In the life of the movement, the conference is always an important political step, providing an opportunity to outline the prospects for action and reflection for the coming years, assess the journey so far, and review priorities, strategies, tools and models.
And the next conference we are now preparing to hold in mid-July will be a more historic move than usual, for several reasons.
First, we cannot ignore the complex period we are currently living in. Across the world, society has plunged into disarray two years after the pandemic. In many parts of the planet, terrible conflicts are raging. Migration flows are becoming more intense, and signs of climate change are becoming increasingly tangible and unmistakable, even as we continue to ignore their urgency and their close interconnectedness with other crises.
Within this scenario, the role of food as the main culprit of this environmental disruption is emerging more strongly and clearly than ever before. That is why our movement, which has been working for 30 years to ensure good, clean and fair food for all, must have the courage to take a leading political role in guiding us away from disaster. Diet as a whole is the primary emitter of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It uses a huge amount of single-use plastics, which we end up eating in the form of microplastic particles. It takes hundreds of thousands of hectares of soil and cubic meters of water to produce food that often ends up being the case, the sinister logic of the market that justifies this massive waste as being rooted in the system. All this is unacceptable, and I think we should envision our future in contrast to this situation.
We can no longer avoid confronting environmental issues. We must overcome the terrible inertia of our leaders and affirm that food is and will continue to be one of the critical political factors for renewing our relationship with the land and ensuring a peaceful future.
The second unique feature of the upcoming conference is that it will complete the push started in Chengdu to make our movement more open and inclusive. This political impetus needs an architecture capable of meeting the challenge it poses, overcoming rigid bureaucratic forms to fully and definitively realize the network identity that has defined Terra Madre since its founding and has already revolutionized our movement. Hence the reinvention of Slow Food is about to undergo. This change in appearance will allow us to embrace and enhance the diversity of different ways of belonging to our network and being active. Such diversity will be the shape and content of how we experience Slow Food so that the membership and functioning of our network is not limited to a typically strict Western attachment model, but also includes the ancient ancestral model of societies. After all, societies are the basic units with which nature has supported life on this planet for billions of years.
Since the first bacteria evolved 3 billion years ago, through the evolution of colonies, even the most complex societies, every life form has found assemblies, and the formation of societies is an evolutionary key to success. This is because societies are characterized by the ability to share problems, resources, knowledge, and goals and because they are a training ground for emotional intelligence and strict chaos. These two elements are fundamental to the pursuit of the common common good – the right to good, clean and fair food for all – while always respecting freedom, geographic diversity and the individual. We live in complex times, and if we want to have a profound impact on the transformation of the food system, we must open ourselves up to more flexible organizational models. We cannot be afraid of pollution and mingling, of crossing paths that are not ours and of listening to sounds that sound different. Today for Slow Food, being a food activist means making alliances with everyone who, like us, believes that food is crucial to humanity’s prospects. Our transformation into a participatory institution allows us to welcome and formally recognize this diversity of ways of belonging to our network, ensuring the development to which all movements and associations should aim.
In our case, this development will be characterized by a transition towards governance that creates and reinforces space for new generations. We must be able to combine the history with the new. We must realize that the journey so far has made it possible to achieve seemingly unattainable goals, allowing us to be who we are. But today’s world is profoundly different from what it was when our movement first began. We must allow ourselves to be supported and guided by the creativity and intuition of new subjects capable of interpreting the present to determine the path that will make possible the realization of future ambitions.
We are preparing for a period of profound change, which I invite you to look forward to with joy and satisfaction.
Change is a synonym for renewal, the ability to follow the natural evolutionary process and prolong the physiological cycle of life (birth, growth, regression) that no living organism can avoid. May my invitation be warmer and stronger for all those who cannot physically attend the conference itself, but hear my words as their own. Because change will only be fundamental and long-lasting if it permeates our global community and starts from those local groups that have always been the living humus of our network: places where our existence becomes real and where there is potential for our future lives.
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