Author Frances Moore Lappe ponders wellspring of change

This article was originally published in the November 2, 2011 edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY - Author and activist Frances Moore Lappe argues that society's biggest challenge is not climate change or world hunger, but finding the means to empower and unite individuals to create productive change.

"Something has got to change how we are thinking and talking about these problems," Lappe said in an appearance at Mount Holyoke College last week. "A lot of the solutions are known but unless we feel powerful to implement them, nothing is going to change."

Lappe, first known widely for her Diet for a Small Planet book, discussed her latest work, Ecomind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want, Thursday at the college. She was the second speaker in a new Environmental Writers series sponsored by the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and Odyssey Bookshop.

Lappe explained that many global citizens are caught in "thought traps" that are barriers to action. But people can begin to create solutions for environmental issues, she suggested, by synchronizing their thoughts and actions to function more like an ecosystem.

"It's a message of cooperation, of collaboration and of vision," said Tim Farnham, director of the Miller Worley Center.

Lappe said she approached her new book with the intent to find a way to "completely face the magnitude of the problems."

"But in such a way that people could see a place for themselves in contributing to the solutions," she said.

Ecomind is Lappe's 18th book and has been praised by influential activists like Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva.

Lappe collaborated with many people while writing Ecomind, including the 2010 Senior Environmental Studies class at Mount Holyoke. Lappe met with students over Skype to discuss their suggestions and ideas for the final draft of Ecomind.

"While I write for everyone," she said, "I want most to reach young people because I feel like it's in the twenties that [they] really shape [their] world view."

Diana Nghai, a Mount Holyoke senior and Frances Perkins scholar, attended the lecture and read the book. Nghai described Lappe as "eloquent" and "empowering."

"She isn't so much about trying to physically solve the world's problems," said Nghai, "but give people a way to reframe the way they think about the problems that we're currently facing."

The next speaker of the Environmental Writers series will be Capt. Charles Moore, author of Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Ocean. Moore will be speaking Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke. The purpose of the Environmental Writers series is to demonstrate the scientific and social significance in environmental studies. All events are free and open to the public.

"Mount Holyoke students and the whole community in the Pioneer Valley really benefit from this kind of slate of speakers," said Farnham, "especially the environmental writers we've been bringing this fall."