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EAT Stockholm Food Forum

Speech given by Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess at EAT Stockholm Food Forum, 1 June 2015.

ladies and gentlemen.

One of my first memories is the sound of snow rushing past me to the rhythm of my mother’s movement. She was cross-country skiing across the Norwegian plateaus and I was being pulled behind her, lying protected in my sled, looking up at the sky. For me silence and sound has become important parts of how I value places.

I grew up by the ocean and the ocean to me is more sound than anything else:
The sound of waves when I, as a young child, fell asleep in the sailing boat. The hollow sound of water when it hits the rocks under the pier. The peaceful silence when I swim underneath.

We all have different entry points and different stories of our connection to nature and the places we belong. As I grew up by the ocean, it has become an important part of who I define myself as. Sometimes I wonder if I belong more to the sea than anything else.

Emmanuel Kant once said it is in nature that we can be at peace with who we are, we perceive ourselves as whole in nature, there is no discrepancy between who we are as moral beings and who we are as natural beings.

My longstanding engagement in environmental issues started accidentally when I as a child spent my summers in my uncle’s boat, roaming across small islands. We found plastic cans, old fishnets, ropes and all sorts of exciting treasures. As a grown up I still collect plastic on beaches, but now with a sad heart and not the same joy.

I often return to a sentence in a paper clipping from 15 years ago, which comes back to me again and again.
Can you hear the ocean? It’s saying "save me".

Over these two days you will not hear my story of the ocean, you will hear the story of someone else. EAT's founder grew up on a small farm, and its no co-incidence she founded this initiative. As a doctor, and a farm girl, and an environmentalist, EAT is as much about the story of Dr. Gunhild Stordalen as it is a part of her soul.

We are living on a planet that too is saying save me.

Mother Nature is an incredibly fine-tuned eco system of which we all are all a small part. Climate change and human land use are emerging as the greatest challenges of our time. We have never before had such a vast amount of scientific reports on the changing climate as we have today – the effects of climate change are becoming more visible in people’s lives. Yet, in spite of all this, public concern for global warming has paradoxically decreased over the last 25 years.

We clearly have a communications problem.

So over the years as my understanding of the complexity of environmental issues has increased, so has my yearning to learn more. This year I’m studying “Green Growth” at the Norwegian business school under Professor Per Espen Stoknes. In his new book “What we think about when we try not to think about global warming” he argues that the climate communication we have seen the last decades – in spite of the best intentions – has ended up making people feel helpless and wanting to ignore the disturbing facts. Now it has become as important to understand the human response to the climate crisis - as it is to understand the climate system itself.

One of the reasons we do not collectively act, seems to be that the whole issue has been presented as a distant but threatening doomsday to us. Typically, threats and fear trigger a “fight or flight”-response in the human brain.

Let me do a little experiment here:

If I say Co2, emissions, carbon monoxide, global warming, disaster.
Does that motivate you or weigh you down?

If I say mountain air, white winters, buzzing bees, coral reefs.
It makes you feel a little bit better doesn’t it?

But it doesn't solve anything – unless we believe that framing can do a lot about people’s willingness to acknowledge and act. In the traditional climate framing there has been few practical solutions where one can act meaningfully. People tend to, and sometimes rightfully so, question what on earth does it matter that I ride my bike to work, while people all over the world still use coal as their primary source of energy.

It is complicated. The consequence is that many, myself included, end up simply avoiding the topic, with dissonance and denial instead.

Therefore, I believe we need a whole new narrative on green issues:
We need to emphasize green choices people can make in their everyday life, and make it simpler, more meaningful – and more fun. Rather than more doom, we need to tell stories and visions of the society and the world we deeply want to sustain. We need to remember the experiences of nature each and every one of us treasure in the places where we live. And most importantly, we must create a grounded hope that we can, and will, choose to be a part of the long-term solution and no longer a part of the problem.

The climate story is ultimately one of identity, and if we are to make climate issues relevant to people in their everyday lives, we need to connect it to something we can all relate to. Food is one of our most daily interactions with nature itself. The food we eat have great implication on how we feel, and our health. Food is what sustains us.

So EAT is not just a conference, it is a new narrative in the climate story. It helps us relate to concepts that are overwhelming and incredibly complex.

It shows us how climate is inextricably linked to food production, and biodiversity.

It shows us how we need to practice sustainable farming if we are to feed the earths’ nearly 7 billion inhabitants. It shows how we have to fight for my beloved ocean to do so.

So let me take this opportunity to tell the consumer goods industry present:
Please use less plastic,
please ban micro plastic in your products,
find other more sustainable methods to pack our food.
Please farm our oceans safely.

I won’t go deeper into this, if I did you would have me talking about this for another couple of days here on stage.

EAT is a narrative that helps us understand some of this complex matter, and make it into something tangible.

EAT is an ongoing initiative that has managed to pull together a group of institutions and individuals who will no doubt, leave a lasting mark on how we research, produce and trade food. That is no less than impressive.

It is a beautiful afternoon here in Stockholm today.

I would like to send a kind thank you to the Royal Family of Sweden. His Majesty King Carl Gustav has been a longstanding supporter of the environment. His daughter has followed in his footsteps, and studied these issues related to climate change under amongst others Johan Rockstrom.

But today, most of all I would like to thank Dr Gunhild Stordalen for connecting the dots for us. I am incredibly proud as a Norwegian to see you change how we talk about food, health and sustainability. You have more than anything shown us that there is truth to Margaret Meads words; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”.

In closing I would like to say.

We need you.

We need all of you scientists and researchers, activist and business leaders, philanthropists and politicians present here today, to help us understand the complexity of these issues.

We need to hear that it is possible,

And that we all have our part to play.

We need you to show us how we together can save our planet, and ultimately save ourselves.

This February my father-in-law, His Majesty, an environmentalist at heart, visited a research station in Antarctica where he stated: ”Our children are going to be much more reasonable that we have been”. I truly hope he is right, but more I hope we all will rise to the occasion NOW.

It is the small drops of water that create an ocean.

Thank you.



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Speech given by Crown Princess Mette-Marit at EAT Stockholm Food Forum 1 June 2015. Video: EAT Initiative, Still: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix