Back in 1986, a man named Carlo Petrini organized a demonstration against the opening of a new McDonald’s, right next to Rome’s famous Spanish Steps.
Petrini’s protest marked the birth of the “Slow Food Movement”, whose manifesto made a strong case against the standardization and industrialization of the world’s food, championing a return to more humble ideals of community, compassion and better quality food.
Nearly 35 years later, the slow food movement has taken hold in 160 countries, with thousands of producers and consumers now upholding its cause.
Slow Food and Climate Change
The original Slow Food Manifesto was based less around environmental concerns, and instead placed a greater focus on reclaiming local food culture to “escape the tediousness of fast-food” and to “rediscover the rich varieties and aromas of local cuisines.”
Today however, the Slow Food Movement has evolved to encompass sustainability and equality as well, and with widespread implementation, it could help to avert the climate change catastrophe looming on the horizon:
“Slow Food’s three main principles are that food should be “good, clean, and fair.” In other words, it should be healthy and delicious, and also produced in ways that are safe for the environment and workers.” — Slow Food USA
The Case Against Commercial Food Production:
For the most part, modern food production is breathtakingly efficient. But that efficiency is driven almost exclusively by profit, and comes at a huge environmental (and social) cost:
The USA’s agricultural heartland has changed beyond measure over the last 100 years. Massive government subsidies for corn and soy production, combined with a ruthless drive for efficiency have seen hedgerows torn down and small family farms driven out of business by huge corporations.
Modern mega-farms are now so vast, they’ve effectively turned giant swathes of the countryside into lifeless deserts.
The impact cannot be overstated: When local farmers are pushed out, towns and villages quickly collapse. Meanwhile, habitats are destroyed and soil erosion and water pollution slowly render the land infertile.
In the West, we’ve become accustomed to low food prices and all-year-round availability. That desire for cheap, convenient food creates a vast carbon footprint, and leads to some mind-boggling scenarios:
- The USA exports around 1.4 billion pounds of beef each year, yet simultaneously imports 1.6 billion pounds.
- Fish caught in Norway are flown 8,700 miles to China, where they’re filleted and re-packed, only to be flown the entire way back to Norway to be sold in local supermarkets.
Vegans and vegetarians win points for their ethical diets, but they certainly don’t get a free pass when it comes to food miles:
- Countries like the UK are unable to grow soy, lentils or avocados in commercial volumes. Instead, they’re shipped in over thousands of miles by air and sea, often after being grown in extremely unsustainable conditions.
- Conversely, locally sourced meat often grazes on land that can’t be used for crop production, making its environmental impact very low.
Of course, there are always exceptions to these examples, but it serves to show how complex the subject of food and sustainability has become.
So How Can Slow Food Help?
At its heart, the Slow Food Movement is about buying locally grown produce from independent retailers and farmers. That means food is always fresh and seasonal, with the added bonus of a massively reduced carbon footprint.
Here are some of the benefits of adopting a Slow Food mindset:
Food at its Freshest
Because local produce goes from field to fork without having to be transported around the world, it’s far fresher and more flavorful.
Fresh, seasonal food retains far more vitamins than commercial produce that has been gassed, irradiated and stored for months on end. In addition, produce from local family farms is often richer in essential minerals, because smaller scale farming operations strip away less topsoil during cultivation.
Finally, there’s the seasonal factor. If we learn to eat and enjoy foods only when they’re in season, we’re more likely to consume a balanced and varied diet.
Food for the Soul
Learning how to cook meals from scratch and taking the time to savor them with family and friends is one of the key pillars of the Slow Food Movement. The world would be a far better place if we all learned to appreciate good company and the communities that we live in.
Easier on the Wallet
Fast food might be cheap, but it will never be cheaper than a home cooked meal. Fresh produce is often extremely cheap, especially if you cut out the middleman and buy your groceries directly from the producer.
Local farmers are less likely to use pesticides in massive volumes. They’re also more likely to operate farms on a more manageable scale. That means less habitat destruction and a more mixed, biodiverse local landscape.
In addition, supporting these local businesses means you’re responsible for a vastly lower carbon footprint and less discarded packaging.
Eating locally and seasonally is much better for animal welfare. In commercial factory farms, animals have very little space, and often live in appalling conditions. In contrast, local farmers are usually extremely invested in livestock welfare, and their animals usually have plenty of grazing space.
The Rights of Farm Workers
By buying directly from local producers, you’re supporting the fair treatment of farm workers and helping to ensure your money doesn’t fall into the hands of large, profit-driven corporations.
Preserving Local Food Cultures
One of the most important aspects of the Slow Food Movement is its emphasis on traditional dishes and regional produce. Slow food preserves local traditions and farming techniques, and those methods are almost certainly kinder to animals, people and the environment itself.
By slowing the pace and learning to appreciate your food and the community that produces it, you’re helping to create a healthier, happier and fairer world.
Surely that can only be a good thing?
Agnieszka K. Wielgosz serves as a vocal sustainability/ regenerative wellness advocate. She is the woman behind CEI Collective, serving the creative needs of wellness professionals, regenerative & green living brands to grow and make a dynamic impact.
Through documentaries, visual storytelling and media content creation she searches for those big ideas, and the individuals behind them, that create a lasting change — ideas that address a gap or an opportunity that changes the way things are done, the way society views regenerative wellbeing of people and the planet.
You might be curious what the CEI acronym stands for; it stands for CONNECT EDUCATE INSPIRE. These are her three driving pillars to achieve societal planetary wellbeing.
Beyond her work with clients, she is well-known as an ardent mixed media artist who cultivates a mindful living approach. Agnes is passionate about creating a ripple effect and is excited to bring her skills and enthusiasm to your world.
Connect with her on IG: @ceicollective FB: @ceicollective