Raj Patel is looking for solutions to the world’s biggest problems, notably poverty and hunger, but he’s not satisfied with pat answers. A social justice activist, Patel is apt to challenge the very solutions he espouses. He buys fair trade products, yet concedes that they are probably just “a thin patch on an unsustainable system.” He explores participatory budgeting as a progressive solution for cities but also probes its flaws, and he praises the idea of “slow food” but questions its affordability.
“I’m the first person to take the piss out of myself,” says the London-born author, who now lives in the United States. “Also, I think that always questioning the foundations you stand on is an incredibly sound idea.”
Patel’s work, such as his 2007 book, Stuffed and Starved, has often revolved around the sociopolitics of food systems. He widens the net in his new book, The Value of Nothing, which proposes valuing people, places, and animals regardless of their economic worth–a truly radical idea whose time has come.
“Social movements are figuring that value is a political thing, not an economic thing,” Patel says. “I’m trying to be the Johnny Appleseed of social change.”
Read a celebration of Stuffed and Starved at the blog The Boiling Point. Survey Patel’s articles for publications including Yes magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Ecologist on his website. For more recent material, check out “Ending Africa’s Hunger,” which he co-wrote for The Nation, and keep up on his blog. Read print interviews with Patel by CBC News and by Mark Bittman on his Bitten blog at the New York Times. And see video interviews with Patel by Slow Food Nation, Democracy Now, and Bloggingheads.tv.
Read More:50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World.