January 5, 2022

Dear Elle

I was excited to share with you the new revised version of “Diet for a Small Planet” which influenced my thinking so many years ago about what we now refer to as climate change. The author Frances Lappe Moore had a major impact on my life in other ways as well, especially my life as a professor.

In the late 1980’s I lived in Syracuse, New York and was involved with a group of folks who were active in the Central American sanctuary movement. There was a revolution in Nicaragua and our government was supporting governments there that were oppressive to the people. A good friend, Harvey, who was the pastor of a church in downtown Syracuse led the movement of offering sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala. There were lots of conversations about Central America as well as news coverage.

Another friend, Pete (your father knows him) was active in a group “Witness for Peace.” According to their website, “Witness for Peace (WFP) is a politically independent, nationwide grassroots organization of people committed to nonviolence and led by faith and conscience. WFP’s mission is to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices that contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean. We stand with people seeking justice.” Pete’s work for WFP was to organize trips for a small group of folks to “witness” what was happening in places like Central America. The trips were two weeks in length and consisted of visiting the grassroots organizations and communities to see what was going on. Several of my friends had participated in one of these trips. So I decided to go…

It ended up to be a life changing experience for me. I was, since a small child, interested in social justice but actually meeting the Nicaraguan people, seeing their sense of community and faith, witnessing the poverty and impacts of our government’s policies really opened my eyes. The most impactful moment was in a medical clinic in the mountains near the border with Honduras. The director of the clinic was telling us about the conditions and the lack of medical supplies due to the US boycott on Nicaragua trade. I was as I had been during this trip weeping over the suffering that I had witnessed. So I asked the director, “What can I do to help your people?” He did not hesitate to answer. “Go back to your country and teach your people about their role in the world.” “YES!!!! I will.”

Well, when I returned home, I was not quite sure how I was going to fulfill that commitment I had made in the mountains that day. Then I had an idea: I would become a professor and teach about democracy and social justice. So I started a PhD program at Syracuse University. I majored in sociology, women’s studies and peace studies. I completed my degrees and got a job as a professor at Binghamton University. It was there that I could act on my commitment and my saying of “yes.”

OK. So what does this all have to do with Frances Lappe Moore, you may be asking! One of the courses I taught was HD400 Commitment and Social Responsibility! Perfect time to teach about democracy and social justice! Lappe Moore’s book “The Quickening of America” became the major text for that course. It was a mixture of theory about democracy and public life as well as the practical tools and skills needed to participate. I incorporated community service as a requirement. (You may experience this in your high school classes.) We attended community and city meetings. We had deep meaningful discussions about our personal and public role both locally and in the world.

I taught that course every semester I was at Binghamton University. Then at Tusculum and Lafayette Colleges, I have incorporated these ideas in my teaching. So I have been able through the work/ideas of Frances Lappe Moore to fulfill my commitment made long ago in the mountains of Nicaragua!

I hope you enjoy the revised edition of “Diet for a Small Planet.’


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