Carlo Petrini: “We can’t win on our own.”

Slow Food has to be inclusive, it has to knock down all formalities. We can’t win the challenges the world holds in store for us on our own.

The long buildup to the Chengdu Congress has certainly involved a great deal of profound reflection. Which is just as it should be as an event of such great importance for a movement like ours approaches.

The Congress can and must serve as an opportunity to take stock of the scenario around us, to come to terms with phenomena that have changed the world very radically and very rapidly.

Phenomena such as the ‘giganticization’ of concentrations of power, hence the formation of veritable monopolies capable of disrupting entire production supply chains. Or food waste, which has now reached record proportions across every phase of production, commercialization and consumption. Exactly like a commodity, an item deprived of all its value and reduced to a matter of price alone—which has to be as low as possible—hence wastable.

Phenomena such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity are already underway and are, to a large degree, irreversible. The loss of the genetic inheritance of plants and animals grown and raised by man for centuries is happening at a steady rate, triggering the loss of the cultural and collective heritage of entire communities. Sea fish stocks are being depleted and resources are being consumed at almost double the rate required to avert their running out altogether. The aggravation of climate change is influencing and will increasingly influence life in whole areas of the planet, in turn intensifying migration, now at epoch-making levels.

There is also another factor the magnitude of which was impossible to forecast until a few years ago. I am referring to the explosion of computer technologies and the new communication media. Yesterday we used to send each other text messages, now we have constant, unlimited access to all sorts of information and our smartphones have become veritable centers for our education and sociality. Today they are now an almost universal medium, capable of generating profound change very rapidly indeed.

In the face of such a worrying situation—whose incredibly complex repercussions cause unacceptable injustices for all humanity—what is our role to be? In other words, ‘What are we going to do when we come of age?’

It was and is increasingly necessary to protect small-scale agricultural and food production, as the communities of the extraordinary Terra Madre network have taught us that still defend their local areas and cultures in every corner of the world. It was and is fundamental to work on consolidating the concept of community as a space in which individualism can be controlled for the sake of the common good—which is and must continue to be more important than the individual good. It is and will be increasingly vital to protect diversity, so endangered today in all its different forms.

On thing is for sure: we can’t achieve this result on our own. We have to have the force and capacity to open up and be inclusive towards people with whom we share the same fundamental objectives. We have to have the courage to eschew formalities and structures that risk anchoring us to a now antiquated reality. We have to cooperate more closely with other associations, with single citizens, with local administrations, with rural communities, with urban movements. We have to be quick to grasp and network all the situations that interpret this sentiment. We have to involve lecturers and universities that acknowledge the need to democratize culture and elevate traditional skills to the same level of authoritativeness as scientific knowledge.

Only in this way will they be giants, while we will be a multitude.

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