April 13, 2006:
For most of us, when we think of Jane Goodall, chimpanzees
instantly come to mind. After all, she is known as the “chimpanzee
Dr. Goodall is best known for her highly acclaimed and accomplished
work with chimpanzees having spent the last 45 years studying,
advocating for and living with these once endangered creatures.
She is the author of several books, is an internationally
renowned lecturer and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute
dedicated to wildlife research, education and conservation.
Therefore, her recent book, Harvest for Hope: A Guide
to Mindful Eating may appear to be a departure from her
area of notoriety and expertise.
This is no gardening or spiritual practice book as the title
may imply. It is the most recent addition to the category
of activist driven books that is intended to inspire social
change through education. It is reminiscent of the eco-food
conscious classics Diet for a Small Planet by Frances
Moore Lappe, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer and
Diet for a New America by John Robbins, yet deserves
a place-setting at the head of the table.
Initially I felt that Goodall spent too much time in the
first few chapters defending her qualifications to write a
whole book about food and farming topics. Perhaps we would
expect this information to come from farming experts or environmental
activists. But just what does qualify a primatologist to write
a book about the multinational corporate globalization and
therefore the ruinous state of the international food supply?
She goes to great lengths to point out the interconnectedness
between ecology and habitat and how we all have a place in
the web of life, demonstrating that, aside from the basic
need for food, we all have cultural and spiritual connections
to this particular essence of life. Everyone eats and we all
have expectations for nutritious life affirming foods. However
we also must realize and then explore the implications of
a polluted food supply. As such, a renowned conservationist
with international recognition Goodall makes an excellent
candidate as an advocate for reversing the de-evolution of
Goodall points out that most people in industrialized as
well as developing countries are extremely disconnected from
one of the most basic things that binds us--the need to eat
healthy foods. The corporate homogenization of farming practices
has threatened the safety of all foods globally. Without imposing
guilt or fear she simply tells the story of the mess that
we have created. She offers coherent and plausible suggestions
for what we can do to begin to fix things starting with the
proposal of only purchasing organic, sustainable or at the
least locally produced foods reminding us that one person
can make a difference in the bigger picture.
Many of the topics discussed will sound familiar and to some
degree repetitive such as the negative effects of commercial
crop production and the inhumane conditions of factory farmed
animals. The ceaseless need to fiercely defend the superiority
of organic farming practices over modern pesticide-ridden
and earth-depleting farming methods clearly persists. It is
disturbing to be reminded of the widespread ecologically disastrous
effects that agribusiness inflicts upon our delicate and already
overburdened planet. Until we stop poisoning our land, air,
water and ourselves with these unsustainable tactics, the
script must be rewritten and reread, especially for each generation
coming of age.
The academic in Goodall demonstrates her ability to access,
glean and put into lay person’s terms the most recent
research. With the grim facts she also weaves a thread of
hope allowing the reader to sort through these gruesome details
in a constructive manner. Some of the topics present newer
and less well-known environmental facts, even to those who
consider themselves ecologically aware, such as the very real
biohazards of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) permeating
our food supply, the devastating effects of factory style
aquafarming or the looming water crisis facing the globe.
There are a few surprises, for instance an interesting sidebar
depicting the huge multinational corporations who own health
food companies. No doubt you might be alarmed to see some
of your favorites in this category.
Stories about the average person fighting the corporate giants
and winning lightens the heart and a reasonably stocked resource
section does indeed instill hope. In all, it’s a quick
and simple read but one that may change your life, and maybe
even the ill-fated direction of modern food production.