FORUM – Global Issues, Social Solutions

30 Jul 2002

Global issues, social solutions: that, in nuce, is the explanation of the somewhat cryptic title – ‘From global to glocial’ – of a meeting held on June 176-17 in San Rossore, the former presidential residence between Pisa and the sea The aim of the two-day get-together was to talk about globalization and related themes such as peace, land and food. Now in its second year, the event was organized by the Tuscany Regional Authority and attracted a packed public. It was divided into half-day sessions on the key issue of the debate on the world’s future: namely, the need to guide change and fight the degeneration of the economy, of the environment and of the living conditions of the world’s poorest populations.
The culture of peace, sustainable development, food security, resource distribution – San Rossore came up with tangible responses to all these questions. Above all, the meeting countered the hypocrisy of all those who, albeit acknowledging the responsibilities of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the conditions of poverty and instability in which 80% of the world’s population currently live, have nothing better to propose than the western political model as the conditio sine qua non for development. This is, as former mayor of Venice Massimo Cacciari said, a hypocritical position, since western democracies use the argument of human rights randomly, while in the past they systematically supported dictatorial and corrupt regimes, first to counter the Soviet Union, then out of economic convenience. ‘Political democracy can’t exist without economic democracy.

There can be no peace without an ethical market,’ said Frei Betto, a Dominican missionary who lives in the northeast of Brazil. No less firm was the position of another missionary, Alex Zanotelli, who works in the bidonvilles of Korokocho in the suburbs of Nairobi, where there isn’t enough money to bury the dead and AIDS, alas, is a fact of life. According to him, the only way to spare two thirds of the humanity death by starvation, war or epidemic, is to question our own lifestyle. The missionary’s humanitarian message coincides with that of the father of ecologism, the intellectual Edward Goldsmith. The WTO is in favor of deregulation as a means of creating an insatiable market for the multinationals, which want to abolish any constraint contrary to their own interests. This type of market has to be questioned, indeed refuted, as has a model of agriculture for the Third World that impoverishes not only the soil but also peasants by imposing the cultivation of food crops that are not consumed locally but destined for export under the blackmail of increasingly low prices and pollution,.
Slow Food was also present at San Rossore. The movement has developed … slowly but surely. Today its members define themselves as ‘eco-gastronomes’, because the hedonistic approach to food cannot be separated from awareness of the environment and material culture.

For some time now, Slow Food has been hard at work, and with some success, on small-scale projects – the Presidia – that are closely bound up in local areas and traditional cultures. And what are the Presidia if not ‘local solutions to global problems’?
We at Slow Food, who are working to set up an Irish Wild Salmon Presidium, were curious to hear to Wolfgang Sachs of Germany’s Wuppertal Institute tell the story of salmon reared on Peruvian fish meal on farms in Scotland (it takes five kilos of Pacific fish to produce a kilo of Scottish salmon!). Likewise, when Helena Norberg Hodge spoke of the region of Ladakh in India, how small producers there – and with them an entire civilization – are threatened by the development of intensive agriculture and the need to protect small-scale local production, we were encouraged to feel that we are on the right track when we seek to export the successful Italian Presidia model in the rest of the world.

Vandana Shiva, a winner of the Alternative Nobel prize in 1993, was on top form. She spoke with panache, clarity and determination about the problems of Indian farmers (who outnumber all the agricultural workers in Europe). The right to exchange, use and reproduce seeds, the need to re-appropriate resources, the abandonment of monoculture for a return to differentiated cultivation, the cutting of transport costs by reviving local consumption – these are the objectives that Vandana Shiva is seeking to achieve through her Navdanya Association, which received the Slow Food Award for the Defense of Biodiversity in 2001. Thanks to the collaboration of this association, two Slow Food Presidia – mustard seed oil, traditionally produced in Uttar Pradesh, and autocthonous varieties of basmati rice – have been launched to improve the lot of Indian peasants..
The second day of the meeting was a perfect opportunity to announce the setting up, in conjunction with the Tuscany Regional Authority, of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, a body that will operate worldwide to safeguard and raise the profile of traditional agroindustrial products. The session dedicated to food featured a myriad of testimonies from people who believe in the work they are doing and demonstrate that it is possible to produce food a different way. Zoubida Charrouf described the experience of the members of a women’s cooperative in Morocco, who have achieved social dignity and jobs through the production of argan oil. Jesus Garzòn asserted the right to practice transhumance in Spain, with its immense heritage of culture and produce. Margherita Longo presented the all-Italian experience of the lentils traditionally cultivated by hand on the Mediterranean island of Ustica.

The lesson that San Rossore taught is that there is neither contraposition nor conflict in the western agricultural world’s demands for production more typical, quality and the environment, as well as solutions for the hunger and poverty of peasants in Third World countries. Even the lunch break – in which the public was treated to products from Slow Food’s Presidia (29 Italian and three international) – provided a chance to see how the combination of nature treated with respect and skilled human labor can still produce outstanding results.

Paola Nano works at the Slow Food Press Office.

Photo: the Slow Food delegation with Vandana Shiva at San Rossore

Adapted from the Italian by John Irving

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