EAT Forum: Staying alive
Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I love surfing
I started too late in life to ever be any good at it. I'm actually pretty crappy. But I love it.
I love being out there in the water, in the element. And the fact that the wave that comes along is momentarial. That it is only there for a little moment.
And when the wave comes, it has within it this ancient elemental force that has been there since the beginning of time.
And if you time it just right. And if you use the experience that you have built trying to catch waves and failing, and trying and failing again - and if I use all my strength and try to align it with this tremendous power that is coming with the ocean - then maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to catch a wave.
Ok, so you are paddling and you can feel that the wave is coming. And you paddle som more and you look over your shoulder to see where it is. And your board is tilting forward because of the force of the wave and you are gaining speed.
So two more hard strokes, and then you put your hands down on the board and pop up and you actually stand on your board. And for that little moment. That fleeting moment when you are there. You realise this very important insight.
You are nature.
There is no us and nature.
People are part of nature, humans are nature.
And if we really understand this, if we really feel this truth, I think It’s easier for us to make the right decisions, and to take better care of our planet.
Because after all: Taking care of nature, is taking care of our selves.
For the last 14 years, I have been lucky enough to work with the United Nations Development Program as a goodwill ambassador. And I have focusing on the Millennium Development Goals, and now the Sustainable Development Goals.
This has taken me around the world. Some years ago, I was in Guatemala. As you know, Guatemala has a dramatic history. A really devestating civil war that lasted for decades.
When I was there, it was years after the war was over, but still they were finding remains of victims – children, adults, elderly people - mostly in the Maya villages in the countryside. And they were trying to identify them, because many of the houses were burned to the ground and also the villages were completely destroyed, the crops were destroyed.
So there was this program restarting agriculture. They were working together – the national authorities, local authorities, and the international community – with the UN.
And people were given some resources to buy seeds, to buy tools - there was some funding for training so that they could restart the agriculture the way they had been doing before the war.
And in one of the Maya villages I met Mateo. He was the leader of his farmer’s organization and he told me about this program quite matter-of-factly. How it all worked, technically. But the time when i became emotional, and tears came to his eyes, was when he concluded: For us, this is about livelihoods, freedom and the possibility of living a life with dignity.
So why I am telling you this story here at EAT? Well, because food is about more than nutrition for the body. Food is also a powerful tool for peace building.
A few years later, I went to Zambia.
And there I met Pamela.
She lived in a farming community as well, and in this area, they had been growing corn – only corn, as a monoculture – which made the soil vulnerable to floods and draughts.
So there was an initiative to diversify their crops. The UN worked with local authorities, and got this program in place. They offered training, and they gave some support in order to make the first investments a reality. And Pamela was one of the beneficiaries of this program. She was now growing different types of beans and grains – and they even had bees, so they could produce honey.
Pamela told me that for her this was a game changer. She was a young woman – a single mother, with four children. And because of this program she was able to put all her kids through school.
When I asked her what the most important result of this program was to her, she answered: I am not dependent on any man. Cause she was able to do all this by herself, and create this income for herself and her family through the patch of land that she had.
Without being dependent on a man.
For Pamela, food was not only about nutrition for the body, but it was about security, empowerment, education, autonomy, development, and sustainability.
These structures and challenges are complex. And that’s why we need places like EAT, where you can take this complex world and make it understandable. To make the rest of us understand, and show us the way forward.
So here we are:
We have a world where there is violence, suffering, pollution, climate change. But also knowledge, deep understanding, peace building, awareness, great courage and love.
And underneath it all a treasure is hidden in plain view. Simple and challenging:
All of us are given the gift of being able to change things for the better.
We can all contribute in a positive way.
What better place to start than here at EAT?
So I want to leave you today with three thoughts.
- Think about a problem you are passionate about solving.
- Find people that share that passion.
- Set a target for what you want to do about it this year together.
Passion and purpose.
Thank you for your attention.