Welcome Frances Moore Lappe, Small Planet Institute, and Host, Christy Hardin Smith,  Home Celebration and FDL.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  - bev]

Getting A Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want

On April 29, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote a missive to Congress on the importance of curbing corporate monopolies that resonates as much today as it did in the wake of the Great Depression:

…the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself.

Boy, does that ever hit home.

In Getting A Grip 2, Frances Moore Lappe takes that lesson and hits hard at its core: to build a stronger more cohesive society with a firm foundation in democracy for all, not just a privileged few, you have to work at it. We all have to work at it. Preferably together.

As Frances herself said in a 2007 PBS interview:

Human beings were never meant to be couch potatoes or just whiners. We wouldn’t have made it to where we are…if we weren’t doers and problem solvers. So, that’s what I mean by living democracy, something not done to us or for us, democracy not as what we have but what we do. (emphasis mine)

But along that road to a living democracy, there are an awful lot of speed bumps.

Frances talks about a number of them in the book. What is great is that she not only talks about problems, but gives inspiring examples of how ordinary folks stepped up and made things better. For instance:

– How everyday folks worldwide have tackled hunger, poverty and despair from the micro-lending of Muhammad Yunus to the life skills training of Youthbuild (which happens to be teaching construction skills to some “at risk” local youths who are working on a Habitat for Humanity house in my neighborhood);

– How a Maine man saw the need for better corporate standards, including a great discussion of “producer responsibility” laws, regarding greener disposal of electronic “trash”, a concept that has since gone global;

– How our individual shopping choices can, collectively, make an enormous difference in how business is done, from examples of changing policies at Home Depot through some concentrated, targeted action to the very real impact of Fair Trade on the lives of workers and farmers across the globe;

– And, one of my favorite examples, how a single mom/waitress ran for public office after Clean Election laws were passed, and what the impact has been of those laws on the pay-to-play political influence peddling business. (See the video below for some inspiration on this.) Passing that legislation took an enormous amount of work in the face of a lot of “it’ll never pass” in Maine, Arizona and Connecticut.

The lesson from all of this? When you see a problem, don’t just bemoan it. Don’t just blame an amorphous “them,” without also looking at what you should be doing, too.

We should all step up to the plate and help to break down the problems we see, and rebuild them into something better.

The problem with this hopeful note, though?

We don’t always get an opportunity to see the full picture. Especially not in a world where media concentration has meant that far too often the message and information behind it is tightly controlled, and where “sunshine in government” gets buried under far too many “top secret” and “none of your business” back door meetings.

(Funny how lobbyists and big money donors always manage to sneak their way into those, isn’t it? Cozy. Especially when they are meeting on our taxpayer dime.)

One of the most fascinating insights that Frances shares in Getting a Grip 2 is the means by which we are all hardwired to respond to each other: in essence, we are what we see others doing, believing and saying.

Think about that for a moment.

And then think about what that means in an age where we only get partial truths in the media, too often gleaned from partisan political blast faxes with dubious factual bases; where we have divided into political tribes, so to speak, and only get exposure to like-minded, self-reinforcing conversations; and where we build more and more gates and insulate ourselves from less and less personal, face-to-face contact.

The answers? Again, we have to find ways to step up to the plate, to break the walls down and rebuild new ones on common ground where we can find it.

That takes a lot of work but, as Frances argues, that is exactly what living democracy requires of all of us.

In 2008, Frances was selected for the prestigious James Beard Humanitarian award. In the introductory video for that award (YouTube), her son Anthony said the following:

I believe that her greatest achievement is the hope that she’s inspired in everyday people that there are simple things that they can do in their lives that can change the world.

It is a profound truth: even one tiny drop of rain raises the sea. What I hope this discussion will do is to stimulate a deluge.

With that, I am honored to welcome Frances Moore Lappe and open the floor for discussion.

162 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Frances Moore Lappe, Getting A Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want”

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Welcome, Frances. It is such a thrill to have you here at FDL. Your Diet for a Small Planet, and the follow-up you did with yoru daughter, Hope’s Edge, were fantastic.

Get a Grip 2 posed so many interesting questions, and got me thinking in very “out of the box” ways. Which I’m assuming is what you hoped for with your readers. Can you talk a bit about what the catalyst was for writing Getting a Grip 2?

BevW August 28th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Frances, Welcome to the Lake.

Christy, Thank you for coming back and Hosting today’s Book Salon.

egregious August 28th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Welcome to Firedoglake – so good to have you here!

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Thank you, Christy. I am excited about this conversation. The CATALYST?! Wow. My whole life experience, I suppose. I have been struggling to peel away the layers to understand why we are in this mess as a world that none of us as individuals would ever choose. And Getting a Grip2 is my attempt to answer–to be sane myself.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:04 pm
In response to BevW @ 2

I was thrilled to do it, Bev. Frances has been a hero of mine for a while, ever since I read Diet for a Small Planet in college. She was the catalyst for my string of “Meatless Mondays.” And all the vegetarian meals in between as well.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Yes, for me, WHY HUNGER IN A WORLD OF PLENTY?–that was my very first question as a 26 year old. And it has been the thread of my whole life.

wmd1961 August 28th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Welcome Francis. Great to see you too Christie… and I immediately thought of Diet for a Small Planet when seeing Francis’ name. More grain and less meat has become main stream nutritional wisdom in the years since DfaSP was first published.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

We’ve come a very long way… I recall when, literally, many people believed that without meat one would perish. I grew up in “Cowtown USA”–Fort Worth–so i know!

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

It certainly has seemed a lot more insane for several years running, hasn’t it? I completely understand the need for something practical and proactive rather than cynical and inactive.

Something struck me early on in Getting a Grip 2: on p. 51, you talk about the waning interest in democracy among African nations especially. I recently read Paul Theroux’s travel book, Dark Star Safari, wherein he talked about the failures and outright harm done sometimes by aid groups and bad government forcing outside norms on people rather than looking at their own mores.

I began to wonder what harm we are now doing ourselves by politically — nationally — acting outside of what we consider to be normative behavior in our smaller communities. The way politicians change when they go from small town to The Hill, for example. Are we making the same mistakes here, too — because it sure seems that way.

Ruth Calvo August 28th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Welcome. As you note, the media increasingly heads readers/viewers toward perceptions of reality that do not work, and have led us down yet another disastrous path in our present financial meltdown particularly. Do you think that the public is beginning to find its way toward rational and responsible behavior because it has been failed so consistently by the popular press.

dakine01 August 28th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Good afternoon and welcome to FDL Frances.

Good to “see” you this afternoon Christy

Frances I have not had an opportunity to read your book and apologize if you answer this in it but, how do we get around things like the corporate SCOTUS decisions which limit attempts to bring accountability at any level and limit shareholder actions?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

A KEY question. I believe that the power of private wealth to warp public decsiionmaking is the mother of all political issues. The video on this page is a sign of the answer–what the state of Maine has done brilliantly for a decade–VOLUNTARY PUBLIC FINANCING. They call it Clean Elections–so now 80 percent of the legislature has won without taking any corporate money.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

There is so much more to say, of course…about money’s power. Right now in both houses of Congress are bills — Fair Elections Now laws — that would take the Maine approach national, to congressional elections.

dakine01 August 28th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. By pressing “Reply” the system pre-fills the commenter name and comment number being replied to and helps folks to follow the “conversation”

Note: some browsers don’t like to let “Reply” work correctly if it is pressed before a page finishes loading after it has been ‘refreshed’

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

FWIW, I thought the video production was fantastic. When folks get a chance, you really should watch the video. It’s incredibly inspirational and worth the time to watch it. (Just do it after the chat. *g*)

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Another key part of the answer is transparency. Democratic dialogue depends on honest debate which is impossible if the speakers’ identity is hidden. I believe the DISCLOSE ACT that would require transparency of sources of corporate campaign spending is hanging by a thread in Congress right now.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Thank you for the compliment about the video. My son is a filmmaker and he was very moved as he interviewed Deb Simpson–a single mom and a waitress who ran for office and won!!

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Frances — one of the big issues that you talk about is the human ability to empathize and learn from one another, through mimicry and absorption essentially as we interact. And how that can be multiplied a thousandfold by media concentration and repetition of only half truths or incomplete and biased information.

It’s a huge problem. Any thoughts on how individuals can help to tackle it? Any examples of what you’ve seen work on a small or larger scale?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Since that video was produced, Maine’s record of what an accountable legislature can do is really inspiring too. Because lawmakers don’t feel they had to listen to corporate funders, they have passed historic environmental legislation that’s kept one pound of lead out of Maine’s beautiful environment for every citizen of the state.

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

In quite simple steps, what sorts of things do you recommend for just getting started? Such a Deb…Surely, there is courage. But doesn’t something have to be more strategic?

Cassie SnarKassandra August 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Hi Christy! Welcome Frances.

One of my high school history teachers said that democracy is an action very, and we have to continue acting.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

We saw a lot of things that ought to have been disclosed during the most recent health care debate. The Washington Post had an article on the lobbyists hanging out and helping to write legislation in Max Baucus’ office, and I remember being incensed because our taxpayer dollars were paying for that space.

There have been far too many of those examples in recent years. Far too many.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Cassie, great to see you. :)

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Have Arizona and Connecticut had similar sucesses? I know the AZ law gets frequently challenged by political opponents fronted out by lobbying and industry groups, but it’s still holding the last time I checked.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I think real conversation is the only immediate answer; though in the longer run I believe the answer is a tfruly democratic government that can set fair media rules — as, for example, we used to have a “fairness doctrine” that required a diversity of views. It was killed under Reagan’s FCC.
I’m part of a network called National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. I HIGHLY recommend its website thataway.org–full of stories of who dialogue works. In my book I tell of deliberation among citizens, for example, that ended up influencing Texas utilities in the 90s–and leading to Texas being a world leader in wind energy. (under then Gov. Bush!)

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Welcome, Ms. Lappe – and add my thanks for changing my life, too, when I read Diet for a Small Planet back in the ’70′s. (my worn copy and REcipes for a Small Planet are right over there on the bookshelf still…).

About Maine’s Clean Elections – do you think larger, more densely populated and more ethnically diverse states can replicate what was done there? Having lived in New England and now in Texas, I have to say Maine is different from pretty much anywhere else. I can hardly think of a simile to describe the degree of difference from Texas! I can’t imagine something like that law e ver making it through our Lege. (never would’ve guessed you started out in FW)

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Hi Christy.
Question for the author. I’ve been bemoaning the fact that our president has yet to close Guantanamo Bay and release innocent prisoners. some of us have been ripping our hair out for years over it. How would you suggest we approach the problem? Keep in mind some of the prisoners are refugees and persons who need asylum, because if they are sent back to countries like Algeria/Mainland China & etc., they are imprisoned without trial or disappeared. Also, Obama’s policy of sending mentally ill and vulnerable refugees to countries that keep the ex gitmo prisoners in refugee prisons that are sometimes worse than Gitmo is also not an option.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Campaign finance is apparently a mess in Connecticut. It just doesn’t end with laws getting passed.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 28th, 2010 at 2:25 pm
In response to mui1 @ 27

they are imprisoned without trial or disappeared.

That already happened to them at our hands.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Frances, we had Marion Nestle on for a chat a while back and talked quite a bit about the intersection of politics and food policy. I think it is a perfect issue to illustrate how money flooding in to influence legislation makes a huge impact on The Hill. But, with organics especially, how smaller farmers have banded together through the years to push back on larger factory operations.

Any thoughts on food and agriculture policy in the US and what we can all do to make our food safer, the quality higher and perhaps even begin to loose the stranglehold that large corporate interests have on policymaking?

As a mom with a child in 2nd grade, just how much influence there is on school lunch programs is mind-boggling. But it’s a multi-million dollar minefield to begin talking reforms. I’d love to know about sucesses and ideas going forward.

Sharkbabe August 28th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Hi Ms. Lappe, have always admired you, people power is the only way.

Could you comment on the Citizens United case? It seems our “big” institutions grow more authoritarian and disconnected from reality, a parallel existence almost, as their whole system of lies and fakery is more and more exposed.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

About AZ and CT… Their Clean Elections laws are newer but have also resulted in more people running for office. There are pieces of the legal framework for public financing in those states that are now being challenged in court. Citizens have fought back in the past when business interests tried, in AZ, to overturn it. I hope they continue to succeed.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Wow. Way to knock down my pessimistic take on Texas possiblities. If ordinary citizens can influence the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) in Tex., then maybe there is hope.

But I find dialogue to be harder and harder – people are so fixed in their beliefs it’s downright scary to try to challenge even a blatant falsehood in ordinary conversation.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Which is why we don’t want it to happen to them again, for the next 20 years.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I’m actually from CT. I don’t see any big changes in the political landscape.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 33

In Getting a Grip 2, Frances talks about new approaches to conversation and finding common ground that I found really helpful in terms of talking with “the other side.” One of the things she says — that makes a lot of sense on a personal level — is not to think in terms of “them” and “us” because you already start on an adversarial footing. You have to find the issue on common ground — and help them to find it on their own, too, so that they are invested in it, and then you can perhaps get somewhere, I think.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

About the degradation of our food resulting from concentrated power: I’m part of a campaign by a really great group. Corporate Accountability International. It’s a RETIRE RONALD campaign–stop using the clown to lure kids to eat junk food. (Now proven by neuroscientists at Scripps to addict people in ways similar to cocaine._Check out RetireRonald.org
I asked my 3 year old granddaugther (never been to McDonalds)how companies trick kids to eat bad food, and without a second’s hesitation, she said: TOYS. Santa Clara Cty banned the practice, at least in part of the county!

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Well, I really need that, I’m afraid. New approaches sound good.

Btw, is the book out? I was in a Borders the other day and didn’t notice it. Or do we just have to search it out because the publisher doesn’t bribe er, provide promotion money to feature it in a prominent place?

August 28th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Welccome to this Salon, Ms. Lappe. And, blessings on you Christy. I have a whole list of notes here on my desk, taken while reading the intro and watching both videos.
CHS, You just commented about normative behavior which is profound, because, really, only those inside the group determine what is normal, is that correct? Is this why we shouldn’t force our mores onto the other?
Either of you fine women can respond to that.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I wonder if that approach would work with Disney.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 38

It’s available on Amazon and Powell’s, I know. So it should be out elsewhere. Would be in the political section in most stores, I think.

bgrothus August 28th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Thank you for visiting with us, Frances! I too have your books from the waay back, and I can say that they helped to instill in me long-term behaviors about food.

I was reading today that the genome for wheat has been identified. I don’t know much about genetic engineering, but I think that a lot of our auto-immune illnesses from autism to cancer are caused by environmental changes and the food we eat. Wheat has become a big problem, and I don’t know what the genome information will add, whether it will add to the problems that have been created by engineered wheat. My family has a lot of auto-immune problems, celiac disease among them.

Do you know anything about this issue?

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to mui1 @ 40

It wouldn’t work at our house. There would be a mutiny. *g* At least if the Disney toys disappeared…

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

And Laura Ingraham was malicious and unrelenting about the First Lady’s good food/wt.loss program….Shame.

PLovering August 28th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Welcome Frances,

Our society is constantly bombarded by backdoor toxins, whether they be in chemtrails, fluoridated water, or in mercury and aluminum filled vaccines.


Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I think a huge part of the problem of not being able to talk to each other is that so many political terms have been degraded. One chapter in Getting a Grip2 is about language–really, really being careful to choose language that doesn’t reinforce false stereotypes. When people use terms–freedom, socialism, capitalism, etc–I think the key is to encourage slowing down and talking about what we MEAN by these terms. I’ve been amazed at how much agreement there is when one gets beyond general buzz words to what people really want in their lives.

BevW August 28th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

The book is available at The Small Planet Institute

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 42

GMO foods in general scare the bejeebers out of me, if for no other reason than we have no idea what the long-term impact will be for eating, growing, or environmental reasons. The fact that we aren’t even seeing labelling because the industry has paid so much money to stop that from happening in legislation ought to be a huge wake-up call to everyone.

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to BevW @ 47

Thank you.

marymccurnin August 28th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

It’s a RETIRE RONALD campaign

Yikes. At first I thought you were talking about Ronald Reagan.

Thanks so much for being here.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Same here. I’ve read Disney hires “experts” so they can market things as educational when in fact their products may be the opposite of educational or healthy. I’ve also read they’ve wormed their way into academic depts, re: Harvard. Would have to look that up.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

About genetically engineered food: my hero is Jeffrey Smith who has devoted his life to pulling all the research together and working with people all over the world to stop this threat. I highly recommend SEEDS OF DECEPTION and GENETIC ROULETTE. The first one reads like a novel! About how GMOs got started and how we in the US are truly the world’s guinea pigs. While citizens in Europe and many countries have stood up, most Americans don’t realize what is happening.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to mui1 @ 51

I haven’t seen that, personally, but then we’ve spent a lot of time in EPCOT and Animal Kingdom at Disneyworld which our Peanut loves.

wmd1961 August 28th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 42

Mapping the genome isn’t the same as engineering it… I’m pretty sure you know that though.

There’s been some recent work on Celiac disease – identifying specific fragments of the gluten protein that trigger the response.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Have you checked the labels at the grocery store lately. Some say product of China. Now if I go into a Asian store that sells the same products that are sold to Japan/S. Korea/Taiwan, I’m okay with it. I suspect they know M. China a little better–people have already gotten poisoned, regulations are in place. However, I’m not so sure about our U.S. manufacturers who take major shortcuts.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

In general, the more we can be in touch with courageous citizen action in other parts of the world, the more energy i have to face challenges here. I just read yesterday that Costa Rica (No 1 on the Happy Planet Index) passed electoral reform that improving public financing, requires transparency, and limits contributions to those that are from real people, not corporations. It is possible!

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

There’s a truthout article. Too lazy to find the link. Plus a group called parents for responsible marketing. Apparently one of that group was called unAmerican for criticizing Disney.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I love the Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He needed to perhaps put in “real food” instead of just food, to cover GMO’s.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

About food safety–I believe FINALLY there is legislation (or regulatory change with the FDA?) that would give the government power to recall food. I think most Americans would be SHOCKED to know the govt can recall faulty cars but not food.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Also any bookstore would order it. Also interlibrary loan.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I worry about GMO food, too. We seem to be the only country in the world that takes the view that if it isn’t proven harmful, let’s jump right in and do it! Where the rest of the world prefers, apparently, to do it the opposite; prove it’s safe, then we’ll try it.

And the effect of patenting seeds and genes, I think, is one of the most evil developments of recent times, again contributing to making poor people poorer (poor farmers who have to buy seed every year because they aren’t allowed [!] by the patent holder to save seed, as farmers have done for 10000 years.) Farmers in developed countries being sued by the patent holder for infrongement because patented seed blew onto their land from a neighbor’s farm and grew there. Makes me ill with fury.

marymccurnin August 28th, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to mui1 @ 55

At our local co-op natural foods store we found that all of the frozen foods are from China. They have cute labels that picture sweet barns with tractors in front of them and other bucolic imagery. tricky.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Also, about Getting a Grip2, on our website smallplanet.org is a forum for people to discuss the book. What has really thrilled me is the response from young people who are struggling so hard to make sense of things. One young South Africa rapper created a rap about the themes of the book!

nonquixote August 28th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

While citizens in Europe and many countries have stood up, most Americans don’t realize what is happening.

Citizens in Europe more easily band together against largely US based agribusiness, as we are largely the perpetrators of the problems and are only concerned with the immediate profit, not legacy environmental and health costs.

Cassie SnarKassandra August 28th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

We got a frozen organic pizza this week and the label on the front said “made in Italy”. I don’t know if it’s true.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to mui1 @ 60

Well, sure. I might have found it the other day had I known to look for it. *g* I just thought it might not be offically out yet, perhaps CHS had an advance copy. I’ll goo look for it in a day or two. See that my library doesn’t have it yet, but as it has the older edition, they probably will get it.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

well that’s not good if food in the grocery store is “product of China”. Before the changeover chickens and many things had to be recalled because of birdflu, poisoning or whatever. (This *is* Mainland China we’re taking about, all money & who cares what else.) The British gov. apparently had to put out public announcents, promising to reimburse all businesses who bought the poisoned chicken from China. apparently that worked. Now what our we going to do with our screwed up manufacturing situations?

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Frances, We had Muhammad Yunus on for a chat a couple of years ago. His work with Grameen has been so amazing. The thing that really struck me was the simplicity of his action — help in small amounts where people need it the most to help themselves. Brilliant.

So many more problems that ought to be conquerable with the same simplicity, if we could only look at them through different eyes instead of the same old, tired way of problem solving that hasn’t worked. You talk a lot about looking at things through fresh eyes in Getting a Grip 2, and I found that incredibly inspirational.

What inspires you most these days? Any particular action or activists?

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I had a situation recently at work and none of my co workers were willing to even give an opinion on the unfair treatment I was getting. So I quit and got my revenge knowing that now they would be stuck doing all the hard jobs I was doing. I went from 240 to 204 pounds from the end of june to the middle of august thats how hard I was working.
If workers won’t stick together nothing will get done and in these economic times with everyone worried about their jobs who still has one courage is hard to find your thoughts on what we can do about that.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 62

Yes, some of the american manufacturers will put all sorts of Americana on it, flags etc. to make it look like it hasn’t come through Mainland.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Agree with all the comments of concern about GMOs. One of the most inspiring things i have seen in recent years is a DVD series created by illiterate Indian women filming the rejection of failing GMO cotton in Andhra Pradesh, India. Truly beautiful. And they go to other countries, including S. Africa, and film other small farmers who are resisting GMOs. I have contact info if any of you would like to get the films. email:info@smallplanet.org

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 61

Patenting a lot of these desperately needed seed crops and then suing people in incredibly desperate situations for seed spread by animals or the wind is infuriating. That goes so far beyond greed.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

My rule at work has always been the sheep that stick together are safer.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I think the people in power are counting on a creating a Me first F#$% everyone else feeling in this country and divided they can take away more of our rights and make us all serfs with no Unions, Healthcare, Social Security, Worker Safety or Discrimination laws.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to mui1 @ 73

I tried that and failed:(

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I’m kind of shocked to hear about frozen foods with “made in China” labels. At a co-op, of all places. Surely members would be distressed about that? Wish we had a co-op here. At least in summer, there are Farmers Markets scattered around town, with real family farmers bringing their own produce from the same or next county.

August 28th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I was going to ask about how other states, I’m in CA, got the clean elections attitude, but then, one of the commenters, sorry, I forget, said that hasn’t really affected politics. Are we to be happy about the theoretical and not the practical? Nevermind mouse ears.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Isn’t it? When I heard about such a lawsuit (on Living on the Earth, maybe? PRI radio program), my jaw just dropped. I keep thinking I can’t be shocked anymore, but keep being proved wrong.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

That’s because it doesn’t work in places where the employees have every right to be scared etc.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to demi @ 77

I think it depends on the state and the location, honestly. Maine has had a good experience, especially in local elections I have heard. So have some local folks in AZ. But like anything, it takes a while to work out the kinks and to shake out the loopholes as well — at least, that’s how I’ve seen it with pretty much any legislation that is trying to reform anything. It really takes a while to dig out all the loopholes…

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to demi @ 77

I suppose that falls under “ever vigilant.” You can’t ever stop working, assume passing a law will do it now–gotta keep pressing to make sure a new law is enforced.

Ha. Listen to me. Weary and often depressed; not nearly as consistent as I know I need to be.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Good for you–the person standing up to mistreatment in the workplace. I am a strong supporter of unions. It’s critical that we explain to others that unions not only mean better conditions/higher pay for those covered by union contracts–but their success puts upward pressure on wages for other workers. We can resist the myth that our economic problems are the result of “middle class” Americans over-consuming, and clarify that actually real spending power of most people has declined over the last 30 years.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 76

Don’t even get me started on how farmers treat their workers living wage is a foreign concept to them. Though I have been working on a few ideas to help them.



tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I’ve seen your work, TCU. Though, of course, “living wage” is “a foreign concept” to most employers, it seems, and to the average Republican.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to demi @ 77

Well, yes. In CT. I haven’t studied the thing in depth, but it’s all pretty wormy. You can have clean elections and credit card reform, but credit cards will find ways to make money & politicians will find a way to worm with the system in ways that are unethical but “legal.” And CT is a machine state. Outsiders do not generally get elected from my point of view. So has there been change? No. Haven’t seen it.
In fact last time I heard, politicians were saying No Money. They want to cut everything in CT.

I mean don’t get me started. I’m really disgusted with my state right now.

August 28th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Plus, you would have to have courageous people like Deb Simpson willing to step up to the plate. That’s where it really starts happening. Isn’t it? and, thank you.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to mui1 @ 79

True Farm Workers are exempt from overtime laws trying to get by on that pay with no cash in reserve if you decide to quit can be scary. People need to make enough to save money I feel or they are hostage to what ever the boss wants.
Getting wages up for the poorest workers has to be a priority we can’t expect courage when people are desperate.

August 28th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Farm workers are not the only employees who live and work outside the overtime rules. Trust me on that.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

thank you for mentioning farmworkers. Want a truly inspiring story of dignity and diligence?? Check out the Coalition of Immokolee Workers in Florida. Some tomatoes workers their have been trapped in modern-day slavery (a few cases effectively prosecuted). But the Immokolee workers have won amazing victories against some of the biggest food corporations in the land.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Frances, you had a great example in the book of Wisconsin dairy farmers banding together to form a dairy co-op to combat being taken over or put out of business by larger factory farms. I thought it was a great example of how someone who might be in a weaker stance all by themselves could band together with others to become such a strong force together. Could you talk a bit about the Wisconsin example for the folks here?

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Dear Frances: Excited to see you here. I first learned of you when I was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and some of my friends helped with the Diet for a Small Planet book.

Right now there is a push by the seafood industry to push Gulf Seafood. The White House has gotten behind this. It is seen as some way that the public can help the fishermen hurt by the oil spill. But Dr. Gina Solomom, the senior scientist of the NRDC, has pointed out to the FDA that the seafood testing doesn’t include testing for Corexit, heavy metals and doesn’t take into account the body weight of children.
The letter to the FDA demanding they make changes in the protocol have been ignored. I’ve been rolling around the web pushing this issue.

One of the problems that I’ve found is that some of the scientist who are concerned and could push for stronger measures aren’t being heard. Part of the reason is that they aren’t willing to go on attack. I’ve been trying to help but in the mean time shrimp season has been opened and in 5-10 years we will see the results of the need to please the commerce food industry instead of protecting the people.

Kirk Murphy August 28th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Frances, thank you for being at the Lake today and for your life’s work! Christy, thanks for taking time away from the Peanut to host!

Frances, I love what you and the folks at CAI are doing to wean kids off junk food – it really does kill.

Andrew Weil and others have publicized the research demonstrating that the less broadcast news/info we consume, the healthier we are. Today’s Volksrally on the Mall and the cable/radio feedback loops that nourish it and the growing rage/hate/fear we see there make me very concenred that at least some media are killing off our civil society.

Forgive if this is covered in your book – I’m looking forward to reading it – but I am wondering if you have any thoughts about tactics or strategies that may contend with the hate radio/cable media’s sustained assault on our civil society. Over the last months, the implcit threat of civil war on behalf of corporatism and the white populist rage the megacorps create and nurture seems to be growing.

(and thanks to Bev for making today’s Book Salon happen!)

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Sounds like a Diary :)

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Yes! Thank you. It is the Organic Valley Dairy Cooperative that you are referring to. And for me, it is a GREAT reminder that “it’s not possible to know what’s possible–which is kinda my mantra. When I met the founders in 1988 in rural Wisconsin, I was touched by their vision of saving their farmers through common effort. BUT I never would have predicted that 20 years later the coop would have half a billion sales and farmer members all across the country.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

On Ct & clean elections. Here’s a differing point of view from mine. Can’t say I’m as thrilled as the author is about Dan Malloy as a “model of clean elections.” In fact, I could laugh & cry all at the same time at that one.

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to spocko @ 91

And that is so tough in view of the folks who make a living. I heard quite clearly today that the young/babies fish/oysters etc. of course have not been tested. What they may bring….

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to kirk murphy @ 92

Andrew Weil and others have publicized the research demonstrating that the less broadcast news/info we consume, the healthier we are.

Link this sounds very interesting another Diary maybe? How can we have Clarity if we listen to propaganda? Healthy bodies make healthy minds I think your comment proves this true.

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Frances, Do you know the names of groups or sites that are doing effective work/education on the immigration issue?

wmd1961 August 28th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

And honored by Bloomberg Businessweek. What do you think about B Corporations? Companies with charters and bylaws that make them have fiduciary responsibility not just to maximize shareholder return, but to consider social impact? Vermont and Maryland have passed legislation enabling them, is that something to be encouraged elsewhere?

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Organic Valley? Really? I see some of their products in our stores. Nice to know one can feel “virtuous” buying them. I’ll keep an eye out next time I’m shopping.

It’s hard to know what/who to put one’s food dollar trust into; since so many giant ag businesses bought out formerly small organic companies, I look at brands like Cascadian Farms with a jaundiced eye. Of course, being quite broke most of the time means I cook from scratch and buy as little processed food as possible. Although in 100+ degree weather, I haven’t baked anything for awhile, so have actually bought some store-made muffins and things. I think they’re made locally, but never sure unless it’s made right in the store, as some are.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Frances, you talked about how cooperation stimulates the same place in the brain that chocolate does (through MRI testing you reported). I thought that was just fascinating. You’d think that would stimulate us all to cooporate more often.

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to RevBev @ 96

What I know from research and reading is that the fishermen themselves WANT comprehensive testing. They know that if people get sick they will be held accountable (did you know that on the docks they make the shrimpers sign a document that THEY will be held liable if the shrimp makes someone sick?) Nice buck passing from BP to the shrimpers.

One of the issues is that some of the illnesses won’t happen instantly.
In a couple of posts I’ve written recently I point out that 5,000 people die each year from food-related illnesses (CDC) and that only the children of famous powerful people getting sick or dying will make any change.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to RevBev @ 96

The fishermen are screwed Red Lobster if you ask swears they get no shrimp from the Gulf I bet every high end place to do the same not that I trust them. Its the low income consumers who will buy cheap shrimp no mention its from the Gulf.
Shrimp should be a high price item how many fishermen can make a living if its bargain basement on sale.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I completely agree with your emphasis on the degradation of public speech. I believe we need to have much stronger penalties for lying. Now there are really none. I am hoping that the League of Women Voters, the National Civic League, and others will seize on this and reach out to reasonable conservatives to create new media watchdogs that can highlight the lies. In the book I tell a story about myself where I failed in a public meeting, to protest a lie, to stand up (didn’t think of it at the time) when all of the audience had instructed to be silent. Personally, I am trying to build my “courage muscle” so that I can respectfully call out distortion, even when it is uncomfortable.

August 28th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

This is all so overwhelming. It’s hard to keep the mind focused on Campaign Finance with the current news of the Citizens United decision. There is so much “cozy…on our dime”, as Christy said in the intro. If we are lucky and blessed, we can focus on one issue, politically, and run (clean) with that. We can speak face to face to friends and neighbors, and work for a singular cause. Running around b’gawking like chickens doesn’t seem to be effective.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

How can we convince American Business that America was never more rich than when its workers their customers were making the most money? If we can convince them and the WH of that we win.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Whoa! Must get this book. Frances, you always seem to be ahead of the curve. Did you anticipate the impact your original “DfaSP” would have?

Somewhere recently I heard a lovely piece on how humans cooperate well, and that may actually be what sets us apart from animals (but then there are ants, and bees; still). The speaker watched a group break down a church hall set up for a lecture and workgroups and re-arrange it into a dining hall in 15 minutes, almost without a word among the workers. He pointed out that no animals do anything like it. It was good to hear something optimistic about my species for once. Often I despair of it.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I’m sure your right. But how do you work this in this kind of AZ state Papers please environment?

Hugh August 28th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I came late. I admit that I belong to the cynical school. I see 1% in this country owning 1/3 of it and the upper 10% owning 2/3 of it, a Congress with zero progressives in it, i.e. fight and vote for progressive issues, a corporate President and Administration that is dedicated to expanding the worst aspects of the Bush and Clinton years, and a financial class that is busily creating conditions for the next financial collapse. And don’t even get me started on overpopulation, global warming, and peak energy. I think it is important to do what we can and act as gracefully as possible about it, but I can’t help getting the feeling that we are all passengers on the Titanic.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Very good question.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Hugh @ 109

Are you cynical, or merely realistic?

AitchD August 28th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to kirk murphy @ 92

Andrew Weil and others have publicized the research demonstrating that the less broadcast news/info we consume, the healthier we are.

I see Frances’s response (I fanned & faved her in 1972) to this @ 104, but I wonder: How can this very important information get wide circulation?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Yes…seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? If Americans are getting poorer, who will buy the products? But i don’t think the challenge is to convince business. I believe that by virtue of their context, large corporations will see their interests in protecting the rules that continue to all wealth to concentrate. (Witness the Koch brothers funding the Republicans today–see New Yorker expose getting a lot of play.)
THE challenge from my point of view is enabling Americans to see that IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. There is a democratic pathway that is neither monopoly capitalism NOR statism It is a truly democratic economy. We can work to develop the stories (like Organic Valley) and the new language so there Americans can see a viable alternative.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Good question but where I was working everyone was legal and except for me White. What I describe is how bad it is for White legal Farm Workers Immigrants thats much worse.
Still the Racist GOP will treat everyone even Whites like serfs and the Racist workers only some of my co workers might have been racists won’t stand up for themselves.
Fear or do they identify with the Master’s self interest above their own? Can’t say but it gives me material to laugh at the Racist workers.:)

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to mui1 @ 111

Sometimes, it is awfully tough to tell the difference, isn’t it?

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Well what you say about business is the same problem some of us have with reaching out to the other side on issues like torture and Guantanamo Bay. We might as well be trying to reason with Chile’s Pinochet about the value of habeas corpus.

wmd1961 August 28th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Do you see B corporations as a vehicle for this?

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Not always.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Ok so maybe we organize boycotts of the worse GOP corporations like the Koch brothers, Target, Wallmart etc and try to encourage fair trade when ever we can?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

about Diet for a Small Planet..and human cooperation.
NO… I NEVER imagined the response to Diet for a Small Planet. After 39 years it still sells more than my books since!!! My Dad is the only one who predicted it, bless his heart.
Yes, I agree with you that cooperation is what defines us as human beings. You’ll love the book WHY WE COOPERATE. I believe the name is Tomasello. Google him and read about his research. His theme is that it is our capacity for “share intentionality” that truly marks our species. The fact that we can plot and scheme together and go do it. His research on toddlers is so cool–how they spontaneously come to others’ aid.

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

In 2006 I started alerting advertisers of the violent rhetoric of the right wing media in SF. Specifically K S F O. Big names pulled their ads. The Station had my blog shut down with a bogus copyright C&D letter to my blog host. I fought back. Replicated the clips around the globe and cost them more advertisers. The action cost them 32 advertisers and millions in revenue. I taught the techniques to others who used it on Michael Savage (18 advertisers and 1 million) and Glenn Beck (81 advertiser). We focus on the choice of the advertisers to not associate their brand with violent rhetoric.
This financial pressure in SF lead to two K S F O hosts being terminated because they weren’t making enough money. Savage got kick off his station (sadly to come back elsewhere).

A future link that I’m working on making is that if there is violence at a Glenn Beck event that is promoted by Fox that the Network’s insurance carrier will be held liable. There is a difference between a business sponsored event and a free speech event. This linking to financial consequences will not be about stopping freedom of assembly or free speech but about requiring corporations that organizes an event to pay for any property or personal injury. This is the standard in most places for business events, it needs to be applied to Fox the corporation that is the main promoter and sponsor of these events.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Huh. I’ve read a lot about employees siding with employers even in blatantly unfair situations. It’s age old. Sorta like the Butler & the Master. Dracula and Renfield . . .

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

The writer of the Koch piece was on NPR yesterday. You can probably get it online….horrifying.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

In this economy no CEO can afford even a 1% sales decline because the CEO does something stupid, Target and Whole Foods are examples of this. Spocko probably has the latest on the Glen beck advertiser boycott maybe we need to start counting our wins and create a new meme for the business media namely act Good or lose money.

ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to mui1 @ 122

I agree but in this economy I think its getting worse.

nonquixote August 28th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Dear Frances

Thank you so much for your work, your perspectives and insights and for being here. This is a bit of a hectic format for a conversation, but we do really appreciate your time with us.

Thanks Christy, for putting this together. I am awaiting delivery of your latest book and looking forward to reading it.

Please say what you might wish to say about your new book, if I am not too late with this comment.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I am pleased to see Jane Mayer’s article on the Koch brothers getting wide dissemination. Of course, I suspect the Tea Party people who are so sure they are a pure grass-roots organization aren’t going to read it or hear about it, and if they did, they would simply dismiss it as coming from those evil “progressives.”

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to RevBev @ 123

From Fresh Air.

GROSS: Thus your article is headlined “Covert Operations.” Any idea why they’re so covert?

Ms. MAYER: Well, I think that, you know, again, I’m going on the interviews that I did with people who worked with them to get some insight. And one of them told me something I thought was interesting, which was that they prize their privacy and remember again, this is a privately owned company partly because they want to avoid the scrutiny of possible congressional investigations into their activities.

They don’t want controversy to be associated with the brands they sell. It might get in the way of their business. And so they don’t want people to think when they’re picking up Brawny paper towels that, hey, this money is going into attacking Obama because, you know, they don’t want that kind of controversy.

They’d rather hide behind groups that do their work for them.
I have a quote from someone who says they use rednecks to do their dirty work for them. And that was someone who worked for them who said that.

mui1 August 28th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

& I do believe there are some who will never ditch white prerogatives to cooperate. They have to be dragged to the table by someone like LBJ kicking and screaming. And that’s not cooperation. It’s laying down the law.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

About the B corporation.
Really important breakthrough — the rewriting of corporate charters to specifically broaden how they define success.
However, one of the myths that hit me a few years ago is the notion that corporations legally HAVE TO behave in narrow, immediate self-interest. When I looked at corporate charters in many states, I realized that boards are just required to act in the interests of the corporations. So, since socially responsible behavior overtime produces better financial results, on average, then boards should feel obliged to act with this in mind–whether they are a B corporation or not,

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Frances, could you talk a bit about the CA campus group, Education for Sustainable Living, and how it is helping to train young people who participate how to be leaders who listen AND act. I thought it sounded like a fascinating program.

oldgold August 28th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Here is link to Mayer’s article in the New Yorker.


ThingsComeUndone August 28th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to mui1 @ 129

Thats why I voted Obama but I was mistaken

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to spocko @ 128

Thanks…just a start, huh?

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Interesting. Apparently several of the universities here in San Antonio are having incoming freshmen all read a book on a sustainability theme. Different books at different schools, but a similar theme.

An idea whose time has come, at last?

Recession helps clarify the necessity for many, I think.

wmd1961 August 28th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for responding. It is chaotic sometimes in these Book Salons. I’m not sure how much it is a myth that corporations have to maximize shareholder return, given shareholder lawsuits based on director’s actions contrary to short term returns. Having charters and bylaws that recognize alternative metrics is indeed something of a breakthrough.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Folks, let’s try to stay on the topic of Frances’ book, please, and take any off-topic comments to the prior thread, please. Thanks — we try to keep book salons about the books themselves.

PLovering August 28th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Les Leopold in “Looting of America” puts the question:

Does the government work for us, or will we be working for the Central Bankers?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I’m really impressed with the actions of “Spocko” in San Francisco. Have you written up your strategy and its outcomes? Were you doing this on your own or part of a group? It sounds like a great example of the backbone we all need to find.
Often we hear people talk about how human beings have to be “better”–kinder, more generous and so on. But I feel that in fact the vast majority of us are plenty good enough. Our problem–because we evolved to be so deeply socially embedded–is to stand up and stand out. I talk a lot in Getting a Grip2 and (and the earlier book about fear, You Have the Power) about how we can together become more courageous.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Spocko has had some real success. It’s been impressive to watch.

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Beck has now lost 100 advertisers. I called Murdock during the Q3 conference call and asked how long was he going to keep subsidizing Beck and when will he start making the money he should based on his ratings.
Rupert and Me: I question the NewsCorp CEO about Subsidizing Glenn Beck

Murdock denied that he was being subsidized. This is one of the ways that big media can push their agenda. They do not legally have to break out how much money they are losing on Beck if overall the top line number at Fox is positive and within analyst’s expectations.

Now, I tried to get the shareholdes, analysts or the media to follow up on my Murdock question but other than Keith Ollberman and the LA Times they didn’t. The follow up should have been. “As shareholders if you aren’t going to make money on Beck, why is he there? Please show us his ROI to NewsCorp.” When you force Businesses to actually do what they say they are all about ‘increasing shareholder value” and they don’t, you should be able to tell them to knock it off. Corporations say that they have no obligations except to shareholder value, yet if they even don’t do that, then there is some other value that they have that is different.

We can use various financial methods to have an impact on these media corporations. I’m not surprised more people don’t do it, it’s scary especially when you are at the other end of the media focus. But when it works, it works.

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I like that idea. As a basically shy person, it takes a lot out of me to “stand out” in a “live” setting (as in, with live people, in contrast to a virtual one, like here. I’m a lot braver “typing” out than “speaking”out in person). Think I’ll have to look for “You have the Power,” too.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Frances, another group that I found incredibly inspirational was the one which started the “Zero Hunger” campaign in Brazil. It was very much the same sort of simple “see a need, fill a need” idea that always seem to work so well.

Has that idea been replicated anywhere else? Can you talk a bit about it?

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

thank you, Christy, for asking about the Education for Sustainable Living Program. Its founder is about to visit me so she’ll be tickled. It is a student initiated course AND student run that covers not only the science and theory of ecological alignment but involves students in working with the administration in greening campus life. It spread from Santa Cruz to other UC campuses in recent years. The founders told me the key to their amazing success is that from the very, very beginning the young organizers trained themselves in group process — listening, taking mutual responsibility and avoiding blame, and surfacing conflict instead of burying it. These are skills, just like other skills, that people can LEARN. This realization has changed their lives.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I also loved the action students took to support “Fair Trade” coffee on college campuses, too — that was clever and effective, and hit college students in their sweet spot. Well done, targeted action.

RevBev August 28th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Frances, Thank you for coming and spending time with us. I had told CHS that I saw you and your daughter when you spoke at a dinner (fund raising) one evening Austin. You are remembered with such pleasure and interest….I think you 2 set the bar for the group!! Thank you for your work.

metamars August 28th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I really like the idea – and successes – of the Clean Election Laws. I also like your enthusiasm and positive vibe. However, I’m doubtful that we could get similar Clean Election laws passed at the federal level, anytime soon. It’s my belief that the system is too far gone for such an approach to work. Note the disgusting way that Dodd is behaving with respect to finreg, but there’s no outcry from lots of other Congressional Dems. Are these the sorts of people who are going to write and approve laws which would spell the end of plutocracy?

However, what could work, in the ‘near’ term (say over the next 8 years) to reform democracy, is for citizens to form voting blocs which decide between themselves what policies they would embrace, which candidates they will support, and which compromises they must make with other voting blocs so that they can win at the ballot box, even without huge wads of cash.

Please see The Only Way Around All That Money, posted here, at FDL.

Also, Nancy Bordier and I had discussions of vote bloc technology at OpenLeft.com. Finally, see also my diary, here at FDL :Gaming competing ‘FireDogLake Voting Blocs’ scenarios – getting Unity out of Diversity

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Yes, yes, the ZERO HUNGER effort in Brazil has so many lessons. When my daughter Anna and I visited Belo Horizonte (4th biggest city there) in 2000, the city had just declared food a human right a few years earlier. That shift in frame fostered all sorts of collaborative efforts among citizens, business, schools, farmers, etc. Not through food hand-outs but by what I call keeping the market honest and open even to those without a lot of money–the city cut the under-5 death rate by 60% in 10 years. You can read about it on our website. The city won an award via THE WORLD FUTURE COUNCIL, of which I’m a member. worldfuturecouncil.org. Can read story there too.Now from Belo Horizonte it is spreading through Brazil.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Folks, if you haven’t checked out the Small Planet Institute that Frances and her daughter Anna work with, you really should: some fascinating work on climate change, food and hunger issues, poverty and a world of other great issues.

Frances, feel free to use this as an opportunity to talk a bit about the issues you and Anna are working on there.

nonquixote August 28th, 2010 at 3:51 pm


I volunteered for a small town commissioner position that I am at the end of my twelfth year with, simply being reappointed by the town supervisor to successive three year terms. We run a municipal public service, have taken the operation off the property tax roles, and turned it into a net income producer for our town. I think there are many non-paid, important government positions like this waiting for people with ideas and concern that are going begging for participants.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

About Clean Elections at federal level.
First, the vast majority of Americans support the approach.
The bills have bi-partisan support–at least some. About 140 cosponsors in the House. What’s sad to me is that when most media commentators lament the power of money in our public decision making, they fail to even mention the FAIR ELECTIONS NOW ACT or what has happened at the state level. Besides the 3 states we’ve mentioned, a total of 16 have some races that are publicly funded and have passed the test of time.
Youstreet.org; ChangeCongressfirst.org and Publicampaign.org strong sources of info and inspiration.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Before we finish the chat today, I want to take a moment to thank Frances for being here to chat with all of us. Her work has been an inspiration for me for a long time — especially because she took on an issue dealing with poverty and hunger in such an effective way, because those are both issues near and dear to my heart, too.

Thank you so much for being here, Frances, and for all of your valuable work on Getting a Grip 2 and every book before and those to come. It’s been wonderful having you here.

spocko August 28th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Thanks. I started this on my own and when I got targeted by Disney and ABC I got help from the blogoshere (FDL, Mike Stark and Daily Kos) as well as a free legal advise from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I helped the group “HateHurtsAmerica” with it’s Savage Campaign (They got sued by Savage and were also defended by EFF. They beat Savage since they followed all my advice about fair use and their messages.)

I’ve wanted to talk about my work and methods but my panel session on the topic was rejected at Netroots Nation. I’ve approached some other groups both to help them and to be financially helped by them. I have not been successful (biased against Vulcans!? Is it my ears?)

And now I sound like Wendy Whiner. But the reality is that because of people like the Scaifes and the Koche brothers, there are places for people who fight the left long term, but on the left they expect us to volunteer or to pay them. I’ve had to pull back on my actions and go back to looking for corporate work.

This makes me sad. I’ve media trained some of the biggest names in the high tech industry and helped create narratives and campaigns for big consumer companies, but when I approached some leftwing groups it was, “We’ll get back to ya.” and “Who do you know on The Hill?”
Oops I’m whining again. Sorry it’s unseemly. But I have real world and blog world chops, but they just aren’t getting used because I can’t keep counting on my lovely wife for support.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Well, the clock is ticking to 6…
–see Anna’s letter to the editor in the NYT today!
And read her book DIET FOR A HOT PLANET!
–i’m finishing a new book: EcoMind–Seven Thought-Leaps for the Planet. it is about reframing the env. crisis.

BevW August 28th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Frances, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and democracy.

Christy, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information,
Frances’ website
Christy’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great weekend.

Christy Hardin Smith August 28th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Thanks so much for being here with us today. It’s been wonderful chatting with you.

Frances Moore Lappe August 28th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I have really enjoyed this IMMENSELY. You all are challenging and inspiring. So glad to know about this site and all the thoughtful, passionate people who show up to help each other. ONWARD!

tejanarusa August 28th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Adding my thanks, too, to Frances and BevW and Christy (whose passionate but rational, calming voice is much missed) for a wonderful Book Salon. It’s been a thrill to “speak” with one of my heroes. Your website is bookmarked, now, too.

Nancy Bordier August 28th, 2010 at 6:15 pm
In response to metamars @ 147

I read Diet for A Small Planet decades ago so I am really happy to see Frances Moore Lappe keeping up the good fight, along with her daughter.

I think you are correct, Frances, that voters have the power to do whatever they want if they work together as they did in Maine.

But I also agree with Metamars that our democratic processes have been severely compromised by corporate special interests and that we voters have to band together to restore our sovereignty.

As he and I have been discussing for more than a year, and as Joe Firestone and I wrote recently here on FireDogLake, we need to take swift corrective action to prevent the total collapse of democracy.

In our diary, Preventing the Collapse of Democracy, we describe a breakthrough web application that empowers grassroots voters to build voting blocs that can get control of Congressional election districts and elect representatives untainted by special interest money and influence.

It’s just as Frances points out, if Maine voters can band together and pass Clean Election laws to oust special interests, so can voters in the rest of the 50 states.

In the case of the web application we describe, it empowers voters to build and run voting blocs that become the driving force in elections even without Clean Election laws and elect representatives who honor the will of the people instead of special interests.

bobschacht August 28th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

During the discussion here, questions about the Arizona public funding of elections came up. One of the interesting things about this case, IIRC, is that the current Governor wanted to use the public funding law to finance her campaign, and one of her millionaire primary opponents wanted Arizona’s public funding law to be ruled unconstitutional. So this is a law that even Arizona’s conservative Governor supports.

The current status of the lawsuits is summarized here.

Bob in AZ

egregious September 4th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Thank you for this wonderful salon!

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