Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Happy 40th Anniversary, Hunger Project!

San Rafael, California, USA

September 4, 2017

"Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come."
... Victor Hugo, circa 1877
"To create the context 'The end of the persistence of hunger and starvation on our planet by 1997'  as an idea whose time has come."
...   speaking the Hunger Project's original purpose into existence, circa 1977 
"Ending Hunger - Unleashing the Human Spirit."
... the Hunger Project's current theme, circa 2017
This essay, Happy 40th Anniversary, Hunger Project!, was written at the same time as I am indebted to Werner Erhard and to Robert Fuller and to Roy Prosterman and to John Denver and to his children Anna Kate Hutter and Zak Deutschendorf and Jesse Belle Denver and to the staff and enrollees of the Hunger Project who inspired this conversation, and to Devon O'Neill and to Amy Abrams and to Robert Fuller and to John Coonrod who contributed material.

When Werner Erhard, Robert Fuller, Roy Prosterman, and John Denver started the Hunger Project (by speaking it into existence) in 1977 with the unprecedented goal of ending world hunger within twenty years, over 30,000 children under five years of age were dying each and every single day of the year, day after day after day, year after year after year because of hunger. Now, forty years later, UNICEF  ie the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund has reduced that estimate by an astonishing over 70%  to about 8,200 children per day.

To be sure, there's nothing justifiable about even one  child dying because of hunger (remember the last time you were full, and you left food on your plate, and it was thrown into the garbage?). That said, the over 70% reduction in the number of children dying daily because of hunger since the Hunger Project started, is a stunning  accomplishment, ongoingly fulfilling the purpose of the Hunger Project, and eloquently testifying to its ongoing power and success.

If You Keep Saying It The Way It Really Is, Eventually Your Word Is Law In The Universe

The changing way people have been debating whether or not this massive decline in the infant mortality rate because of hunger, is due to the possibility the Hunger Project set in motion, is best articulated by Sir Arthur C (Charles) Clarke, British inventor, futurist, and author (2001: A Space Odyssey)  in his Law of Revolutionary Ideas  which states that every revolutionary idea (in science, politics, art, or whatever) seems to evoke three stages of reaction:

 1)  "It's completely impossible. Don't waste my time."
 2)  "It's possible but it's not worth doing."
 3)  "I said it was a good idea all along."

Arthur's Law of Revolutionary Ideas may have been derived from a statement attributed to an earlier Arthur, Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher and author (The World as Will and Representation), which is:

"All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.".

Gala Celebration

Founded on Monday February 14, 1977 (St Valentine's Day, appropriately enough), the Hunger Project's original purpose was "To create the context 'The end of the persistence of hunger and starvation on our planet by 1997'  as an idea whose time has come.". Now, forty years later in honor of the Hunger Project's 40th anniversary, there will be a gala celebration in New York on Saturday and Sunday October 21 and 22, 2017. I invite you to attend, and to celebrate what your enrollment in the Hunger Project has unleashed. If you're planning on attending, click here, or copy and paste this link into your browser's location box:

I'm not going to reproduce the jaw-dropping list of the Hunger Project's accomplishments over these forty years here. The volume is simply too huge. With that said, I recommend you familiarize yourself with it - that is, if you're not already up to speed. For the facts, accomplishments, statistics, numbers etc regarding the Hunger Project's work today, click here to go to the Hunger Project's website, or copy and paste this link into your browser's location box:

But I must warn you: if you haven't been keeping track of what the Hunger Project has evolved into over these forty years, and you're unaware of what it's become, and you don't know it's impact in the world today, be prepared to be awed  ie get ready to be blown away.

The Evidence Speaks For Itself

What I am  going to reproduce in this  conversation is the creation of the Hunger Project's audacious germ idea, the preposterous notion of ending hunger simply by taking responsibility for it ending, the brassy assertion in 1977 that the end of the persistence of hunger and starvation on our planet in the next twenty years was an idea whose time has come. Wow! There's  egomania for you!

There was a misconception many people had (and given what was available and understood at the time, quite naturally so) that the purpose of the Hunger Project was and should be  to ship food baskets, when in fact its purpose was to create the possibility  of ending hunger. When the Hunger Project didn't  ship food baskets, there was righteous, indignant criticism, some of it unnecessarily cruel and uncalled for. To be sure, shipping food baskets would ultimately become one of the effects  of the Hunger Project (how could it not?). But it wasn't its purpose: creating the possibility, the context for hunger ending, was. So when people took on creating the context for hunger ending, within that context it was natural that others were called to ship food baskets. That's  power. That's possibility in action.

Wait a moment ... why not  just ship food baskets? Why bother creating the possibility at all? What makes this so very remarkable is remember back then, no one was really ready for the strategy of inventing a possibility as a precursor to having something happen that otherwise wasn't going to happen. What everyone knew  at that time was that hunger was inevitable. The screen, the fog, the pea soup  which prevented the end of hunger being considered as a real possibility, was impenetrable.

When something is considered to be impossible, most rational human beings won't act to make it happen. Once it's considered possible however, people will act, and it starts to happen and gains traction and leverage, seemingly all by itself, perhaps like magic. The purpose of the Hunger Project was to create a possibility. And like magic, the infant mortality rate because of hunger, is now over 70% less than what it was before the inception of the Hunger Project. That's a scientifically quantifiable fact. The idea articulated as "If you take care of inventing the possibility, the action (and the result) will take care of itself"  (my words) works. It's vintage Erhard.

The Hunger Project is triumphant. It's an awesome, inspiring, moving  accomplishment whose success you may have left below your radar for at least some of the latter of these forty years. And it's been succeeding for these forty years exponentially ie in spades  (which is less of a reference to the winning suit in poker, and more of a nod to the Hunger Project's sustainable agriculture training programs). Its success is measurable. It's visible. It's worldwide. It's ongoing. It's stunning.

Happy 40th anniversary, Hunger Project!

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