In the life of a movement, a congress is always a significant political step, offering an opportunity to outline the prospects for action and thinking for the years to come, assess the journey so far, and revise priorities, strategies, tools, and models.
And the upcoming congress for which we are now preparing to take place in the middle of July will be an even more historic step than usual, for several reasons.
Firstly, we cannot ignore the convoluted period we are currently living. Worldwide, society has been thrown into disarray after two years of the pandemic. In many parts of the planet, terrible conflicts are raging. Migratory flows are becoming more intense, and the signs of climate change are increasingly tangible and unequivocal, even as we continue ignoring their urgency and close interrelation with other crises.
Within this scenario, the role of food as the leading culprit for this environmental upheaval is emerging more strongly and clearly than ever. This is why our movement, which for 30 years has been working to guarantee good, clean, and fair food for all, must have the courage to take on a leading political role in steering us away from catastrophe. The food system as a whole is the primary emitter of CO2 into the atmosphere. It utilizes a vast amount of single-use plastics, which we end up eating in the form of microplastics. And it consumes hundreds of thousands of hectares of soil and cubic meters of water to produce food that often ends up wasted, the perverse logic of the market justifying this immense waste as being inherent in the system. All of this is unacceptable, and I believe that we must envision our future in contrast to this state of affairs.
We can no longer avoid confronting environmental issues. We must overcome the terrible inertia of our leaders and affirm that food is and will be one of the decisive political factors for regenerating our relationship with the Earth and ensuring a peaceful future.
The second unique characteristic of the next congress is that it will complete the push that started in Chengdu to make our movement more open and inclusive. This political impetus needs a structure able to meet the challenge it sets, overcoming rigid, bureaucratic forms to completely and definitively fulfill the network identity that has defined Terra Madre since its founding and which in practice has already revolutionized our movement. Hence the reinvention Slow Food is about to undergo. This change of look will allow us to embrace and promote the diversity of different ways of belonging to our network and being an activist. This diversity will be the form and substance of how Slow Food is experienced so that the membership and functioning of our network are not limited to a rigid, typically Western association model but also includes the ancient, ancestral model of communities. After all, communities are the basic units with which nature has supported life on the planet for billions of years.
Since the first bacteria developed 3 billion years ago, through the development of colonies, up to the most complex of societies, every life form has found aggregation, and forming communities is an evolutionary key to success. This is because communities are marked by the ability to share problems, resources, knowledge, and objectives and because they are training grounds for emotional intelligence and austere anarchy. These two elements are key to the pursuit of a common universal good—the right to good, clean, and fair food for all—while always maintaining respect for geographic and individual liberty and diversity. We are living through complicated times, and if we want to have a profound effect on the transformation of the food system, we must open ourselves up to more fluid organizational models. We cannot be afraid of contaminations and intermingling, of crossing paths that are not our own and listening to voices that sound different. Today for Slow Food, being a food activist means forging alliances with everyone who, like us, believes that food is crucial to the prospects of humanity. Our transformation into a participatory foundation allows us to welcome and formally recognize this diversity of ways of belonging to our network, ensuring the evolution that all movements and associations should be aiming for.
In our case, this evolution will be characterized by and consolidated through a transition towards governance that creates a space for the new generations. We must have the capacity to bring together history with the new. We must be aware that the journey so far has made it possible to achieve seemingly unreachable objectives, allowing us to be who we are. But today’s world is profoundly different from when our movement first started. We must allow ourselves to be supported and directed by the creativity and intuition of new subjects able to interpret the present to outline the trajectory that will make it possible to achieve future ambitions.
We are preparing for a period of profound change, one that I invite you to look forward to with joy and satisfaction.
Change is a synonym for regeneration, the capacity to follow the natural evolutionary process and extend the physiological cycle of life (birth, growth, and decline) that no organism can avoid. I hope that my invitation is even warmer and stronger for all those who cannot physically be at the congress itself, but who hear my words as their own. Because the change will only be substantial 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: the places where our presence is made real and where the possibility of our future lives.