got to meet a lot of people, see some of their projects first hand, and expand my little composting world. I began to think more about hunger: why amid such plenty in the world were people still going to bed hungry – or worse, dying of starvation? I read Diet for a Small Planet (Ballantine, 1971), a 1970s classic by Francis Moore Lappé and found out that this imbalance was created by something called the production myth: the manufactured belief that there just wasn’t enough food in the world, so we had to keep producing more. And more. And more. I was very struck by her argument that there is enough, more than enough: the real problem is one of distribution.
After I left City Farmer, I was testing out new material during a regular segment I did for North by Northwest, a literary show on CBC Radio, our national public broadcaster. Some of the work was based on my travels, like the coffee farm tour of Guatemala. The radio features got me my first speaking gig on something besides composting at the University of British Columbia (UBC) for the Faculty of Education summer program. I had been invited, along with a diverse list of other speakers, to present to thirty-five educators from across Canada on the theme of Renewing Food. I called my talk Something’s Rotten in Compost City; the title was sourced from an animated film episode I had written many years earlier; the animation was to be a satire on the politics of food. I read from three of my CBC essays: Seeds, Coffee and Chocolate. Those three essays were the start of my new book, the title of which you can probably guess (still seeking a publisher).
One of the other presenters at UBC that day was Anna Lappé, daughter of Francis. While Diet helped me to prepare the ground for Something’s Rotten, the book that would have an even deeper impact on me and would become the blueprint for my trip to India was the one the mother/daughter team had written together: Hope’s Edge (Tarcher Putnam, 2002). I had Anna sign my post-it flagged copy. We ended up getting together after the talk and I took her over to meet my former boss and mentor, Mike Levenston, at the City Farmer garden. It was the bridging moment between my old life and the new life I was creating.
Anna Lappé is now a widely respected author and educator. She and her mother run the Small Planet Institute. I have never met Frances, but I would love to and the opportunity may have just presented itself. The prolific author is on a book tour (EcoMind, Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want, Nation Books 2011) and will be in Bellingham (Sept 12) and Seattle (Sept 13). Apparently she is also available all day Saturday, Sept 10. Yes, this weekend. It is very short notice my food system friends – but it seems like we should try to bring her to Vancouver. She is after all the founder of what we now call the food movement.
I have a venue, just need some funding. And if it doesn’t work, well, I’ll be boarding the train to Washington early next week. Another food train perhaps?