RegenerAction 2022: The potential of healing and beauty

Returning to the time of conscious presence

The economic, social, and environmental scenario in which we find ourselves today highlights the need to redesign current production and consumption models for more sustainable development. Linear economic models, marked by the “exploit-make-throw” mantra, have proven to be not only less economically efficient than expected, but also harmful to the social and environmental fabric, going on to fuel conflict, exclusion, and unnecessary economic costs.

In the age of maximum performance and instantaneous output, where we are all connected but few are truly united, one aspect has been dangerously overlooked: rediscovering the time of presence, beauty, and awareness.

There is a need for more care, understood as active interest, as care and concern for who and what surrounds us: personal psycho-physical well-being, neighborly relationships, regeneration of real contacts, to rediscover time to experience the rural environment and urban spaces. All aspects that can create a positive reverberation on the economic-productive dimension and make it truly sustainable.

Economy of beauty: an economy that regenerates individuals, societies, and local economies

Sustaining the economy of beauty means caring for the natural, cultural, historical, landscape, food and wine and human heritage of an area. It means assuming attitudes that know how to value those aspects that, in addition to direct benefits for the individual, positively affect the entire community, territory, and economic sector. Today this mindset has been institutionalized with the One Health Approach, which recognizes how closely interdependent human, animal, and plant health are. However, it is nothing more than the legacy of ancient Mediterranean wisdom, which recognized that Nature has its own rhythms and it is its respect that ensures nutritional quality and human health.

Data and statistics speak for themselves: deteriorating mental health status and the erosion of social cohesion are perceived to be among the most worrisome threats to the world in the next two years, on par with climate change concerns, reports the Global Risk Report 2022. This is a challenge that also hits our country hard, and particularly in young people and students, the most stressed and depressed in Europe. Returning to reviving open spaces, natural and cultural, generates undoubted benefits. Today we call it biophilia, which literally means love of life, because subconsciously we know that where there is greenery and nature there is life; in the past it was called harmony.

Enhancing this beauty, which in our country alone is summed up in an inestimable natural, cultural, landscape, and historical heritage, also means supporting the economy of small and very small Italian companies that make up the rich urban and rural fabric, the true soul of our country, which produce 17 percent of our GDP. Globally, too, investing in care brings economic rewards. Every dollar invested in sanitation efficiency corresponds to an economic return of $5.50 through reduced health care costs and increased productivity, reveals the World Health Organization (WHO). Reducing resource waste (such as food waste) also leads to proven economic improvements: according to the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), the 21 percent reduction in household food waste in the United Kingdom triggered an economic return of £250 for every pound invested in the national food waste reduction plan.

Focusing on caring for natural resources, understood as common goods to be valued and protected rather than commodified, and putting the individual and his or her well-being back at the center is then beneficial for the economy as well as for the health and survival of ecosystems themselves.

Cure, care, and beauty: the pillars of the European strategy

Care and beauty fall within the recent measures and strategies adopted by the European Union to accelerate the ecological, climate, and regional health transition. Specifically, the European Commission, in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals included within the 2030 Agenda (and in particular to implement Sustainable Development Goal number 3 – SDG3 on health and well-being) takes actions to reduce maternal and child mortality, improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive health care, and achieve universal health coverage.

The EU is also a major contributor to international health initiatives: since 2002, the EU has committed more than €2.6 billion to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and is actively engaged in strengthening regional health systems, combining national ownership and regional coherence. In addition, a new strategy for long-term care and treatment is scheduled for adoption in the third quarter of 2022 to strengthen gender equality and social equity through accessible and affordable care services for children and individuals in need of long-term care.

Evidence comes from the European effort to include the Human Development Index (living long and healthy lives, being informed, and having a decent standard of living) as the ultimate criterion for assessing a country’s development.

Regarding the idea of beauty, on the other hand, the co-design phase of the New European Bauhaus was launched in January 2021, with the aim of identifying and reflecting on aesthetic, sustainable, and inclusive solutions for our spaces and contributing to the realization of the Green Deal. The movement aims to foster interdisciplinary collaboration to rethink how all environments are designed and built, going beyond building specificity and engaging cross-disciplinary knowledge and practices.

When care drives development

Future Food Institute is at the forefront of this transition toward rethinking the parameters and standards of good living, the health of individuals and their environments, a new humanism for development. By putting care and beauty back at the center, we can sow the seeds for an integral ecological consciousness and transform the food chain into a value chain. Starting with food and the values it represents, we can create an ecosystem capable of realizing truly sustainable, participatory and integral forms of development designed for the collective good through models of inclusive prosperity.

In Italy, there is a priceless artistic and cultural heritage composed of great works and monuments, but also of those hidden textures in the kitchens, squares, villages, microclimates, history, and local identities that contribute to making the “Bel Paese” rich in those nuances and details that are the envy of the world. An invaluable characteristic to be preserved and protected, yet so often undervalued, misunderstood, and wasted.

Spreading a new mindset, that of Prosperity Thinking, is a commitment that the Future Food Institute has been promoting since its inception through scientific research but also by implementing on the ground a real, participatory, and integral transformation; through events, meetings, debates, as happened on Sustainable Gastronomy Day or in Good After Covid debates and daily from our Living Lab in Pollica.

Pollica (SA), a UNESCO Emblematic Community of the Mediterranean Diet, and its administration are a virtuous example of how these beauties can be made usable and accessible, as well as protected and cared for. A village nestled between sea and mountains that in the face of difficulties such as depopulation and climate change chooses to respond with courage, continuing to invest in the care of the landscape, the enhancement of the territorial heritage, the improvement of services and the regeneration of agricultural areas to convince people to stay and to attract slow and responsible forms of tourism, to regenerate and not to distort.

A commitment, that of Pollica, which fascinated and overwhelmed us, prompting us to make our contribution with the Paideia Campus – an experimental hub where people can directly learn and experience the Mediterranean way of life. Pollica has thus become an open-air campus of regeneration to foster learning in the field, to teach that starting from care and beauty it is possible to trigger positive-sum transversal processes and mechanisms capable of making human, cultural, and natural heritages not only alive but also living.

Care, beauty, and presence thus also return to the forefront during the European AgriFood Week, through meetings, debates, insights and actual planning, such as the Mediterranean Wine Art Festival, the One Health Approach applied to the Mediterranean and the protection of supply chains and new production paradigms for economic regeneration.

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