As the banking crisis continues, the politics remain the same, dominated by a desire to return to business-as-usual. Public opinion is uneasy. On the one hand, rallying round the Jubilee. On the other, calling for bankers’ blood.
After the 2008 crisis, ordure was heaped on RBS chair Fred Goodwin, stripping him of his knighthood. Why just him? Why not strip honours from food and retail magnates for selling obesogenic lifestyles? Or punish celebrities for endorsing salty, fatty snacks?
It’s time public debate about macro-politics hardened. We need to go beyond thinking this is the occasional ‘bad apple’. This is systemic failure. We must now ask how can things be put right, and what institutional structures would serve the public good. In food, that debate is underway.
Last week, I was at two events on food futures. At one with a big foundation, world experts showed food ‘business-as-usual’ is unrealistic. Climate change looks set to exceed the ‘safe’ two-degree rise. Healthcare costs mount. Food systems are already changing.
The other event was a huge all-day sixth-form debate about food and international development. Eight hundred young people mulled over the big picture, asking the right questions. What sort of diet? What cost? Not pro or anti technology but how appropriate? Not Britain versus Europe or the world but how to get sustainable food economies for all?
What’s the food future to be? Some yearn for technical fixes. They see us eating artificial meat and hi-tech plants. Others see societal change as key. Tackling consumerism, taxing the rich world to invest in the poor. Others say that culture will be key. They point to the grip celebrity world already has. But can everyone be a Beckham? As the Olympics approach, that’s one to ponder.
Tessa Jowell says the Olympics illustrates the joys of public-private partnerships. The Games certainly exemplifies brand-world shaping food futures. We were promised a legacy of a more active populations, but in fact sports fields and physical activity decline. Could we stop the Olympics being a TV orgy of the superfat watching the superfit?
The future isn’t ahead. It might be here.