Food, climate and technology: Obama’s lesson
Former United States President Barack Obama received a rock-star welcome on May 9 in Milan as the guest of honor at Seeds&Chips, international summit on food innovation to which Foodcommunity.it served as a media partner.
Along with Sam Kass, who served as chef and policy advisor in the Obama White House, the former president took on topics like climate change, the food industry and new technologies for the future of food and the environment. He did so without any controversy (he never directly criticized Donald Trump’s policies), but he did send a clear message about how we are all responsible for the world that we will leave to our children, and how we must act to change things for the better.
Foodcommunity.it has chosen to focus on three major topics discussed by Obama on stage at Seeds&Chips, with famous names in attendance such as the former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Milan mayor Beppe Sala and chef Massimo Bottura.
CLIMATE CHANGE, MIGRATION AND WASTE
Obama pointed out the importance of the climate-change agreement signed in Paris and explained “one of the consequences of climate change is famine and the difficulties in producing food. Refugees come not just because of wars but because of famine as well. If we don’t take necessary action, migration will continue to get worse.” While there are 800 million malnourished people in the world, one-third of food produced goes to waste (in the U.S., that percentage rises to 40%). Obama called this figure “unacceptable.”
THE IMPACT THE FOOD INDUSTRY HAS ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH
“I’m no vegetarian, but I respect everyone’s choices, and I am aware of the importance of eating less meat,” Obama said. He talked about living in Indonesia and spending time in Africa where “they eat very little meat,” while in the United States, the intensification of livestock breeding is a serious problem. This is why he added “It is our duty to get informed on the environmental impact of intensive breeding and being more aware of where the food we eat every day comes from and how it is produced.” He pointed out that, in the United States, “obesity and correlated diseases are a true plague. We need to invest in food education, thinking about our health and the health of our children.”
YOUNG PEOPLE, TECHNOLOGY AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
Obama said that he is worried about the impact of technology on employment, with many jobs that will be replaced by machines. “If young people are unemployed, their energies are misdirected, and this is part of the problem behind the rise of radicalization and terrorism.” However, on the other hand, “new technologies can help fight climate change and safeguard food security.” Obama thinks that governments need to find the right balance. The former president also expressed his commitment to “training the next generation of leaders” in order to “create an efficient network of global activists” on the environment/food front. He reinforced the idea that the future is in the hands of young people, a concept that he summed up by saying “young people can take it to the next level.”