True stories can inspire youngsters to change the planet

True stories can inspire youngsters to change the planet

October 18, 2017

True stories can inspire youngsters to change the planet

According to Gunter Pauli, the man behind the “blue economy”, who will be in Milan for the BCFN Forum, only disruptive change and free thinking can bring about a revolution in the agro-food system which the world needs if it is to achieve environmental sustainability.

The Belgian economist, entrepreneur and writer, Gunter Pauli, has been explaining his views on some of the most pressing issues in the field of environmental sustainability. The founding father of the “blue economy”, which targets zero CO2 emissions, will speak at greater lengths during the 8th edition of the BCFN Forum on food and nutrition to be held in Milan on December 4 and 5 at the Hangar Bicocca. 

How can we feed nine billion people while preserving biodiversity if we continue to exploit the planet as we are at the moment?

If we really want to feed nine billion people, we need to change our agricultural system, moving from a two-dimensional model to a 3D one. Every efficient ecosystem operates in three directions, and if we focus on three dimensions in agriculture and livestock farming (in the air or sea), we will find that there is a much greater abundance of resources than we realised. This will also allow us to relieve the pressure on the ecosystems which are so vital for environmental sustainability. And as a result, biodiversity will also be able to regenerate itself. 

Gunter Pauli, only 6% of young Europeans under 35 work in agriculture. What is the best way to change this trend?

Agriculture is not an attractive career for young people: poor earnings prospects, big companies telling what to farm and when... In this context, it is highly unlikely that young people will dream of becoming farmers. We need to change the business model and this change should start with a different pricing system. At the moment, there is too much dogma and not enough freedom to experiment with new business models or new products to respond to local demands. 

You often talk about the importance of rebels in bringing about change. How do you see the next agricultural revolution coming about?

We don’t just need small changes, we need a radical overhaul. Without fundamental innovations to promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity, and without people who are willing to implement them, we will never achieve a better quality of life. The rebels we need today are people who are able to think outside the box and go beyond the aspirations which we currently hold. But perhaps we are not giving people enough freedom to do so.


In Europe, around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted every year. Are there any examples of successful initiatives designed to tackle the problem of food waste?

When I am asked this question, I immediately think of Milan and its organic waste collection system. This model has been a success in Italy: contamination is less than 2% and it means that around 100kg of organic matter per person per year is returned to the Earth. And the only thing needed to make the system work is a simple biodegradable plastic bag. Now Paris is following the example set by Milan, and another 500 cities around the world are preparing to follow suit. This concept forms the basis of what is known as “green chemistry”.

You believe that educating children is fundamental, which has led you to write many stories for them. How do we tell children about the future of the planet?

If we want to explain to children how they will get healthy food in the future, we need to teach them about the key issues which are now starting to emerge. If we just stick to what we already know, we will never improve. The secret is to inspire children to create this sense of tension and curiosity between science and knowledge to encourage them to find the solutions we need to progress beyond where we are today. The most important task that we have in the coming years is to take some time every day to tell children an incredible story which will inspire them and help them to become happy and creative individuals dedicated to creating a better world than the one we handed down to them. 


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