“Discovering the Great River” Launched at Slow Fish
05 May 07
The official launch of “Discovering the Great River: Establishing a new academic model for research into the memory and identity of the River Po” was held today at Slow Fish in Genoa, in the presence of the Italian Environment Minister, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio.
The ambitious project will take 180 students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences along the entire course of the River Po from September 26 to October 20 this year, traveling from the river’s source high up in the Western Alps to the flat marshes of the delta on the Adriatic coast. By bicycle and by boat, the students will pass through four regions and 13 different provinces, visiting food producers and studying topics as varied as anthropology, aesthetics, food technology and zoology. The journey will also be an opportunity for an extensive environmental analysis conducted in collaboration with Golder Associates and Cooperative Nautilus.
The speakers at the launch today were presented by Eugenio Signoroni, a third-year student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. He mentioned the important role that the students themselves were playing in this historic trip, with direct involvement in the academic program, the logistics and the communication.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences is the world’s first university dedicated to the study of food culture and science. Founded in 2004 by Slow Food in collaboration with the regions of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, the Dean is food historian Alberto Capatti. He spoke briefly at the launch, comparing the trip to crossing the Rubicon, and describing it as “a pedaled journey through the identity of the river.”
Ezio Pelizzetti, Rector of the University of Turin and President of the Scientific Committee in charge of the environmental analysis, reminded the audience that Mario Soldati, the Italian journalist and filmmaker, was a graduate of his university. “Discovering the Great River” was born as a homage to Soldati’s similar journey 50 years ago, filmed as Travels in the Po Valley for RAI.
The Scientific Committee’s spokesman, Silvestro Greco, then described the work it would be doing, analyzing the river’s health and in particular studying the sediment, which he described as retaining a historical memory of the river. “We will create a snapshot of the Po,” he said, with the aim of saving “the heart of Europe’s waterways and one of the continent’s most important arteries.”
“It’s not normal to take a whole university on bicycles down a river,” said Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s President, “but the fascination of the journey is indicative of the river’s importance.” He described the main goal of “Discovering the Great River” as increasing awareness about the river’s problems, particularly among the communities who live in the Po basin, as well as inspiring pride and love for the river and as a result a new attention to the rights of the ecosystem. “If the people have the river in their hearts, that will help bring about the political decisions necessary to protect the environment,” he said.
President of the Region of Liguria, Claudio Burlando, then expanded on the environmental theme, talking about how the health of the rivers and the sea were closely linked, and outlining his plan for a meeting in 2008 of all the ministers from countries around the Mediterranean to discuss the state of the sea.
Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Italian Minister for the Environment, talked about the importance of the sea in Italian history, and Italy’s responsibility as the only G8 member with an entirely Mediterranean coastline. “The Po is a national resource, a precious river,” he said. “The English have cleaned up the Thames and the French have cleaned up the Loire,” he continued. “We must also revitalize the Po. We have to make people understand the importance of using resources in a responsible way.”