My summer meanderings will take me via the World Expo in Milan. The theme this year is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” something I have become quite passionate about since starting The Flexitarian. Food sustainability is one of the biggest challenges we face today and having so many countries gathered together to show their take on the problem appears to be a great opportunity to raise awareness and hopefully find solutions.
The concept of a World Fair or Universal Expositions originated in France around 1850. Since then, they have been hosted in numerous countries and are recognised as being an opportunity to showcase knowledge, inventions and creativity from around the world. Several products and technologies have made their début at this event: from the combine harvester of the London event in 1851 and the lift in 1853, to the early sewing machines of the Parisian event in 1855, the telephone in 1876 in Philadelphia and the television in 1939 and so on.
Organisers want this World Expo to be an opportunity to promote discussion and cooperation and give a concrete answer to our most vital question: HOW to ensure enough healthy food for all, WHILE respecting Nature and its delicate balance, AND avoiding food excess and injustice.
About 140 countries are present to share their know-how to solve issues around our current food chain such as the conundrum of feeding about 870 million undernourished people while around 2.8 million others die from diseases related to obesity or weight problems.
I have been browsing through the website of Expo Milano 2015 to plan my visit. I only have a day to explore the 1.1 million square meters!
Glancing through countries’ portfolios, food exports and agriculture receive the lion’s share of attention, and I am disappointed that none are focusing on the importance of plant-based diets or solutions to reduce food waste. I might be wrong though, as most country briefs are quite general. Who knows what is hiding behind the “sustainability” label?
As with previous exhibitions, countries are each trying to make an impact with the architecture of their pavilion.
Design-wise, I particularly like the UK “beehive”pavilion designed by Wolfgang Buttress. It cleverly takes visitors on the journey of the honey bee to highlight the role of pollination in the global food chain and ecosystem.
France’s wooden pavilion, themed around “Different Ways of Producing and Providing Food” engages visitors through an ingenious display of food produce suspended from the ceiling.
In a beautiful wavy wooden building, China’s exhibit tackles “Land of Hope, Food for Life”” and the pursuit of balance between mankind and the environment.
Japan aims to promote its own experience of a healthy, sustainable and balanced diet with a theme of harmonious diversity.
To help visitors, Expo Milano 2015 is organised around Thematic Focuses and Cluster Focuses.
The Thematic Focuses include :
- Pavillion Zero – a journey exploring how much humankind has produced, the transformation of natural landscape, and the culture and rituals of food consumption (this might tie up nicely with my current reading of Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond)
- Future Food District – presents possible scenarios for the application of new technologies to the food chain.
- Children’s Park – designed to help children understand the topic of sustainability through stimulating and fun activities.
- Biodiversity Park – dedicated to Italy’s outstanding qualities in terms of the environment, agriculture, and food production.
- Arts & Foods. Rituals since 1851 – a collection of artwork relating to food.
The Cluster Focuses include:
- Fruits and Legumes
- Cereals and Tubers
- Agriculture and Nutrition in the Arid Zones
- Islands, Sea and Food
Without doubt, on the top of my list are the UN Zero Hunger Itinerary and the Slow Food movement (which originated in Italy) and its pavilion dedicated to biodiversity.
Expo Milano 2015 is an ambitious undertaking. Will it live up to expectations? Can it generate dialogue or does each country get stuck in its own rhetoric and patriotism?
Browsing through the website and press releases, I am bemused to see Italy relaxing its ban on crocodile meat to allow Zimbabwean Croc burgers at the expo! Is that really necessary? Also McDonald’s sponsorship looks out of place. Yet I am looking forward to a very busy day and will report back in a few weeks!