Clear...your mind of old perspectives,
and new perceptions will rush in.
Yet, there is nothing we fear more.
-- DEE HOCK, Birth of the Chaordic Age
You can still buy tie-dyed T-shirts on Telegraph Avenue, and "Question Authority" bumper stickers may forever be in vogue here, but I discovered that something about my old Berkeley haunts had changed.
It's late afternoon before Anna and I can steal some time from our packed research trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to try to find the Giannini Foundation agricultural library, where I spent so many late nights sorting through facts and figures thirty years ago. For an hour we wander rolling green lawns and dimly lit hallways of the U.C. Berkeley campus trying to find the library.
"I guess they moved things," I finally conclude, disappointed that I can't show my daughter exactly where I'd sat. As we head toward the door, the headline of a single newspaper clipping pinned to a bulletin board catches Anna's eye.
"Look, Mom," she says, "'World Demand for Food Expected to Outstrip Production.'" For a second I think she's joking, ad-libbing a headline from the 1970s. Then I spot the dateline: San Francisco Chronicle, November 7, 1999.
Anna and I laugh in horror that even with all we know now, the same myths that spurred me on thirty years ago are being perpetuated. People are still being made to believe that hunger is simply the result of too little food. But that headline served a purpose. It felt like a lightning bolt sent from the heavens with one message: You have to write this book!
In that instant I was brought home again, home to the intuition that launched my adult life-that food is a powerful teacher, an unparalleled motivator. What's scarier, after all, than not knowing if what you feed your family is hurting them? And what's scarier than not knowing whether you can feed your family at all?
Nothing is more personal than food. Yet, in this increasingly globalized world, food is becoming frighteningly impersonal, further and further removed from something we feel we control. I think of the first big consumer scare with genetically modified foods, in the year 2000: the nationwide recall on taco shells with accidental traces of genetically modified Starlink corn not approved for human consumption. Just to pinpoint the error required private-detective-level sleuthing, tracking a chain of multinational companies across states and international borders!
Thirty years ago, my hunch was that food could be a great awakener-holding power like nothing else to open our eyes to what is amiss. But over three decades I'd also come to believe that food opens a path like no other to new possibilities, and I don't mean just new possibilities for feeding ourselves. I mean the whole enchilada-I mean that if we look at food, really look, our world can shift: We might just not only grasp for the first time the biggest ideas limiting our lives, but also discover for the first time whole new ways of seeing the world that release us from our march toward planetary destruction. That intuition sent me on this journey with Anna.
CREATING SCARCITY FROM PLENTY
I've said I wrote Diet for a Small Planet because I felt I had no choice. What I was learning was so shocking I had to share it.
It was 1969. I had dropped out of graduate school, opening the way for what became Diet, because I was scared. I was scared that I would arrive at the end of my life never knowing whether I had devoted my years on the planet to what mattered. Graduate school didn't appear to offer me the chance to find out. So, with my youthful passion in full bloom, I determined to dig to the roots of widespread suffering.
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