FAO/ Hunger is not everything

Alberto Piatti

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a new director, José Graziano da Silva, who will now have to confront many problems, including the rise in food prices.

Pubblicazione: giovedì 30 giugno 2011 - Ultimo aggiornamento: venerdì 8 luglio 2011, 16.38

A second challenge for our times is to rediscover what Benedict XVI calls the “covenant between human beings and nature, without which the entire human family is destined to disappear”. In a culture in which this relationship is in crisis, we need to reestablish an intelligent, constructive and productive interaction between humans and nature. We need to look at our ancestors who also worked the land to gain “food security,” but who started from the desire for beauty and truth, relying on their certainty in the harmony of the natural world, which was not considered as something to possess but as something given by God.

“Nature is at our disposal not as ‘a heap of scattered refuse’ (Heraclitus of Ephesus), but as a gift of the Creator who has given it a built-in order, enabling man to draw from it the principles needed in order ‘to till it and keep it’ (Gen 2:15). But it should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism — human salvation cannot come from nature alone, understood in a purely naturalistic sense. This having been said, it is also necessary to reject the opposite position, which aims at total technical dominion over nature, because the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a “grammar” which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation. Today much harm is done to development precisely as a result of these distorted notions.” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 48)


Rooted in this culture of the covenant between humans and nature is what we consider the third challenge for the new director general of FAO: energy. Almost two billion people still lack access to a stable energy source, and so are excluded from the development process. To include them, however, would upset the global energy balance. A large percentage of these populations are in fact already affected by the frenetic pace of modern life, and therefore tend to improvise methods of accessing energy that are equally inefficient, disrespectful of nature and harmful for the planet; for example, deforestation to produce charcoal and illicit access that undermines the established grids, especially in large cities. It is another daunting question, but humankind is not missing the conditions to face it directly and intelligently: both by encouraging the research and use of alternative energy sources, and also by recovering a more appropriate lifestyle and a greater concern for future generations.

FAO/ Hunger is not everything