After dodging police in the streets, a young activist in the U.S. takes the battle against corporate forces onto firmer ground
"Eat your food. Children in Ethiopia are starving." It is a familiar refrain at the American dinner table to which scores of children have replied: "Send them my broccoli!" But to Andrea del Moral, now 22, the question sparked confusion. Why were children starving? "I still don't understand it," she admits, "it's not about not enough food in the world."
That she continues to pursue the question sets her apart from her peers. A native of wealthy Seattle, Washington, she has turned her back on lucrative job opportunities to consider the co-existence of prosperity and starvation.
But the solution remains elusive. Looking back on a year of hard-core activism that has included the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle and Washington, D.C., teach-ins and cross-country road-trips, del Moral says frustration and hard lessons from the world of global politics have forced her to re-evaluate how she can help bring down the corporate forces that she believes are undermining food security.
With close-cropped curls and baggy carpenter's pants, she describes her look as "a little bit punk," but she is no arrogant rebel. Del Moral is thoughtful, articulate, with an easy, sometimes self-deprecating laugh.
That a young woman who has never known hunger should make it her vocation comes as a surprise even to her own parents. But del Moral credits them for planting the seeds. Her father is a botany professor and her mother works for the U.S. government's Environmental Protection Agency. "I grew up with that ethic [of environmentalists]," she says, adding that "my family always encouraged me to make my own decisions."
But to the dismay of her parents, del Moral abandoned her studies at a Montreal university to pursue activism full-time. Surviving on money earned tutoring and taking on odd acting roles, she began her subversive education with a band of like-minded twenty-somethings in Montreal. While mounting street plays illustrating the nightmarish creations of genetic engineering gone wrong, the troupe began plastering mocklabels on genetically modified foods and holding demonstrations outside the city's supermarkets.
Like thousands of other activists around the world, it was on the World Wide Web that del Moral first heard the buzz about the WTO's November 1999 meeting in Seattle. "At first I didn't know what the WTO was," she admits. By tapping into dozens of "list-serves" and email discussion groups, del Moral soon began fluently using terms like "corporate seed supply" and "biopiracy."
Practice before preaching
She also deepened her knowledge of the Bretton-Woods institutions and their sister, the WTO. She now realizes that "these institutions were not formed by people saying 'let's control the world'. They were created with good intentions that went wrong." For del Moral, "The big organizations are power structures that are in complete contradiction with direct democracy, which has the most potential for freedom. …