Carlo Petrini Opens Terra Madre 2010

The opening speech by Slow Food President Carlo Petrini at the world meeting of food communities.

“Women and men of Terra Madre – welcome back to Turin, welcome back to Piedmont. May these four days be for you moments of dignity, of self-esteem and of pride in your work, in what you represent for your communities.

You know, it was right that Terra Madre should have opened today with testimony from native populations, from indigenous people. A great lesson they have given us: the profound sense of a connection to the Earth, to which in some way all of us must know how to listen. We must know how to give it value. The indigenous people, with their cosmogonies, with their spirituality, are in harmony with Nature. And Terra Madre must give value to them, to the sentiments that belong to these populations. You see, we have to realize that the defense of traditional knowledge is a practice that supplies us with tools that are indispensable for our lives. Abandoning traditional knowledge impoverishes us, it makes us weaker. And it does not enable us to enter into a dialog with the official sciences neither.

In traditional knowledge systems, there is empirical knowledge, there are centuries-old good practices. There is respect for the Earth, respect for Nature. What we have to do is to bring traditional knowledge into dialog with the official sciences.

But who are the custodians of this traditional knowledge? Who are the principal
custodians of this traditional knowledge? There are four categories: indigenous people, farmers, women and the elderly. Indigenous people, farmers, women and the elderly not only must be listened to, but they must be in the first line of defense against the challenges that this world and this crisis are throwing at us.

Well, that’s not how it is. These groups are the ones that are least considered by politics, the ones that are least considered by the media.

A frenetic humanity, only paying attention to profit, is running at full speed towards a precipice. Today, this precipice is financial, social, and environmental. We have turned our backs on these four groups, as if they were the least of humankind.

But when homo sapiens reaches the abyss, they will have to stop, they will have to reverse, and in reversing, they will find that the last will be the first, that the least will show us the right way, that indigenous people, women, farmers and the elderly will show us the right path. Remember that the most humble people are the most important in the world. It is the humblest people who maintain the earth: They are the ones that still give meaning to the idea of a common life. Never disregard the humble!

A dear friend of mine, a Piedmontese monk by the name of Enzo Bianchi, reminded me of this beautiful quote from a very great man from the noble lands of Brazil, Hélder Câmara. Hélder Câmara, speaking of the humble people, said the following words: “When labor soaks the clothes of the humble, look around: you will see that angels are gathering the drops of sweat as if they were gathering diamonds.” Respecting the work of the humble, respecting the labor of those who work the earth, who labor and who, generation after generation, have showed us the strength and the power of great civilizations and great cultures.

And I want to say something to you young people: There are more than 3,000 of you in this assembly. To you young people, a great opportunity has been given. You are the ones who will have to reconcile science and modern technologies with traditional knowledge. You live in interesting times. Have faith! This is an extraordinary challenge. Do not think that this is anti-modernism. Putting science and modern technology together with traditional knowledge is the most beautiful challenge you will have in the years to come.

Young people, take this destiny into your hands! Join together with the old people of your villages and your cities. Be in contact with the wisdom of the women, be in contact with the farmers, the fishermen, who know how to read the seas, the stars, the rivers and the lands. Join together with indigenous people. Never, and never again must there be violence against these people. We have stained ourselves with unbelievable sins in destroying these communities. This will never happen again! You young people have this
destiny in your hands. You must not be afraid, you must fly high, you must dream, you must apply yourselves, because this is the most beautiful battle that you can lead at this moment, at this historical moment, and it is the most beautiful battle that young people can fight for humankind.

Because, you see, as a great philosopher, a friend of Terra Madre, a great Frenchman, Edgar Morin, says, everything must begin again, but everything has already begun. There is a great disquiet in the world, a creative fermentation. It’s true, the System Earth is incapable of organizing itself to resolve vital problems: nuclear risks, the degradation of the biosphere, an unregulated world economy, the return of famines and, of ethnic, political and, religious conflicts, that tend to transform themselves into clashes of civilizations.

Well, when a system is incapable of resolving its problems, it will either degrade and disintegrate, or it will transform. And we must be agents of this transformation. This transformation is already happening. Because, you see, transformation is richer than the idea of revolution. Transformation has the radical character of revolution, but linked to the preservation of life, to the preservation of the heritage of cultures.

Today, everything has to be rethought. Everything must begin again, but everything has already begun. And you here are the testimony that everything is about happen, is already happening. You are already on the right path. It’s true.

We are only at the beginning. We are modest people, almost invisible. Marginal.
Dispersed. But on all continents, this creative ferment, this multitude of local initiatives is beginning to come into being. This is the incubator of the future.

You see, these local initiatives are active in economic, social and political regeneration. They are active in cognitive and educational regeneration, with an ethic, and new ways of living. These initiatives do not know each other. No administration appoints them. No political party speaks about them. But they exist. And they are the incubator of the future.

We must only liberate ourselves all together from a hegemonic way of thinking, and begin to grow, and to degrow, to develop and to involve.

What does it mean, grow and degrow? It means that we must increase services, green energies, public transport, an economy of solidarity, organic agriculture.
And on the other hand we must degrow, decreasing consumerist intoxication, industrial foods, the production of useless things, car traffic.

This is no longer a time for the production of mere material goods. This is no longer a time of mere efficiency and profitability. We must also leave time for a return to inner life, for the primacy of understanding. We must put understanding first, and love, and friendship. These must be developed. We need less intoxication with a greed for profit, and more good will and willingness for friendship, love and understanding between people.

You young people, in this moment of crisis on all sides, you are hearing that the situation is difficult. Look, it is now that it starts to be beautiful. It is now that your life is starting to have a sense of purpose. This is an extraordinary challenge, because you will be the manufacturers of this transformation. You must not be afraid, you must not have reverence for those who talk and talk, but then were the ones who brought you into this shameful situation of financial disaster. You are the agents of transformation!

You young people will bring about a social metamorphosis. A metamorphosis similar to what happens in the animal world, when an ugly caterpillar spins itself into a cocoon, and turns into a butterfly. This is your mission, turning the caterpillar into a butterfly, through the metamorphosis and change that we face.

For this to happen, and to happen in harmony, without violence, three things are
necessary, three very important attitudes.

First, give value to diversity. Diversity is the great creative force of the world. We must live it with joy. The more diverse the world, the more it is beautiful. Long live diversity!

Second, strengthen reciprocity, giving and giving back. Giving generously, and
encouraging others to give back, if not to us, than to others, setting in motion a virtuous cycle, one of generosity. This is what our elders have taught us. This is what all traditions have taught us, that reciprocity is a strong value. Giving and giving back.

And the third point is dialog. Dialog and meeting. Basically, we have to rediscover the deeper meaning of fraternity. Fraternity, the third value of the French Revolution, the poor sister. We have spoken so much of freedom and of equality, but we have never championed fraternity. Without fraternity, there can be neither freedom, nor equality. And fraternity is obtained through meeting, through dialog.

When people ask me what Terra Madre is, when they are amazed by this incredible presence, they imagine that there must be who-knows-what kind of organization behind it… no! There is no such organization. There is only the value of meeting. Terra Madre is solely and exclusively about the value of the meeting. Let’s not even go looking for anything else. Let’s just get together, exchange opinions and feel this affective intelligence.

This sense of being well disposed to each other is more powerful than any organization, of all the money in the world. The value of meeting, that is what has to stay with us, nothing more.

Just meeting is actually a miracle. In this world in which all tend to close themselves in, we open ourselves to experience and to meeting. We have different skin colors, we have different religions, different beliefs, different languages. Today we have been listening to ancient languages, minority languages—we respect them all. Our meeting gives us the strength to respect them all. We are united in respect for the earth. We are in united in respect for the humankind that lives on it. We are united in the awareness that also this
small step, this small way of being, this meeting that is happening every two years, gives us the strength to return to our homes stronger. And what I wish for you is to live these four days intensely—let us live these four days intensely, and then let us return home stronger, the better to defend and expand our network all over the world.

The Terra Madre network will continue to grow, precisely because its foundations are firm. Long live our Mother Earth, long live universal fraternity!”

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