Getting A Grip 2

Getting A Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want is a revised edition of a book that addresses the common feeling that the planet is in trouble and we have little control over the outcome. Author Frances Moore Lappé tackles the issues of the world by acknowledging the problems and the overwhelming task of dealing with them, and then doesn’t waste any time offering up solutions.

This is a book for those of us who feel disempowered by the state of the financial system, employment security, the environment, health and food safety. This is a must read if you have ever uttered the words, “But what difference can I make?” Her third chapter is aptly titled New Eyes, suggesting we need a new way to look at the world and see that solutions are possible.

Early on, Lappé argues that the US government is ineffective, labelling it a “thin democracy”. She then offers an alternative that includes the participation of the people, which she calls a “living democracy”. Throughout the book we are offered optimism, but always with the understanding that we must participate to achieve the change we desire.

There is no lack of positivity throughout the book. The sections are titled Clarity, Creativity, Courage and Ideas. The examples of living democracies that already exist are a true testament to what can be achieved, she argues. These cases include Fair Trade labelling, “community benefits agreements”, Brazil’s Zero Hunger campaign, and many more state-facilitated, community-run programs that benefit the people.

Critics might consider Lappé’s firm belief that “there is enough goodness in us and in nature that we don’t have to run away from ourselves… we can thrive” as naïve or too simplistic. Humans, after all, are competitive and violent, no? The likelihood of the human race making an about-face is slim, and Lappé acknowledges that there will be work involved. But she reminds us, through plenty of examples, that it is already happening in communities all over the world.

The book is effective because Lappé points out human emotions to which we can all relate – fear, embarrassment and anxiety about being different – that contribute to our lack of involvement in change. She dissects these emotions and offers them instead as powerful tools. Fear, she suggests, is pure energy: If redirected into a cause or plan for change, negative emotions can fuel the right fires.

In several graphs and charts Lappé provides ways in which we can see and better visualize living democracy at work. The inside covers of the book offer diagrams of two possible approaches to any circumstance: the Spiral of Powerlessness and the Spiral of Empowerment. By clearly explaining and illustrating two very different ways of running the world, Lappé shows that there are options and possibilities.

In a time when many people feel uncertain and powerless about the future, Getting A Grip 2 offers its readers hope and solutions. As Lappé concludes: “The choice we have is not whether, but only how, we change the world.”

(Book published by Small Planet Media, Cambridge MA, 2010. 253 pages.)

Sarah Dobec is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist living in Toronto, doing her best to be a part of the solution. Inspiring quotes fuel her daily work.

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