Slow Food Founder Urges Sustainability

Carlo Petrini gives talk about Slow Food movement

Slow Food founder Carlo Pertini
Janet M. Yarboi

The Food Literacy Project hosts Slow Food Movement founder Carlo Pertini for a presentation and book signing yesterday in the Science Center.

“Slow Food” founder Carlo Petrini traveled across the Atlantic to share a message of responsible consumption and sustainability with over 100 members of the Harvard and Cambridge communities last night in the Science Center.

The Slow Food movement—which gets its name from an inversion of the term fast food—is a 100,000-person international initiative that is focused on “linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to [people’s] community and the environment,” according to the Slow Food website.

Petrini erupted onto the stage with a message of conservation and a call to action delivered in Italian and translated by his aide.

“In the last 20 years we’ve put more chemicals and chemical products into the earth than in the preceding 120 years,” Petrini told the audience through his translator. “It’s like a bomb...we are creating ecological bombs.”

Petrini continued to engage his audience, armed with a flurry of facts about the effects of over-consumption and industrialized agriculture.

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The Slow Food presentation—which was organized by Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services’ Food Literacy Project—was the realization of an event that was originally scheduled for last April. The event was postponed because of flight delays caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.

Throughout his speech, Petrini—whose organization also holds a conference every two years called “Terra Madre” to connect farmers and Slow Food members worldwide—extolled the virtues of local-controlled consumption, as opposed to modern methods of food production and distribution.

“To transform and bring about real change in this food system is a political duty and right everyone has,” Petrini said. “It’s not we who eat food, it’s the food that eats us.”

Petrini, 61, interspersed his serious discussion about the dangers of industrialized farming and consumption with pointed witticisms.

“In Italy we have this premier, [Silvio] Berlusconi, who constantly tells us to consume,” he said. “It’s like taking someone with bad diabetes into a pastry shop.”

But Petrini also offered proposed solutions to the current “food system,” insisting that the problems Slow Food endeavors to combat are not intractable ones.

“It’s the young who have in your hands the key to the solution,” Petrini said in closing.

After his presentation, Petrini invited young people who planned to commit their lives to the goals of Slow Food to come down from their seats to the front of the auditorium.

“You are my heroes,” Petrini said as he shook the hands of the 12 people who walked to the stage.

One of those “heroes,” Sam Bett, is the editor and publisher of his own Slow Food-related magazine, “Easy Jaws.”

“It was very empowering,” Bett said of Petrini’s speech. “[He] put ideas I have in a real light.”

After Petrini’s presentation, the Harvard COOP sold—and Petrini signed—copies of his book “Terra Madre” and the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money,” for which he wrote a forward.

—Staff writer Derrick Asiedu can be reached at dasiedu@fas.harvard.edu.

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