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December 2005/January 2006
Go Jane!

Book Review by Sangamithra Iyer


Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall with Gary McAvoy and Gail Hudson (Warner Books, 2005). $24.95 hardback. 296 pages.

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is responsible for introducing the world to the culture of chimpanzees, and has been tirelessly traveling the globe advocating on their behalf for nearly two decades. Goodall’s work with chimpanzees exposed their tool use, warfare, family relationships, malevolence and benevolence, and in many ways blurred the line between chimps and humans. Goodall’s newest book, Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating is, however, about the one thing that separates humans and the other apes: the control of our food supply. And how we choose to eat is perhaps the one thing that is going to save chimpanzees and ourselves.

Dedicated to valiant small farmers and the “billions of animals who live in torment each year,” Harvest for Hope takes us on a journey of how we went astray with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, GMOs and patenting of seeds, and the creation of animal factories, yet offers us a way toward a more promising future.

Our beloved ‘chimpanzee lady’ talks about farm animals, and what they endure to provide humans with meat, milk and eggs. Goodall also explores seafood and its ravaging effect on our oceans. Her 300 days on the road this year will be spent spreading this message of a more compassionate palate. Goodall fans from around the world will learn about her personal transformation to vegetarianism after learning about factory farms: “When I saw meat on my plate, from that moment on, I should think of pain—fear—death.”

The book encourages those who still choose to eat meat, to eat less and only organic, grass-fed, ‘humanely raised’ livestock, or wild-caught seafood. A “Go Vegetarian” chapter follows this section. While these messages may not be anything new (or very bold) to the already ethical vegans among us, the information is presented in clear, simple terms, which makes an excellent resource for discussing these topics with others.

Furthermore, Goodall forces us to really think about the resources used and waste generated by our own consumption habits and encourages us to buy organic and local, shop at farmers markets or food cooperatives, or join a community supported agriculture program and encourage your local restaurants to do the same. It’s a constant reminder of that childhood lesson, “waste not, want not.” Plus, you might learn a thing or two about what’s wrong with bottled water, the differences between shallow and deep organic, and the implications of major food corporations taking over organic brands.

Jane Goodall, as always, offers hope. From highlighting individuals like Percy Schmeiser and his fight against Monsanto or her own nephew’s change to vegetarianism at the age of four, Goodall demonstrates the importance of the individual in creating change. From profiling John Ellis’s Centerville Farmer’s Market in Nebraska to Ethiopia’s attempt to promote organic farmers, improve soil quality and develop local market infrastructure, Harvest for Hope shows us another world is possible.

Goodall’s personal anecdotes from her childhood in post-WWII England, her life at Gombe stream, her observation of animal behavior in the Serengeti, and her travels around the world are interspersed throughout these chapters. She makes all the necessary connections between our lifestyle in the developed world, which is increasingly being exported to the developing world, and its impact on our health, environment and our future. If we want to adequately address world hunger, we need to redesign our current food infrastructure. If we really care about people, animals, or our planet, change begins on our plate.

That Jane Goodall, our world famous ambassador for chimps, is now spreading a subtle but urgent message of mindful eating, vegetarianism, and compassion for farmers and farmed animals is itself a harvest for hope.


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