|Prototyping a Food Council in Amsterdam. Foto by Farming the City|
In Italy they have a saying which goes like this: ‘Parla come Mangi’. It translates into ‘Talk like you Eat’. This is a way to say that talking should go as easy and natural like eating. Well, in Italy it is like this. But sometimes they exaggerate it, keep talking and forget to act. Let’s see if there is a possibility to change this.
Since 2008, the moment that Milan heard that they could organize the EXPO in 2015, the city is preparing for this event. It took a while but lately people realized that time is getting short. This is the moment that the government, businesses and organizations should stop talking and start acting or it will be too late to turn this unique opportunity into a step forward for the city.
The theme of the EXPO 2015 is ‘Feeding thePlanet. Energy for Life’. It mainly wants to discuss new visions on food security, safety and sufficiency. However, this involves much more than just academic discussions on agriculture, OMG, etc. Translating the theoretic starting point of this event into everyday practice can have a huge influence on the way the city functions, the way it foresees in its food and the social component of eating and its environmental and health consequences. However, therefore action is needed.
In the past year I’ve spend a lot of time listening to presentations and lectures related to the EXPO theme: Schools like Sissa that collaborate with other universities and governments on the project FoodCAST to do research on the future of sustainable food supply; local organizations like Lunedi Sostenibili that acts as a platform for initiatives for greener and sustainable lives in the city. All very relevant initiatives that gather people that can learn from each other or that should put together their forces to make a real change. But it is mainly talking what they do.
From what I’ve seen, Italians spent a lot of time ‘eating’ and are not very good in digesting this into energy that is again transformed into action. I think this mainly has to do with a mentality that is different from the one I’m used to. I come from an organized country where you can not afford to waste time waiting, talking, thinking. It is a society where you want to act. If not direct than via a detour. The beauty of the Mediterranean countries is, that people have time to chat, to discuss and to create ideas but the backdrop is that they find so much difficulties that it makes them decide to forget about it. This makes that many ideas end up in the waste bin which is a real pity.
Back to the upcoming world exposition and the positive influence it might have on the city. Lately the major of Milan dropped the idea of making a food protocol, bringing into practice the Kyoto goals for food. Off course, he is not going to do this on his own. As he says, Milan is going to be the point of reference for reciprocal effort of the cities that will be included in a new network. Seems like a good idea and I seriously hope the city can realize this within the short period of time still available.
This whole idea of profiting from the opportunities that an exposition like the one in 2015 is giving to the city starts to land also in smaller (non-profit) organizations. Although it is still a lot of talking that is going on, there are already some groups that moved to prototype their idea to see if it works. Milano in Azione (Milan in Action) for example started with a group of people that feed the homeless on Sunday night, when the official food services are closed. Thanks to their active associates they now are realizing a garden where there ‘clients’ can start to grow their own food and learn (again) what it is like to have a job. Other good initiatives are Coltivando, urban gardens by students from the Politecnico and neighbours from the University area, and the proposal by Milano Restaurazione that is working on a project called Ri-Ponte in which they work on the reduction of waste, the use of tap water and conscious shopping.