Weekend Review: Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe

Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about ItIn all honesty, if I had to recommend just one book about modern environmentalism, this would be the one. In Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It (2010), Anna Lappe lays out the logic of her argument rationally, backs up all of her claims with both scientific research and real world analysis, provides a complete picture of the situation, while at the same time making me feel empowered enough to do something about it.

The title is a play on her mother's 1970s classic, Diet for a Small Planet, which attempted to answer the question "Why is there hunger in a world of plenty?" The younger Lappe is now asking "What are the links between how we grow our food and climate change?" The book is divided into three parts: Crisis, Spin, and Hope. In the first third, Lappe links industrial farming practices and CAFOs to the climate change crisis. After briefly covering the history of these practices and the rationale behind them, she asks the critical question: How do we really pay for this food system? We do so in "lives cut short by diet-related illnesses, polluted waterways flooded with neurotoxic and endocrine-disrupting farm chemicals, lives of workers (farmers and meat-processers) and the climate cost." No solution can come until we take all of these true costs into consideration.

In "Spin," she explores the corporate creation of product "need," why there is a lack of conversation around the connection between food choices and climate change, and the problem of greenwashing. We end with "Hope" in which she lays out her solution: organic, local agriculture. By this she means agriculture that is "nature-mentored, restorative, regenerative, resilient, and community-empowered." She goes beyond the theory of these ideals by profiling farmers who are already employing these practices and are successful; both financially and in being climate-friendly.

But what makes this book truly valuable, in my opinion, are her suggestions for "action." By far, this was the best "what to do now?" section in any book that I've read. She dissects the steps that corporations take to market their products so that the consumer can become savvy and see through the hype of greenwashing.  She anticipates the counter-arguments to her claims and includes an "answering the critics" section, which debunks six of the most popular myths about the future of food. Finally, she empowers her reader by laying out achievable, rational actions that everyone can take in order to make their food choices climate-friendly and she includes a wonderful resource section so that one can actually carry out the things that she suggests. 

Many books in this genre are either super heavy on the science or they rely too heavily on theory and anecdotes. This book, however, is the perfect marriage of science-based arguments and compelling narrative. It is easy and pleasurable to read, incredibly informative, and inspiring. I really can't write enough good things about it.


  1. I read Diet for a small planet years ago. This book looks like a good read - I hadn't heard of it. My local library has it so it is now in my list of books to read.

  2. Geez...I already have Coop and Becoming Native to This Place checked out from the library...now I gotta find this one! lol. Thanks for all the amazing recommendations!

  3. thanks for recommending this! i definitely want to check it out. i'm really interested in the last couple of sections you mentioned--what to do and responding to critics. sounds like a good read.

  4. sounds great! wish i would have heard about this before i started teaching class this term... my environmental science class this term is focused on energy and climate change. Sounds like a great book for their literature review. Maybe next time!