“Diet for a Small Planet,” Making Ripples for 50 Years

by Anna Lappé

The New York Times Retro Report—a series I’ve always loved—pays tribute to my mother’s influence on the plant-based meat alternatives taking off today. I appear late in the nearly 14-minute video, emphasizing that the core message of my mother’s seminal 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, wasn’t actually about food, per se, it was about democracy—about who has the power to decide how land is used, what food is grown, how animals are raised. I try to stress what my mother has always been interested in not what she would love our plates to look like, but what our world should look like. Nearly fifty years ago, my mom was trying to expose the political and economic forces driving the industrial agriculture revolution that spawned the highly inefficient, inhumane, environmentally disastrous system of factory farming. In other words, her message was a much more nuanced story than meat vs. no-meat. With these new products in the marketplace, I think this message is as important as ever: We should remember that what we’re fighting for is real food, produced in a way that’s good for the planet and good for the people raising it—whether it’s from the plant kingdom, or not. I’m glad we got some of that story into this segment—along with a nice shot of my garden office.