Sunday, September 30, 2007

Getting a Grip on My Mom's New Book

Don't be the last on your block to get a copy of my mom's new book: Getting a Grip. Here is my favorite review so far from Booklist. (Carol: Don't know ya, but love your take on the book!)

From Booklist: "The indefatigable Lappe turns her finely tuned sense of outrage and her deeply honed sense of conviction to the unending and seemingly unmanageable problems confronting the world and focuses her clarion vision on solutions that may begin with just one person but that can end with an entire culture becoming more informed, more caring, more responsible. If we, as individuals, do not willingly choose to live defeated by poverty, debilitated by disease, demoralized by racism, she posits, then why should these abhorrent conditions not only exist but proliferate, especially in a democratic society? Displaying her usual laserlike logic, Lappe distills her arguments to their most basic level, a tactic that allows her crystalline assessments to virtually leap off the page. Parsing the notion of democracy, Lappe examines its successes and failures, offering creative and innovative methods for turning egregious areas of weakness into exhilarating beacons of strength. Progressing from confronting fear to seizing power, Lappe's treatise on humanity's potential for growth is a comforting source of inspiration. "by Carol Haggas

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall Whose the Most Organic of Them All? Origins Launches an Organic Line

I was invited to speak this afternoon to Origins employees today as part of a series of events in the run-up to the company’s launch of their new organic line. I was so was impressed with the team’s dedication -- as well as their stellar ice cream sundae making skills. The products are hitting shelves in the next few weeks, but it’s taken years to get the line off the ground. A big challenge, they explained, has been the sourcing with zippo of some ingredients in the organic category. Glycerin, a common makeup ingredient, wasn’t available organically, for instance, so they had to get suppliers to shift to organic. Reading the ingredients list of these new products, I was pleased to notice that my brow wasn’t furrowing in worry.

Despite the team’s dedication to the environment and our health, the organic products at Origins, at least for now, will only make up only 6 percent of their total line. And Origin’s parent company, Estée Lauder, refuses to join the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, which has been signed by more than 600 companies and expresses a commitment to improving the environmental and health safety of cosmetics. (I think it’s ironic that Estee Lauder won’t sign this, but they have been getting big PR for their anti-breast cancer campaigns, while they sell products that include ingredients that may cause this.)

As we ate delicious ice cream sundaes (organic, of course) today, I shared the dream that one day we’ll look back on this time as the dark ages, when we humans did the unthinkable: Spread across our faces, in our hair, and on our bodies products with some ingredients that are untested for safety or are probable cancer-causers, hormone disruptors, and neurotoxins.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Celebrating Real Food on College Campuses

the farm at Yale University

Hanging out with students yesterday at Mt. Holyoke College, I got to thinking about how college campuses have played important roles in social change, particularly in corporate campaigns. When it comes to how college students have been able to shift corporate behavior, part of the reason comes from this simple fact: Most of the time, we consumers are a disparate bunch. We are millions large, but we don’t always see our connectedness. We’re hard to organize.

On the other hand, the industries selling to us – whether it’s yo-yos or yurts – tend to be pretty concentrated and resourced. With college campuses, the consumer-seller relationship gets flipped. As tuition paying members of the community, students can make a strong case for why they should have a say in how universities spend their money -- how they shop, in other words.

Using this powerful position, the student anti-sweatshop movement, for instance, has made a big splash. The student fair-trade movement has similarly had a huge impact. Entering the scene in force just a couple of years ago, the student movement for fair and local food on campuses and for launching college-based farms is taking off across the country. It feels like every day I hear about a new success story, a new effort blooming on a campus.

[News flash: As I write this, I just got the news that friends at Grow Montana, one of these awesome new initiatives, have just been honored by the Glynwood Center for their work in their home state].

The motivation for this work is manifold. In part, students are fired up about health and the food we eat: As one of Yale’s Sustainable Food Project put it: “Students shouldn’t be reading The Jungle in English 101 and then eating it for lunch.” Another motivating force is the desire to strengthen local economies and to keep small-scale farmers farming. And another inspiration is that students, like the ones I met at Mt. Holyoke tonight, who want to get in touch with how their food is grown and share fresh food with friends and family and colleagues.

Gathering for the first time next month, students from Northeast campuses are hosting the first ever, Real Food Summit, to share successes and strategies and to continue to build the movement. May the event be a huge success!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

... and speaking of dirt ...

Met these folks at the Mt. Holyoke event. Check out their cool work.

Have You Eaten Your Dirt Lately?

Have you you ever eaten dirt? It may not sound as strange to some of you as it does to others. Some of you may even know that cultures across the planet have been eatin' dirt throughout the ages. It's even got a name and various theories about why it may be good for you (as well as controversy about why it may not be the best idea).

I had a chance to talk dirt with Deborah Koons Garcia today over a non-dirt meal of organic salad greens, watercress, roasted pumpkin seeds, shredded beets, and nutritional yeast, at Kripalu where we both were speaking as part of the retreat center's first ever Conscious Kitchens. Following her fantastic -- and ever-more important doc, The Future of Food -- Deborah's turning her filmmaker's eye to... d-i-r-t, or soil, to be exact. She's traipsing the planet interviewing people about the substance that gives us our food. Should be fascinating. I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pictures from China

a farmer in a Heifer project village in Anhui Province

Please check out my pictures from our trip to China here at my FLICKR account: I learned so much and feel a renewed understanding of the transformational power of Heifer International.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Outsourcing Our Pollution

factories along the yangtze

Had a long flight home, made about 36 hours longer than expected because of a missing part on our first plane. I don't think any of us particularly wanted to risk a 13-hour non-stop flight with all the pieces of the plane not accounted for, so we headed back to Beijing for a long night's wait until we finally got out the next day.

I ended up hanging out with the gaggle of businessmen, from a garage-door parts salesman to a baby shoe manufacturer. We talked about outsourcing to China, the 'Wal-Mart effect' of the downward pressure on prices, and the growing environmental nightmare that is China's water, air, and land.

As we lifted off from Beijing's international airport the next afternoon, I could barely see the city through the pollution below and it was so visually clear: We're not just outsourcing our jobs to this country, we're outsourcing our pollution.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Greetings from China

I'm sitting in a hotel in Anhui Province, about midway between Beijing and Shanghai, where even this very basic hotel has a super fast ethernet connection. As I type, I can hear the honking of cars, buses, pedicabs, and bikes as they pass each other on the road outside my window.
I'm here to learn about the sustainable development projects that Heifer International has been developing. I'll post here some more reflections on the trip, but after a 12+ hour-day, I'll just post some pictures.
view driving into beijing... the haze is the air pollution that has made china one of the world's worst greenhouse gas emitters and means that only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union, according to this NYT article.

The bee hives of one of the farmers in the Miyun Province (a few hours outside of Beijing) who have benefitted from Heifer support to purchase what they've need to transition from sheep raising to bee keeping. (A few years ago the government decreed that farmers could no longer use the mountains in this region for grazing or farming; the erosion had caused a series of the worst sand storms in the history of Beijing. A decision which may certainly have helped the environment, but that cost many farmers their livelihood overnight.)
The bee keeper and his 86 year-old mother who graciously invited us into their home.
Later that day, we head out to hike the Si Ma Tai portion of the Great Wall. Though it's only an hour or so from his home by car, he's never been--it would be too expensive. As we're leaving the parking lot, I turn back for one last glimpse of the Wall and see in the foreground a bumblebee yellow H2 Hummer.
A typical meal. I've learned two phrases since arriving here: Thank You... and I'm Full.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Off to China...

I'm heading to China tomorrow with Heifer International. Will hopefully be blogging from there. In the meantime, check out Lhadon's amazing blog from Students for a Free Tibet.