Last Thursday, I spent my evening at the Feeding Hope: Living Democracy event, a celebration of four decades of the food movement.  Sponsored by many organizations, including the Small Planet Institute, the event featured Frances Moore Lappé and Vandana Shiva, two women who have worked tirelessly for many, many years to bring changes to our food system.  Having read Lappé's book Hope's Edge, I was familiar with how these women have contributed to changing the lives of thousands of people throughout the world thanks to their hard work.  Frances Moore Lappé has written 18 books, providing insight into how our actions contribute to our food system and how we have the ability to make positive change.  Vandana Shiva, who Mary previously wrote about, works to defend people's rights to save their seeds through her organization Navdanya International.  

What I appreciated most about the evening was the opportunity to hear these women speak on a personal level.  Being in a small space, it felt like we were having a conversation with each other.  They offered their opinions and advice on what we can each do to be a part of this movement.  What still stays with me from the evening is a simple phrase from Lappé.  She told us that we are all storytellers.  How great is it to be reminded of this?  We won't all be authors of 18 books.  And we might not all be founders of an amazing organization.  But that doesn't mean that we can't bring change in our own way.  By sharing with our friends and family something we experienced or learned, we can pass that knowledge to someone else, and on and on it goes, until before you know it, real change is happening.

So when you're feeling like you're not making a difference, just remember that we are all storytellers.  By sharing with each other our personal experiences and taking this role seriously, we can create change.  That's what I'll tell myself.
-Marina Morrone
 
 
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Vandana Shiva epitomizes what the Spice Girls famously (infamously?) called "girl power."  Except, in Vandana Shiva's case, it would be called "physicist, economic justice advocate, global food justice activist, eco-feminist power" (not quite as catchy, I know).  

I first heard of Vandana Shiva in Frances Moore Lappe's book Hope's Edge.  As part of their exploration of sustainable alternatives to today's increasingly harmful food system, Frances and her daughter Anna visited Vandana in her native India where she works with Navdanya International.  With this organization, Vandana defends people's right to save their seeds, thus giving them power and autonomy over the plants and food they grow.   Their work is described on the website's description: 

Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India.  Navdanya has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country.
In this video, Vandana explains how saving seeds has become increasingly difficult (even illegal) when large companies, most notably Monsanto, paten genetically modified seeds.  These seeds are created to withstand certain chemical fertilizers, which also have to be purchased from the companies and gradually drain soils of their natural nutrients and biodiversity.  As the companies make large profits, farmers lose their independence and accumulate higher debts.  Farmer sovereignty is lost as companies slowly take control over the very life cycle of growing food.  

Proponents of this system argue that genetically modified seeds will help to solve world hunger.  Vandana responds to this assumption in part 2 of this video series, explaining that genetically modified seeds actually contribute to world hunger by leading to the impoverishment of the communities that purchase and grow these seeds.  

 

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