Food for Earth

24-hour digital marathon looks at sustainable solutions for the planet

12/05/2020 - 

Together with the Future Food Institute, FAO’s eLearning Academy marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a 24-hour Digital Global Marathon on sustainability. Entitled “Food for Earth”, the event brought together a diverse group of experts for a discussion of how sustainable food systems can play a transformative role in the way we live, and the impact we have on the planet. 

The event featured multilingual work sessions spread out across the globe, all focused on the regenerative power of food systems. The online discussions moved from east to west, with the first sessions held in China, Japan and India, before moving on to the Middle East, Russia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Participants even had a chance to connect with Antarctica during one of the sessions, when scientists based at Concordia Research Station on the Antarctic Plateau joined the discussion. 

The event featured participants from a number of backgrounds, providing diverse perspectives on how the transformation of food systems can play an important role in the health of the planet. Indigenous peoples, entrepreneurs, scientists, journalists, young leaders, policymakers and farmers all contributed to the discussion. The event brought together more than 100 expert voices, who were joined by more than 100,000 viewers worldwide throughout the full day.

The lessons learnt during the Global Marathon can be grouped into three topics: planet, people, and prosperity. 

From the “planet”, or environmental perspective, participants agreed that in order for food systems to be more sustainable, we must focus on safeguarding natural resources, especially water; place farmers at the center of our relationship with food, as guardians of the land; embrace circularity, and reduce food waste. Additionally, we should work to limit climate change and biodiversity loss, as the impacts of both can make us more vulnerable to disease and food insecurity.

From the “people”, or human perspective, identified lessons related to cooks and food experiences, and underlined the role of food as a medicine as well as a central part of identity, tradition and culture. The sessions also looked at the connection between food and education, and the potential of the kitchen to serve as a classroom and as a place that can help to foster peace. 

Finally, in the “prosperity” category, key learnings included the importance of integrating “core values” in innovation, such as reciprocity, active listening, solidarity, empathy and collaborative leadership. The sessions focused on how to develop a holistic approach to solve global challenges, one that takes into account a shared environment and promotes a One Health approach, recognizing the connection between humans, animals, plants, and their shared environments, in an integrated effort to reduce disease and other threats and ensure safe food supply. In the context of the current pandemic, discussions also focused on the necessity to care for one another. 

The event highlighted the role of education as one of the most powerful tools in reshaping food systems. Going forward, FAO and FFI plan to build on the content generated by the Global Marathon, combining it with educational material created by FAO’s elearning Academy, which will form the basis of programmes designed to create “Climate Shapers”. 

“Sustainability is humanity’s greatest goal and the only way forward,” said Cristina Petracchi, head of FAO’s eLearning Academy. “For this great purpose, we need competent professionals who are able and capable of taking appropriate decisions, formulating targeted and sustainable policies and strategies, and adopting innovative “green” methodologies and technologies. In other words, we can only achieve sustainability through the development of capacities, and transfer of skills and competencies.”

“The lessons learnt during Food for Earth Day are the basis for rethinking business as usual, because business as usual is part of the problem,” said Sara Roversi, Founder of the Future Food Institute. “To achieve this we need systemic thinking, multi-stakeholder platforms and multidisciplinary profiles. In this sense, the marathon has represented a unique example both of extraordinary content that now is becoming a book and of the power of partnership between the public and private sector to contribute to new, circular and regenerative practices.” 

The full marathon can be found online, in a series of videos published by the Future Food Institute.

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