In the 1970s Frances Moore Lappe asked, “How much is enough?” Still actively writing, speaking and advocating for food justice, she remains one of my guides to living a sane life in The Land of Plenty for Some.
Other early and ever present guides to my adult life and what would preoccupy my work and art, Thomas Berry, Albert Schweitzer, Rachel Carson and E.F. Schumacher all addressed the same issue from different points of view: living in right relationship with all life and a sustaining Earth ecosystem.
In 2008 I published the first of my writing, Paean to the Earth, which included a little essay titled: Get A Grip Ecology. It included 5 principles by which stable ecosystems operate:
Utilizes a renewable energy source/ Does not overgraze food capacity/ Recycles essential elements/Preserves biodiversity/Moderates population size.
Lappe showed us we strayed from these principles when she demonstrated that there has always been enough food to feed every person in the world a nutritious diet, i.e. food scarcity is a myth. By harnessing the major grain crops for growing beef, pork and chicken, Americans were eating there own seed corn and that of other nations. Lappe first introduced Americans to eating low on the food chain by adopting a mostly plant diet. She systematically demonstrated that hunger exists only from misuse of the world’s resources that could easily feed everyone well.
E.F. Schumacher in his landmark book, Small Is Beautiful, examined the physics and economics of business systems and showed that maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction occurs in companies of 500 employees or less. He first wrote about “technology with a human face”. Today, so many decades down the road of human ingenuity run amuck, industrialized societies are looking around and asking how we recover our humanity while making a living. Again, we must ask ourselves Lappe’s question: “How much is enough?”
Thomas Berry and Albert Schweitzer focused on the spiritual and moral dimensions of how we related to each other and the Earth. Berry took us on a rich journey to learn the traditions of cultures based on eco-principles and proposed that our hope resides in adopting similar values and practices. Schweitzer arrived at an “ethical basis for living” through thought: My will to live exists equally in every living thing and thus the path to a moral life is to live in concert with all other beings whether human or tree or four-legged.
These are the principles of the planet and our greatest thinkers came to them from varying paths but these principles have proven true from all perspectives.
This is just a reminder that the answers to the climate crisis and our social ills are embedded in the very same laws that govern the planet and every living creature on it.
My daughter on a recent hike with me along the Eastern Shore. We are best when we are in nature together. It restores our humanity and our hope.