The Web of Life:
A Delicate Thread Binding Nature to Humanity and Everything in Between
Everything in the natural world is inseparably connected. By now we understand this all too well, already paying the price of irresponsible actions, disrespectful models, and unnatural rhythms of production and consumption.
But up to what point?
Physics explains this very clearly through the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. An electron, divided in half, and placed in two different places (one part in Rome and the other in Geneva) continues to be connected despite the clear geographical distance. An action on the part of an electron corresponds to an immediate imitation on the other one — the brother. Through this example, science demonstrates how it is possible to establish connections between objects independently from their direct contact or proximity.
Or, as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics Brian Josephson, wrote: “The universe is not a collection of objects (distinct and separate moving through space), but an inseparable network of vibrating energy patterns in which no component has reality independent of the whole.”
From this perspective, in which everything is underpinned by deep but invisible connections, it is possible to understand how more connected we are to Nature than was commonly believed, and how deep-rooted our sense of belonging to the natural ecosystem is.
The Result of a Cut-And-Dry World
If Nature is inextricably linked with humanity, it goes without saying that the health and well-being of the former corresponds to the well-being of the latter. The same goes for the opposite.
And, almost like a harsh law of Dante’s contrapasso (punishment of souls), the current situation speaks for itself.
There are many reports that illustrate the worrying state of health of the entire natural ecosystem, with over 30,000 species of wild fauna and flora in danger and over a million species at risk of extinction; with an advancement of environmental degradation, such as soil degradation, already responsible for having released up to 78 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere; with worrying levels of contamination that has reached even the most remote corners of the planet.
A strong and real story that returns to humanity the damage and suffering caused. The very recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly highlights the inter-relationship between the impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems and human systems, including water quality, agricultural production, food security, malnutrition, mental health, in addition to the already known risks to cities and infrastructure.
The war in Ukraine itself, the hegemonic result of profound geopolitical imbalances, leaves deep human and environmental scars in its wake. To the dangerous advance of desperate people, displaced from their homes and cities, are added risks of rapid environmental degradation. Aspects that we often forget, but that have been formally established by the same United Nations with the International Day to Prevent the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which since 2001 is celebrated every November 6. Because if it is true that most armed conflicts have occurred and are occurring in the major hotspots of biodiversity, in contrast, an effective and respectful management of natural resources is an incredible vehicle of peace.
We produce, consume, and live our lives impoverishing the house in which we ourselves live, confusing comfort with happiness, excess with progress, security with survival.
It so happens that since 2010 we have become, to all intents and purposes, an urban species, which has lost direct contact with green areas, locking ourselves in enclosed spaces, in our homes, offices, cars, totally losing all contact with true reality. And it is not surprising that, in this context, weighed down by the continuous and constant bombardment of external stimuli and information, our mental health is the first to show signs of failure.
Today, some 280 million people around the world suffer from depression, reveals the World Health Organization, with the deterioration of mental health among the most concerning threats to the world over the next two years.
Yet, it would be enough to return to living in natural spaces and to experience the direct physical and mental benefits they bring to human health. It would be enough to go back to producing and consuming in accordance with natural rhythms, to ensure diversity and nourishment, mitigating the effects of climate change, as shown by studies on (agro-ecological) practices. It would be enough to stop separating, isolating, simplifying, and sectoring relationships that are, by their nature, inseparably linked, such as that between humanity and wild nature.
Return to an Integral Ecological Regeneration
When we protect and conserve the planet on which wild species live, we safeguard not only their future, but also our own,” stated the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Inger Andersen, reminding us of the value of wild nature on the occasion of World Wildlife Day.
And, optimistically, signs of a change of course are beginning to be visible from several points of view.
Economies that restart from the restoration of the natural ecosystem, regional and international policies that put at the center of the natural, biological, and landscape protection, cities that expand green spaces, families that increasingly choose to abandon the frenetic and chaotic pace of big cities, education that is becoming more and more experiential and pro-active are trends that hide the real and concrete need of humanity to return to living in a more harmonious way with nature. Around the world, as well as here in Italy, the process of full regeneration must and is starting again from the care of the Earth and its diversity, [with over 55 thousand farms] run by young Italians in 2020 alone, in order to trigger a cascade of human regeneration, in greater harmony in daily life and greater psycho-physical well-being, a cultural regeneration, able to enhance and bring to life the natural, landscape and cultural wealth, an economic regeneration, able to support, through forms of slow and respectful tourism, the landscape and the development of the territory, a targeted political action, also through urban plans able to restore existing buildings harmonizing them with the landscape.
A regeneration also capable of making inland and more marginal areas, villages and areas now forgotten, real destinations for learning and privileged access to wild nature, as recalled by the number and location of Italian UNESCO sites, half of which are located in municipalities with less than 5,000 inhabitants.
It is precisely from the desire to bring together needs and potential that our Paideia Campus was born, thanks to the meeting with the Municipality of Pollica, as a living open-air laboratory. Housed within a UNESCO Emblematic Community of the Mediterranean Diet, a real hotspot of biodiversity for variety and quantity of endemic populations, such that it is 10 times richer in biodiversity than the world average.
A natural wealth with which the landscape is imbued, which forges the Mediterranean culture and lifestyle, which regulates nutrition and food quality, which is crucial to ensure health and longevity. Wellness is an element of fundamental importance in the design of healthy, inclusive, and sustainable cities, but also a new lever to promote the territory with new forms of tourism that focus on biophilia and enhancement of wild nature.
For this reason, the Mediterranean Mind Lab in Pollica, by Strobilo in collaboration with the Future Food Institute, was born as a research activity to study, through the use of neuroscience, our link with nature starting from the monitoring of environmental and human health.
The ambition is to create a real algorithm of longevity and human well-being, which requires, however, to return to touch nature, get closer to it, live it, smell it, breathe it, explore it. Because only if lived, an aspect can be truly understood, appreciated and loved; essential values to ensure that the natural ecosystem can be valued and preserved.
And maybe in this way we could also realize how nice it is sometimes to stop, take a breath of air in nature, reflect, and feel part of this great and wonderful experience that binds us indissolubly to the environment that surrounds us.
This is the harmony of life that already in classical times was clear to doctors and philosophers.
Not by chance, Zeno of Cynthus, more than two thousand years ago, in Cilento at Elea-Velia, wrote: “The purpose of life is to live in accordance with nature.”
The Future Food Institute is an international social enterprise and the cornerstone of the Future Food Ecosystem, a collection of research labs, partnerships, initiatives, platforms, networks, entrepreneurial projects and academic programs, aiming to build a more equitable world, grounded in integral ecological regeneration, through enlightening a world-class breed of innovators, boosting entrepreneurial potential, and improving agri-food expertise and tradition.
Future food advocates for positive change through initiatives in Waste & Circular Systems, Water Safety & Security, Climate, Earth Regeneration, Mediterranean Foodscape, Nutrition for All, Humana Communitas, and Cities of the Future as we catalyze progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the open-air living laboratory, the Paideia Campus in Pollica, Cilento, the Institute fosters active conservation of natural and cultural biodiversity and responsible innovation in the Mediterranean agri-food chain to leverage the intangible heritage of humanity as a model and strategy for the integral development of villages.