It’s the environment, stupid

Pub date May 22, 2007


You must be a pretty good orator if you can bewitch a roomful of people who can’t understand a word you’re saying — except for, perhaps, your incantatory "stupido!"s while discussing America’s many foolish agricultural policies — and by this standard Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, is a pretty good orator. He held a media crowd rapt at a lunch recently at Greens, the point of which gathering was to proclaim the advent of Slow Food Nation a year hence at Fort Mason. Dutifully I cheer and huzzah the news, though I continue to think the word "slow" is all wrong for this country. In America, "slow" means "stupid" — or, as Petrini and his fellow Italians would say, "stupido."

"Stupido" — operatic accent on the first syllable — is great fun to say, much more fun than "biodiesel," which seemed to be Mayor Gavin Newsom’s mantra as he addressed the same crowd in its native English. Why, you ask, would the mayor be discussing biodiesel at a food-related gathering? Was he planning to haul away some of the restaurant’s used cooking oil for use in Muni buses? Or was he reminding us of the deeper political tectonics at work beneath Slow Food? Food is politics, and a rising theme in politics these days is the fate of the earth itself.

Newsom, despite the travails of the past few months, looked like one of the youngest people in the room — the man with the most tomorrows in the bank. The likelihood is that most of his political career is still ahead of him, and what does a politician of his age see when scanning the prospect? Crisis, of course, since that is the nature of politics and indeed of human beings, but crisis of a new sort, one in which the livability of this globe and the survival of its inhabitants can no longer be assumed. The younger you are, the more acutely you sense that the consequences of our poor planetary stewardship will make your stay here less pleasant — and maybe to suppose that biomass fuels and sustainable agriculture are important pieces of the same big puzzle.

I love slow food by any name, and I am older than the mayor by more years than please me, but on the matter of ecopolitics: faster is better.