NYC GF: “Why are we together creating a world that as individuals we would never choose?”
When accomplished writer and activist Frances Moore Lappe took to the stage at our NYC Green Festival, she framed her discussion as a focal shift in the primary question she asks about the world.
At the beginning of her career, said Lappe, she asked herself the question, “Why hunger?,” and her pursuit of the answer resulted in her classic text: Diet for a Small Planet. Her question today is less specific, more holistic, and it is the quote that titles this post. It’s also the question that motivated her latest book, Eco-Mind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want. The opposite of an “eco-mind,” in Lappe’s lexicon, is a “scarcity mind,” and for the future of our planet we share — as individuals, and as a society — we need to shift our thinking, to move from scarcity-mind to eco-mind.
What characterizes a scarcity mind? Lappe defines the essence of scarcity-mind as three S’s: separateness, stasis, and scarcity. A focus on separateness can make us believe we are distanced, from one another, and from our natural world. A focus on stasis can convince us that our world has been “fixed,” not in the sense of “repaired,” but in the sense of “settled.” We think we’ve arrived at the way humans are meant to live, and we cannot change. A focus on scarcity can convince us that we don’t have enough goods or enough goodness in our world. If we’re not vigilant in amassing what we need for ourselves, we will run out — we won’t receive our share.
Scarcitiy mind tells us we are hitting the limits of the laws of nature. Eco-mind, Lappe says, shifts our thinking, and doesn’t view nature’s laws as hostile and limiting, but encourages us to align our living within the laws of nature — to the benefit of all of us. What characterizes an eco-mind? Lappe shifts here from the three S’s to their opposites, three C’s: connection, continual-change, and co-creation.
So, why are we together creating a world that as individuals we would never choose? Because too many of us remind trapped in scarcity-mind.
Lappe presented examples of her heroes who have moved into an eco-mind, to create a world that works for all. She shared warm appreciation for the 5,000 women who lead the Deccan Development Society. These leaders have revolutionized agriculture in rural India, working cooperatively to shift to organic food, pledging to shun GMOs, and pledging to pass on their knowledge and their heirloom seeds to future generations. Lappe recognized a state senator from Maine, Deb Simpson, who worked as a waitress until friends encouraged her to embrace her leadership skills. Shunning the corrupting influence of money in politics, Simpson ran a publicly financed campaign, won her race, and passed influential legislation, including path-breaking electronics life-cycle requirements for companies doing business in Maine. Finally, Lappe cited the eco-mind of Wangari Maathi, the Nobel Prize winning environmental activist from Kenya. Maathi’s mission to reforest Kenya began in the 1970s with seven trees. Critics said she couldn’t make change. The critics were wrong, Lappe counters. As of 2013, she says, the Greenbelt movement that Maathi began has planted a total of more than 12 billion trees.
And so, Lappe ends — as she began — with a question. Encouraging her audience to shift to an eco-mind, and take action for a brighter future, she asks: What are your seven trees?