The Universal Exposition

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Food collage. Different kinds of italian food.
Food collage. Different kinds of italian food.

May 1st hailed the opening of the Expo 2015 in Milan. The focus of this year’s exposition, “Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life”, offers a wide and interesting panorama of how different countries view food today. The pavilions of the more industrialized nations reflect the typical environment where food products abound and wastage has become a habit. In contrast, there are the exhibitions of the poorer nations where production and availability of food is still a struggle and there is no guarantee of being able to feed the entire population. It was precisely these two aspects that Pope Francis commented upon in his Expo inaugural address. He condemned the ”paradox of plenty”, a term coined by Pope John Paul II in his speech to the FAO in 1992, and reminded us that it persists still to this day. The pontiff urged the Expo to not to take part in this paradox by creating even more food waste and spoilage but instead, to contribute to the development of a fair and sustainable model for the future. In addition, he pointed out that the Expo theme of feeding the planet should not remain just a slogan, but must call to mind the “faces of the millions of people who today are hungry and will not eat like each human being deserves”. The message of Pope Francis was powerful, words that cannot and must not be ignored. The message must be embraced and drive us to find credible solutions just as the Pope has reminded us that Expo is a “great occasion to globalize solidarity” and a chance that is not to be wasted. Italy can become a driving force in this change, not only through its role in hosting the Expo, but even more so because of its grand tradition of food. The Charter of Milan, a document which was drawn up and launched at Expo, is a significant first step, a challenge that Italy has made to the world institutions, setting forth objectives for a 50% reduction of food waste by the year 2020, the development of sustainable agriculture and creating awareness about food. The challenge that Italy had laid down to other large nations is a formidable one; it reflects our concern for the needs of the weak, for those who come from less fortunate countries as well as for the future generations who not have enough natural resources to keep pace with their growing demands for food. Therefore, as Pope Frances put so adequately, as we stroll through the marvelous pavilions of Expo, it is essential to see, even if hidden, “the true protagonist of this event: the faces of the men and women who are hungry and who become sick and even die because of poor and bad nutrition”. These people deserve rapid and concrete answers. Putting an end to this violation of human dignity, after a Universal Exposition devoted to feeding the plant – energy for life, can no longer be left waiting.

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