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Serge Latouche. It is not enough to protect the environment. People must learn respect

Culture / -

Serge Latouche
©Niccolò Caranti

The French economist Serge Latouche, who became famous as a theorist and popularizer of happy degrowth, says that to avoid the collapse of the planet is not enough to restore the economy and respect nature. We need to introduce greater cooperation and altruism in human relations.

The key to survival? Decrease. You said it, pointing out that if we continue to grow economically, mankind will disappear in a short time. The solution, citing your colleague Tim Jackson, is to turn us into a society that is "prosperous, but without growth." In practice, how can we do this?
We have to decolonize our imagination and counter the economic and financial oligarchy of transactional companies that live for growth and the destruction of the Planet. Of course it will not be easy, but we have no choice. Everyone knows it, all the latest reports of the IPCC (The International Plant Protection Convention) or the third report of the Club of Rome  and many others say that if we do not take another route humanity will reach its end or collapse before the close of the century.

Are our minds accustomed in your opinion by a fixed idea, the economy. To decolonize our imagination we must free ourselves from the myths of progress, science and technology. With what we should replace them?
As I explained in my books, you must re-establish the economy according to the virtuous circle of the 8 Rs (i.e. Reassess, Reframe, Restructure, Relocalize, Redistribute, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The first step is to review the values we believe in. For example, you should change this idea that sees human beings as the masters of nature, because we cannot continue to destroy it to the end. We must learn to live in harmony with it, no longer treating it like predators, but as good gardeners. Individuals should also change the way people behave not only in the environment, but also against their own kind, introducing more cooperation and altruism in relationships. This also assumes a frugality in consumption and a sense of autonomy, with the aim of developing a resilience of societies, that is, their ability to transform positively and without trauma. It is certainly not to reject the values of science and technology, but to make them less promethean and more respectful of nature.

The degrowth that you hope will lead everyone to have less food on their plate or a smaller range of choices of products at the supermarket? Do not you think that most people would be frightened at the thought of becoming poorer?
Degrowth does not touch food quantitatively. It touches instead industrial production of goods that destroy the planet. On the question of food, I would say that the decrease mainly improves the quality of the food we eat. You have to get away from the myth of junk food, which is full of chemicals and find good quality natural food. Decreasing or stepping back from a society characterized by growth does not mean reducing the amount of agricultural product, but producing more grain and less meat to feed the entire population of the earth well. Degrowth means, above all, reducing inequalities between North and South.

You are an advocate of self-production and self-consumption. But if we all started to self-produce soaps, clothes and food, most of us would no longer have a job because they would need more workers or salespeople who meet certain needs. We would all be more or less autonomous. It is hard to imagine such a world. It is not a bit extreme this change in perspective?
I am not a partisan of self-production, even if it's something good and positive. But you have to produce to meet the needs, not to produce with the aim of producing as we do today. We must produce good quality products and thus decrease waste, since today this is a terrible problem. Wasting resources to create new jobs is a total nonsense. We have to get out of this vicious circle. If we no longer need to produce so much, then we need to reduce working hours, work less so that everyone can work and recover a sense of idleness and leisure that allows us to do things much more satisfying that our time spent working.

Expo Milano 2015. At the next Universal Exposition, the representatives of all the Participating Countries will discuss and give their contribution to the theme of food and on the issue of sustainability and the availability of food resources at a global level. What do you think should be the premise, manner and purpose of measuring the various nations?
I think that the Participating Countries should be measured on their quality of food products and their ecological footprint, because it must be said that the best products are those that have a weaker ecological footprint, like foods from organic farming. Degrowth also incorporates the Slow Food watchwords of 'a clean and fair world': the word 'fair' is also important in relation to the Countries of the south, because the prices of products should enable farmers to live in dignity.

North and South in the world. You claim that rather that the Countries of the south being helped by the rich countries, the countries of the southern hemisphere can help the rich to really maintain living standards. Can you explain this concept more clearly?
As Countries of the north we represent less than 20 percent of the world population and consume over 86 percent of the Planet's resources. The countries of the global South who help us are the countries with a very low carbon footprint, like the Countries of Africa which instead of consuming two acres per capita, use less than a tenth of a hectare, such as Burkina Faso. What they do not consume, we consume!

A group of economists at the New Economics Foundation had the idea of calculating the ratio of planetary happiness, the Happy Planet Index. To assess the well-being of nations, they considered three parameters: well-being of citizens, life expectancy at birth and ecological footprint. The ranking sees in the last places the wealthiest countries like Kuwait and the United States, while ranking first were Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia. How do you explain that?
Happiness definitely depends on the ability to consume, but also on the wealth of interpersonal relationships. Living well in a family, having friends, working in a healthy environment, for example, are aspects that make people happy. Economic growth, exceeding a certain limit, destroys the quality of air, water and social relations. The former secretary of the President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, resigned when he realized that he had earned a lot of money, but had destroyed his family, and that he had to recover the important things in life. Robert Kennedy had also said it in his famous speech: The GDP measures everything except what is important in life.

Agriculture. You argue that productivist agriculture is causing enormous damage to the Planet (through the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and resulting pollution of aquifers, and through the privatization of nature through the purchase of patented seeds). Do you believe that the alternative is to stop shopping en masse at large retailers and to go to GAS and solidarity markets? Or do we need some other kind of strategy?
Both. Certainly GAS, short circuits, self-production and the Slow Food movement are important, but we have to convert productivist agriculture into organic agriculture, agro-ecology or permacultures that are less productivist, but more productive for the environment.

Do you follow a vegetarian diet?
I am not vegetarian and I am not vegan. I think that human beings are omnivorous, but that we should eat a little meat of quality. We should not eat animals fed on GM, which makes people obese, causes high cholesterol and a propensity to heart disease. Of course we have to eat less fat, less sugar, less salt. Above all we need to waste less meat because 40 percent of the meat sold in the supermarket goes directly into the rubbish bin. In short, we must follow the famous Mediterranean diet: in other words, one that is balanced.

What is biodynamic agriculture?

Sustainability / -

agricoltura biodinamica
© Shosei/Corbis

Biodynamic agriculture, founded by Rudolf Steiner, considers the earth, humans, animals and plants all as integral parts of the cosmos, sensitive to its rules and its influences. It is proposed to enrich the vitality of the land, giving man the best form of nourishment.

An original and fascinating theosophical doctrine is the basis of the international movement founded in 1912 by Rudolf Steiner of the Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach in Basel. A renewed conception of man in harmony with the forces of the earth and the cosmos involving medicine, science, art and pedagogy was proposed here, known as anthroposophy.

Among the concepts that the philosophy has linked through the decades are performing arts and applied sciences. Anthroposophic medicine as presented by Steiner is a diagnostic and therapeutic practice that cares for man in his  psycho-physical-energetic totality with remedies similar to  homeopathic ones. Biodynamic agriculture, codified in eight lessons for farmers by this Austrian thinker in Koberwitz, in 1924, gave rise to three cardinal needs: maintain  the fertility of the earth, make plants healthy so that they have the energy to resist parasites and  produce food of the highest possible quality.

Biodynamic agriculture aims to produce higher quality foods that are capable of nourishing  both our inner and physical integrity.

Exploiting Natural Forces

The biodynamic farm aims to become the ideal of an organic self-sufficient entity, where land, vegetation, animals and humans are in perfect balance and contribute to the sustenance of each other. The principle of giving back to the earth what you take from it is not an idea original to biodynamics, it comes from chemistry instead. The fundamental principle of biodynamics is to activate the life within the soil so that the substances present in the ground can be released and assimilated by plants. Like a biological company, it maintains itself in relation to the surrounding environment while preserving  paces inhabited by wild animals,  as they are respected pest predators.

Rotation and Compost
Some biodynamics practices have a scientific root and their intrinsic utility is recognized even by those who are not followers of the approach.  An example includes green manure,  which is the burying of particular plants for the purpose fertilizing the soil. Biodynamics also advocates crop rotation and  the use of compost. The latter is the most widely used fertilizer in biodynamics. To create compost, a pile is carefully formed, in contact with the earth, which consists of a  mixture of earth, plant remains, food waste, ash and water. This combination results in the activation of vital processes capable of generating heat up to 40 ° C. (104 °F)

Biodynamic Preparations and the Lunar Calendar
Added to the compost  are eight biodynamic preparations: fertilizer, quartz powder, herbs, nettle, chamomile, yarrow, valerian, oak bark and dandelion. These are to be used with the intent of regulating and stimulating the biological processes of the harvest itself, the plants and the fields. Before being sprayed, the preparations are made ​​dynamic, diluting them in large quantities of water as is done in for homeopathic remedies.

Biodynamics gives special importance to lunar influences that govern the development of the individual parts of the plant and also are dependent upon the sign of the Zodiac that the Moon passes through. The timing of sowing is the result of 20 years of research and studies on the influence of the moon in agriculture conducted by the German scholar, disciple of Steiner, Maria Thun.

Even biodynamic agriculture is subject to regulatory approvals. The final product is certified on the label as coming from biodynamic farming methods. These products can be found in supermarkets, natural food stores or from farms which apply the method. All European biodynamic companies are also subject to inspection for compliance to organic farming regulations because all the companies are also organic. However the most stringent standards come from the dual certification process. which requires an additional control beyond the organice certification process; resulting in the farms needing an organic certification and a certification from  Demeter. They exist and operate in 18 Demeter of country,  as branches of Demeter International. The brand is present in all continents and inspects and certifies the entire range of biodynamic products from all over the world. The associations that are present in the various nations are united in an international federation,  coordinating the various disciplines of cultivation.

Morocco, a country to be explored with the senses

Culture / -

© Amar Grover_Jai_Corbis
© Amar Grover_Jai_Corbis

Minarets, deserts, mountains: Morocco is highly varied, an adventure to be explored with the senses, letting oneself be transported by the heart’s instincts through ancient medinas and souq markets.

A land which opens itself to those who desire to discover it, generous with its natural and architectonic beauty and with its sensual flavors. The rich aromatic notes of mint tea will guide you through the magnificent Imperial cities of Rabat, Marrakesh, Meknes and Fes, or Casablanca and Tangiers, where the eyes fill with delight and the mind with history and culture.
Argan Oil, precious gold for cooking and health
From the fruit of the argan tree, similar to the olive tree and found only on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, a special oil can be extracted, long a fundamental ingredient in Berber cooking. It takes 50 kilos of fruit to produce half a liter of oil, and the process is extremely long and laborious. Since 2001 argan oil has the status of Slow Food Presidium, thanks to Zoubida Charrouf, lecturer at Rabat University. This status involves social as well as environmental value: the harvesting of the fruit, the breaking of its husk and the extraction of the oil is largely carried out by women, and these time-taking activities offer them the opportunity for learning how to read, for studying and for socializing.
At the table, argan oil is often added after cooking couscous, in tagine fish or meat stews and in crudités. It can also be eaten raw on a simple slice of bread. Blended with almonds and honey it is a main ingredient in Amlou Beldi, the traditional creamy spread offered to guests as a sign of welcome, together with bread and mint tea. In rural areas it is customary to use a few drops as a first food for new-born babies. It is also extremely effective for moisturizing skin and hair and for healing wounds and scars.
A fortified Arab citadel in Expo Milano 2015
The Moroccan Pavilion is a Kasbah constructed with wood and earth, and reflects the style of Berber architecture, characteristic of the southern part of the country, where it is perfectly suitable for the geographical and meteorological conditions and for the way of life of its communities and their defensive needs in centuries past. It offers visitors a taste of the country’s mystery and beauty, and also a place to relax at the end of their visit, in a typical Mediterranean garden, with orange, olive and palm trees. The separate spaces of its architectonic context make it possible to offer visitors a journey through Morocco’s varied “terroirs” with their different agronomic characteristics and cultural traditions.

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