Saving the Planet at the Table

03 Jul 2007

Climate change took up a sizeable part of the recent G8 agenda. And if, however ineffectively, the issue has got to the point of being discussed at the highest levels of world power, it shows that things are serious, possibly irremediably compromised.
With alarming scientific reports, apocalyptic scenarios and gloomy forecasts churned out by sober statistical projections, it is not surprising that people feel despondent and pessimistic. Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, a box office success around the world, uses simple language and a clear message in adding to the feeling of resigned desperation. But towards the end our distress is mitigated by a message of hope: we can do something about it if we all begin to think about the environmental consequences of our actions and change our habits. Our Mother Earth has great powers of recovery. Exploit renewable energy, install low power light bulbs, use cars less, plant a tree: it can all help to slow the warming of our planet.
There is no mention of food. Yet the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005 reported that our food production and distribution system is the main cause of pollution and the greatest destroyer of ecosystems and biodiversity. It’s not industry or oil, as we usually think, but the global food industry. Agriculture poisons and makes the soil infertile, monoculture crops involve increasingly invasive hybrid strains, aquifers get polluted. Unsustainable amounts of water are needed for irrigation, crazy logic sees staple foods transported for thousands of kilometers, fish stocks are plundered, farms are places where animal lives are just cogs in an assembly line…
If small everyday acts like changing a light bulb can help our environment, just think what effect our food choices could have: we really could make a decisive difference. The rules are simple: go for products which are local, fresh, in season and organic; get information by reading the label and, even more important, by getting to know producers; cook for yourself, avoiding precooked and preserved foods; practice healthy restraint, preferring quality over quantity and refocusing our attention on the importance of food. While gaining benefits and respect from virtuous behavior, it won’t be a sacrifice but a pleasure.

First printed in La Stampa on June 11, 2007

Paola Nano works at the Slow Food Press Office

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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