World-renowned author Frances Moore Lappé has spent her life trying to answer the question:
“Why, together, are we creating a world that not one of us as individuals would choose?”
The reason, she told NCC students in her talk on Nov. 18 in the Main campus’s David A. Reed Community Room, is something she calls the “scarcity mind,” or the paralyzing mindset that people are too selfish to make a difference, nothing will ever change, and there are not enough resources to go around.
“We are stuck inside a failing mental map: a lack of goods and goodness,” which blinds us to the possibility of change, she said.
Consequently, “…we don’t feel powerful to manifest the solutions that we know.”
Lappé said that the scarcity mindset creates systems proven to bring out the worst in people by violating the human needs of connection, meaning and power.
Those systems are characterized by concentrated power, lack of transparency and blaming “the other.”
“The good news,” Lappé said, “is that we are learning also about the human mind that we each have the capacity to change our mental map.”
Instead of falling prey to the “scarcity mind,” Lappé encouraged students to develop a mindset that embraces connection with others, continuous change and working with the resources we have.
Systems formed by the empowered mindset are characterized by dispersion of power, transparency and mutual accountability.
Lappé hopes to inspire people to incorporate those elements into their everyday lives and engage in “living democracy.”
Encouraging others to work with their community and government to effect change is the purpose of the Small Planet Institute she co-founded with her daughter, Anna.
“Living democracy is not what we have, it’s what we do,” she said.
For example, a community-wide effort in Belo Horizonte, Brazil led to a government initiative called “Zero Hunger Brazil,” that reduced child mortality by 73 percent in twelve years.
Lappé was very impressed by the efforts of NCC students with the Ban the Bottle campaign and the community garden.
“This is the first school I’ve visited that has really taken it to the extent that you all have, and so I’m going to be telling your story,” she said.
Her passion is solving hunger and environmental issues, but she urged students to “find the questions you need to ask as a human being. Follow your questions.”
Although she got a “D” on her first paper in college, she wrote a pamphlet that was sent to a publisher by a friend and ended up selling more than 3 million copies.
That book, called “Diet for a Small Plant”, had an impact on one member of the audience, who said it “changed my health, it changed my mind, and it changed my life.”
Lappé urged the audience to take charge of courage by finding and sharing stories of success and possibilities and surrounding themselves with good peers.
Ultimately, she said, we need to be open to seeing possibilities and finding solutions.
“It’s not possible to know what’s possible. So we are free. Free to go for the world we want.”