REVIEW: Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating
Finding global common ground--the need for healthy food
The "chimpanzee lady" takes a look at the interconnectedness of ecology, habitat and the basic need for food as a physical, cultural and spiritual keystone.

Reviewed by Jo Powell


Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating
By Jane Goodall, Gary McAvoy, Gail Hudson

Warner Books, 2005
ISBN 0446533629
$24.95 (hardcover)
320 pp.

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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 lady.”

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 food.

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.