Lappé lauds Chico’s efforts

Frances Moore Lappé

Frances Moore Lappé

Courtesy Of Chico Performances

Frances Moore Lappé was just 26 years old when she issued the world a wake-up call, the 1971 book Diet for a Small Planet.

The bestseller about living lightly on Earth sold more than three million copies. Thirty-six years later, on Tuesday evening (Feb. 27), Lappé gave Chico a preview of her latest book—her 15th—Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life.

The book has been described as a “do-it-yourself manual” for reclaiming democracy for our use, “one workplace, one school, one market at a time.”

Speaking in Chico State University’s Laxson Auditorium as part of part of Chico Performances’ On The Creek Lecture Series, Lappé suggested that such local efforts have little to do with the “thin democracy” that exists on the national and state levels, where people power is weak in comparison with corporate power and wealth, but rather with the grass roots, the places where people live.

“Democracy is moving to, perhaps, the next step—the transition to democracy as a way of life,” she said.

Chico and its university, with their strong commitment to developing sustainable ways of living and working, are good examples of this movement to reclaim democracy. The only obstacles standing in our way are “our own feelings of powerlessness,” she said, but as more communities begin to focus on sustainability, a system of models can serve to banish the powerlessness that has overcome society.

“The courses you’re teaching are rippling out way beyond what you could imagine,” she told faculty members present at the lecture. “Spread your example to other campuses.”

Lappé argues that pointing the finger at “evil others,” like CEOs and George W. Bush, may be convenient and satisfactory, but it is ineffective—"an attribution error.”

The lenses through which we see reality are mental maps, and they must be life serving. The problem is that society’s mental maps are fundamentally life destroying, Lappé said.

“The more life serving, the more real it is,” she said. “What is real is that which sustains life.”

Lappé repeatedly spotlighted society’s feelings of powerlessness during her lecture. “We need to rethink the idea of fear; fear from separating from the pack,” she said. “Separating from the pack is life.”

“As I watch Chico focus on sustainability,” she added, “others are watching, and that is power.”