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The New Battle For Our Hearts
An excerpt from “Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet,"
by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

My children are acutely aware that the choices of human beings alive today are like none their forebears faced. Their choices–our choices–have ultimate consequences, not only for the thousands of species we’re destroying each year but for us, the dominant species, as well. What a terrifying thought. What an extraordinary opportunity. But to perceive crisis as opportunity requires clear perception: We must grasp the nature of the crisis and what each of us can do to address it.

That’s tough in any case, but it’s especially hard to see opportunity when we’re locked within a new ideological battle, one shaping our planet, one shaping our minds. The overt fight between capitalism and communism is over. But we’re caught in a subtler yet even more profound struggle, one played out in small ways day by day, moment to moment. It is a battle over defining who we are as human beings, one staking the very edges of possibility for our species.

The new battle is not waged with tanks or measured in nuclear stockpiles; it’s fought with ideas, the ideas that explain our world and determine what’s possible in it, ideas repeated so often they become our own internal voice.

In the face of the unprecedented ecological and social crisis, our organs of mass media rarely do more than reinforce the notion that global corporate capitalism is our only hope. They feed us messages that the only way to feed the world is with huge agribusinesses relying on massive infusions of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and on giant feedlots pumping cattle with tons of grain, hormones, and antibiotics. We seldom hear about the ways in which this highly concentrated factory-farming system is rapidly destroying the resources we need to ensure our long-term well-being. How often are we alerted to the fact that this system is a root cause of new threats to our health, ranging from heart disease to mad cow disease to the weakening of antibiotics’ protection?

Headlines blast us with seemingly disconnected events–about genetically modified foods, the World Trade Organization, food trade wars–but our hunger to know what all this really means is rarely satisfied. Such concepts as globalization, even persistent world hunger, remain abstractions for most of us, and understanding how all of this determines the quality of our lives and what we can each do about it–that’s even less clear.

If we do hear about people questioning the path we’re on, they’re often dismissed as hopeless Luddites or, as Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Thomas Friedman called anti-globalization demonstrators, “flat-earth advocates.” In the prestigious magazine The Economist, protestors against international financial and development institutions are reduced to mindless “rabble,” and mocked as “warriors in the struggle between the forces of global capital and something-or-other.”

In other words, the key media shaping our view of the world cannot see what Anna and I saw on our journey. They cannot envision anything beyond today’s world, in which multinational corporations, largely unaccountable private entities, wield more power than do elected governments. They cannot see what has been emerging in three decades: the innovations in creating communities that tap nature rather than squander it, and ensure community, not division. To take off where Diet for a Small Planet stopped, I knew I had to describe this invisible unfolding.

So this is the story of the something- or-other.

Most media cannot envision this emergence (and so give it less than a nod), partly because they have no language to describe it; they have no framing ideas to explain it. The media are as trapped as most of us are in the dominant ideas of our modern world, solidified in the last thirty years and reinforced daily by ever-more-concentrated media. These ideas have become “thought traps,” making us believe our only path is the one we’re on, blinding us to solutions already in bud and within the reach of each of us. The “thought traps” are literally life-stunting. Five Thought Traps Blocking Our Path The mental map that limits our imagination, helping to create the hunger, poverty, and environmental devastation all around us.

One: The Enemy Is Scarcity, Production Is Our Savior.
With the world’s population potentially doubling in fifty years, there aren’t enough food, jobs, land-or just about anything-to go around. We must keep single-mindedly focused on producing ever more, just to survive.

Two: Thank Our Selfish Genes.
We are selfish by nature. To survive as a species, we had to be selfcentered and competitive. While these traits aren’t always pretty, they drive the entrepreneurial spirit and the creativity that have gotten us this far. Who can argue with survival of the fittest?

Three: Let The Market Decide, Experts Preside.
Since we humans are so self-seeking, thank goodness we can turn to the impersonal law of the market. What the market can’t decide, we had best leave to the experts–the people who know what they’re doing–because only our technological genius keeps us one step ahead of scarcity.

Four: Solve By Dissection.
The world’s problems are so huge that our only fighting chance to solve them is by dissection. We must break down our mammoth global challenges and tackle them piece by piece, one by one.

Five: Welcome To The End Of History.
Communism, socialism, and fascism have failed. Human evolution has finally triumphed in the best system we can create: global corporate capitalism, in which everyone stands to benefit from the creativity and wealth it unleashes.

Together, these thought traps pack quite a punch–they are the unspoken assumptions driving our planet. Within their confines, it’s true, we have no choice but to continue to create a world so far out of touch with common sense, and with what our hearts desire, that we have to shield ourselves from it. These thought traps make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to express our true nature; to act on our need for effectiveness in the larger world and for connection with others beyond our immediate families.

Blocked from opportunities for effectiveness, creativity, and connection, most of us don’t shrivel up. No, human beings are more resourceful than that! We turn to ersatz versions as substitutes. And they’re easy to find, with over $600 billion being spent each year on showing us the way to them. Advertising tells us that if we can’t have real connection, we can at least have status through our possessions; some standing with our peers. Accumulation becomes the substitute for effectiveness and community. So the world we see today reflects not our true nature but in many ways a denial of ourselves. And that denial creates a world driven by fear–fear of expressing who we really are. For us, therefore, nothing is of greater urgency than re-examining the thought traps.

We must draw a new map to survive. It’s that simple.

Excerpted from the new bestseller “Hope’s Edge” by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe – on sale in all major bookstores. To learn more about the book and the authors, visit http://www.dietforasmallplanet.com