Relaxviews: Carlo Petrini, ‘Crisis as opportunity’

ROME, Jan 1 — In an exclusive series for Relaxnews, Slow Food founder and president Carlo Petrini will be contributing his views on the current state of the food world every month, starting with a column that looks back on what he deems to be the biggest food story of 2012, and how sometimes it's during the most difficult circumstances that we become the most resourceful and creative.

Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food. — AFP-Relaxnews picCarlo Petrini, president of Slow Food. — AFP-Relaxnews picAs at the end of each year, we look back to see which event was the most significant, the key word that makes sense of the past and allows us to better consider the future.

This time, there is no room for doubt: 2012 was the year of the crisis that struck at the heart of Europe. Financial and economic crisis of course, but also an energy, food and environmental crisis. One thing is sure: we won't overcome this unless we make some profound changes.

However, no need to make sensational changes or revolutionary upheavals. To be long-lasting, change must start in daily life, with our habits and our needs. I like to say that we have to change a paradigm: not the growth of the GDP but a new definition of our needs and our means of satisfying them. 

During these dramatic months in 2012, I heard news that reinforced my opinions. As an Italian, I followed the evolution of the Greek economic crisis with as much attention as consternation. In a very symbolic way, this country represents the origin of Western culture and civilisation. And it is exactly where the first signs of this paradigm shift appeared.

A young entrepreneur has created a website that has been very successful through which citizens “rent” a piece of land and receive the vegetables grown by the farmer directly at home. Citizens are managing to spend up to 70 per cent less than they would in supermarkets. It also means that farmers have a firm source of revenue and are sure to sell all their produce without any waste. And the young webmaster also makes a living.

The old Athens airport has become a vegetable garden and it is not the only example of this Hellenic return to the earth. Athenians have already created other green spaces to feed communities, that not only provide food but also reinforce a social dimension made difficult by city life, and lastly, offer oases of beauty in deserts of concrete. 

Several young Greek people are now considering a return to the earth, something that their parents abandoned, as an exciting solution. Pavlos Georgiadis, an ethnobiologist and an important member of the Slow Food youth movement, now grows his thousand-year-old olive trees in Alexandroúpolis, not in isolation and exhaustion as his ancestors did but by combining technology and tradition to get a good quality product.

These people are at the forefront of global change. Let's make sure they don't fight alone.

When Carlo Petrini stood up to the global fast food giant McDonald's in the 1980s in an attempt to prevent the chain from opening an outlet in Rome, little did he know he'd go on to spearhead an international food movement followed by disciples in 150 countries around the world.

But for the past 26 years, Petrini has led the Slow Food Movement, a group that grew out of a fierce resistance to the fast food industry and which champions traditional, regional and sustainable foods. — AFP-Relaxnews



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