It would be very easy to be pessimistic at this juncture in time. Wildfires like those that recently devastated swathes of land in Australia, California, Europe and Siberia will increase by a third by 2050, warns the UN. There are over 40 active conflict zones around the world, affecting 2 billion people, half of whom live in extreme poverty. As some world regions face increased food insecurity following the war in Ukraine, four companies control between 70% and 90% of the global grain trade and doubts persist as to whether they are disclosing information on their stocks, fueling market uncertainty. The pesticide industry is challenging any ambitions towards greater sustainability, claiming that moving away from conventional farming will increase world hunger. And the list could go on.
Yet an unaccounted-for multitude of people worldwide are working daily to heal ecosystems, nurture communities, build peace and push for greater sustainability at all stages of the food system and at all levels of government. Young people have mobilized globally and vividly brought the climate crisis into the public forum. There are now an estimated 3 million-plus community-supported agriculture programs active around the world. Indigenous and local communities are standing up to defend their lands from aggressive exploitation, even if that means putting their lives at risk. There is a growing recognition that agroecology—practiced by hundreds of millions of farmers around the globe—can make a powerful contribution to addressing the climate, biodiversity, environmental, economic and social challenges the world is facing. And some little progress is being made in some policies, in some regions. This list could go on.
We are facing challenging times. This tension we find ourselves in, between extreme weather and political events and a relentless commitment for the betterment of the world, should push us to act ever more effectively, without losing any time, and tip the balance in favor of good, clean and fair food for all. I find that a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. can help to make sense of the back and forth of the competing tensions: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Change takes a long time, but it does happen.
As Slow Food, as we contribute in our unique ways to bending the arc of the moral universe, we have the tools and passion to become ever more effective: by joining forces with allies, embracing those who want to join our cause and purposefully channeling our efforts to defend biodiversity and cultural diversity, inspire and mobilize citizens and influence policies in the public and private sector.
I mentioned our unique ways of working. Over my ten years with Slow Food, comparing our work with that of partner organizations in Europe has helped me to see clearly what we bring that others don’t— invaluable as their work is, of course. We are a global movement of very passionate people. We bring together all those involved in the food system, with equal dignity. We carry out a multitude of creative and impactful actions across the world. Our ideas aim high but are always strongly rooted in the daily work and experience of local communities of farmers, fishers, food producers, cooks and activists. We are bold in denouncing what is wrong but always positive in our dialogue with others. And let me go back to the movement of passionate people: It is that passion that injects a vital dose of hope, practical solutions and concrete actions.
Given that it started with a group of friends in a small Italian town over 30 years ago, it is incredible that Slow Food has now grown into a global movement active in over 160 countries worldwide. The drive and passion that made that achievement possible is still there. If we have come such a long way this far, imagine how much further we could be 30 years from now. As a new board we have shared our vision for the next few years, anchored in the Call to Action (link), our guiding document. As we make clear, your inputs will shape our future.