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ethical consumption
New from the front

How to solicit mor economic responsability
© Goethe-Institut Italy | Illustration: Caterina Laneri

Some time ago I had a talk with two nice people, namely Federica Tessari, senior editor at "Scomodo" and expert on civil law and social issues, and Stefano Liberti, journalist and writer focusing on the environment and food supply. I tried to clarify the many questions running through my mind. Instead of finding answers, I ended up with more questions than before, but that is precisely the beauty of such conversations.

Ethical consumption?

These local struggles can remain hidden because the working-class people involved usually don't have friends with appropriate professional backgrounds - in the media, in government and in academia - who could help draw attention to their work. This contributes to the illusion that environmentalism is the domain of the middle class.

Karen Bell

Both Federica and Stefano buy locally, yet they agree with me that ethical consumption is a Herculean, almost utopian task. At the same time, it is not okay to use this fact as an excuse. "The demand for information on ethical consumption is increasing," says Stefano, who has also written a book about it (Il grande carrello, Laterza). But organic plus awareness do not add up to ethical consumption. There are two battles we still have to fight: one on the purchasing power front (it is no secret that ethical means expensive) and one on the culture front.
How to solicit mor economic responsability © Goethe-Institut Italy | Illustration: Caterina Laneri

Explain that to my grandmother

Many so-called green jobs are not available to unskilled and working-class people. (...) Market-based and individual responses, from changing light bulbs, to carbon trading and patentable 'techno fixes', have dominated the public discourses on solutions to environmental problems. These strategies have had minimal impact and little, if any, meaning for working-class people.

Federica Tessari

If I had a little more money in my pocket, I'd be willing to substitute plant-based products for meat. Try veggie burgers, they are really good. The fact is that a pack of two costs three euros. I understand that we urgently need to replace meat with sustainable products, but my grandmother does not do that. Try explaining to her why I bought two burgers made of pressed vegetables that cost forty euros a kilo. There you have it: our culture war. It consists of communicating this urgency to those people who don't always have the cultural prerequisites to be able to understand the situation. Federica is a journalist and she is my age. I asked her how we can engage in a constructive dialogue with the baby boomers (are we really better than them?).

Shades of grey

When we talk about environmental activists, we think of people like Greta Thunberg, who became famous through the internet. We don't think of activists like Isra Hirsi, who fought for Flint, Michigan, to get access to clean water.

Federica Tessari

The difficulty of communication has turned the struggle for the environment into a generational issue. This is not good, because Gen Z is by nature a cynical and politically disillusioned generation (and it is hard to blame them). An important step would be to create an intergenerational platform -- especially in Italy, where the population is greying rapidly and the elderly have all the purchasing power, but at the same time are not familiar with the digital world. This should moreover happen quickly, because time is running out. I know I am saying something extremely banal here, but what can I do if it is true. Climate change is having a devastating impact on biodiversity, the economy and the agricultural sector in Italy (please note that the predicate is “having”, not “will have”).
How to solicit mor economic responsability © Goethe-Institut Italy | Illustration: Caterina Laneri

News from the front

Citizens of poorer countries, where there is a threat of loss of resources through environmental degradation, often have a particularly strong environmental awareness.

Stefano Liberti

What is to be done? "We have to show the human dimension of the climate crisis alongside the data and tell the story of the people affected. Otherwise, it will not find its way into the public debate," says Federica, and that seems to me a better comment by way of closing than I could write.
I talked to Federica and Stefano about a whole range of other issues also: Geopolitics, climate refugees (did you know that by 2050 there will be 300 million such refugees at the current rate and that you could be one of them? Now there’s a source of stress!), and emissions in developing countries.

If I had packed all that into this article however, it would have turned into a paper you would never have read to the end. If you are interested, however, you can listen to the whole conversation at (insert podcast)(in Italian).
"If we can't be good consumers, we can at least be good correspondents from the front. And that is no mean feat!”


Stefano Liberti

Stefano Liberti Foto: © privat Stefano Liberti is a journalist and writer who covers agriculture and food supply chains. He writes for Italian and foreign media, including Internazionale, Repubblica, Le Monde diplomatique, Al Jazeera English, and El país semanal. In 2009 he was awarded the Indro Montanelli Prize for his book A sud di Lampedusa. Cinque anni di viaggi sulle rotte dei migranti (Minimum Fax, 2008.) His book Land Grabbing. Come il mercato delle terre crea il nuovo colonialismo (Minimum Fax, 2011) has been published in ten countries (English version: Land Grabbing: Journeys in the Neocolonialism. Verso, 2013). His most recent books are I signori del cibo. Viaggio nell'industria alimentare che sta distruggendo il pianeta (Minimum Fax, 2016), in which he traces the global supply chains of four food products, and Il grande carrello. Chi decide cosa mangiamo (Laterza, 2019, with Fabio Ciconte), in which he explores the workings of the organized wholesale trade. Published in September 2020, Terra bruciata. Come la crisi ambientale sta cambiando l'Italia e la nostra vita (Rizzoli), is a first field study on the effects of climate change in Italy. Liberti has also worked as a director for Rai 3 and has made several documentaries, including L'inferno dei bimbi stregoni (2010), Mare chiuso (2012, with Andrea Segre), Container 158 (2013, with Enrico Parenti), Herat Football Club (2017, with Mario Poeta), Soyalism (2018, with Enrico Parenti).

Federica Tessari

Federica Tessari Foto: © privat Federica Tessari studied International Cooperation at the University of Turin. After earning a degree in Political Science, she decided to delve deeper, both academically and personally, into the most disadvantaged areas of the world. She developed a critical understanding of the issues and found her voice as a journalist through her involvement with India and the situation on the Greek island of Samos. Tessari came across Scomodo while working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Rome and when the magazine opened an editorial office in Turin, she wasted no time deciding. Today, she is one of the senior editors of Scomodo at national level, responsible in particular for the Il Plus section (where topics are explored in depth through an interdisciplinary as well as multidisciplinary approach). Tessari developed and produced Scomodo's first photo reportage: Senza stringhe. Her personal areas of interest are civil law issues, conflicts and socio-political topics.