The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Albert Einstein
Each year, malnutrition in the world is increasing. On the one hand, more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger. On the other hand, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese which leads to diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.
The major global crisis such as the climate crisis, the loss in soil fertility and in biodiversity but also the covid-19 pandemic are enhancing the problem of malnutrition. But also environmental damage, wars and conflicts threaten the nutritional basis. All of these problems are caused by humans and also unequal food distribution leading to hunger is a human created problem or better a problem of humanity. The deliberate destruction of the own existence is certainly not value-driven. But it happens. Due to disconnection, the consequences of the own actions are not considered. People are no longer connected to nature, to plants, animals and even no longer socially connected. It is obvious that these are no healthy conditions. But they are needed to get healthy food that is grown in healthy soil, processed with respect to the natural quality and traded in a fair way. It seems to be obvious that a change of mind and behavior is needed, one could even say a paradigm shift, because the attitude towards life and the earth has to change from exploitation to a common development.
A first step to achieve this, is overcoming disconnectedness through mindful eating. This means paying attention to food, being present while eating, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment. Mindful eating is the exercise of perceiving what is on the plate, how it smells and tastes, and how it can be digested. Training the senses means training the human organs to connect to the world and establish relationships. Taking notice of the food and eating consciously enhances the self-connectedness as a precondition of being able to connect to others. It enables to meet food and its history with which the consumer is connected by his diet. Environmentally and climate friendly production, like biodynamic agriculture, results in food that tastes good and therefore has a stimulating effect and spends pleasure that is not at the expense of others. Empathy and interest develop. This means people care for where food comes from and under what conditions it is produced and traded. Connections, partnership and respect are cultivated. These are key properties for a healthy future of the earth. This approach is not exclusive and everyone can start with mindfulness without precondition and no matter at which point in the value chain he is located.
Practicing mindfulness means developing core skills for successful sustainable food systems. As this attitude fosters positive development in individual, social and economic contexts, the method is introduced as a first step for a system change. In the poorer countries also this connectedness is needed, it leads to an attitude of dignity, an experience of self-efficacy to build up hope, overcome depression and foster action because the actions shape the future.
Dr. Jasmin Peschke, Nutrition Department, Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum
This article is a short version of the contribution at Organic World Congress 2021 (6th to 10th September, Rennes, France) during the session “global and multi actors” in the stakeholder forum.