Friday, October 24, 2008

Terra Madre 2008 Day 1

Buongiorno from Terra Madre 2008.

Tim Crosby here, Farm and Food Systems Director for Growing Washington, and one of the U.S. delegates in attendance. Mary asked me to send some notes from Turin, a task I am only happy to complete. I won't be here for the whole conference but will share what I can until I leave.

Terra Madre, the world Slow Food conference, opened today at the 2006 winter Olympic hockey rink. I would guess around 3,500 delegates were in attendance to hear the opening session speakers.

The 3 hour convening assembly was awash in colors and nationalities. A parade of flags opened the session, with over 140 flags representing the participating nations. I had my own little international corner in the back of the stadium with a Brazilian farmer to my left and a South African farmer on my right. Molto bueno (very good)!

There are quite a few Americans present, which I hope will lead to continuing dialog about what works best in the U.S. Unfortunately, but not surprising: when the U.S. flag was announced there was a lot of cheering and at least one boo. I was expecting a negative tone especially during this current financial storm.

Arriving just before the beginning of the ceremony gave me few options for seats, so as you can see from the picture, I was situated in the back of the room. And, having arrived just before start I did not get a translation headset so only understood half of the speakers. Luckily those who spoke in English included Vindana Shiva, Alice Waters, UN Assistant Secretary General Carlos Lopes, Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, and Sam Levin, a high school student from Massachusetts who spoke eloquently about starting a school garden.

The common theme of their talks stressed 3 crisis we are currently facing - financial, food security, and climate/environment - that together emphasized the importance of moving forward a more sustainable and equitable food system. Vindana Shiva (photo, right) received a long standing ovation for her passionate voice for sustainable, fair food, as well as her tirade against WTO, Monsanto, and Wall St. She was able to successfully connect these groups due to the gravity of the issues we currently face. The term that will stick with me from her speech was how we are currently being managed by "the rules of fiction": paperless, collateraless monetary transactions like derivatives and mortgage-backed securities.

Tomorrow (which is today here) I head to Salone Del Gusto, a marketplace of world food producers, and also to a meeting of all US delegates.



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