The Milan Expo is now fully functional and open. Running from May to October 2015, this colossal event site has been transformed over the past 6 years to showcase key messages of sustainability, future food and an overall theme of ‘Feeding The Planet, Energy For Life’. It encompasses technology, innovation, culture, creativity and traditions and how they relate to our food and our diet. It’s principal focus is the right to healthy, secure and sufficient food for all the world’s inhabitants. With over 128 countries involved, each present their own unique attributes to these key issues.
Interestingly much of the locals are boycotting the event, anti-capitalist groups caused a fair bit of trouble protesting in central Milan burning cars and throwing bricks through shop windows. This Expo bothers some people. A lot.
Big brands and the biggest countries certainty rule and perhaps this is the perfect way to show off how they will ‘save the world’ to some (while they’re having their 5 minutes of fame) but we of moral minds know that the real power lies mostly in the underdogs, the runners up, the ‘little people’ with passion, fire and truth. Lindt, Nutella, Coca-Cola, Baccia, Illy, Lavassa… All doing their bit to help developing countries, no doubt, but…finding examples of independent coffee and chocolate makers here was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I have to admit, I learned a lot about how I am even more determined to source my requirements ethically. I also got a real insight into the wondrous countries in the world I have yet to visit and what they offer in the way of sustainability. Some pavilions were spectacular, a designers dream, a photographers phantasmagoria. But the overall site lacked soul, spirit and individuality. Although for kids visiting with the school, it sure beats sitting around a globe learning geography.
McDonald’s, (who we did boycott) had no shame in promoting their world power but their helium filled balloons and plastic giveaway bags were somewhat contradictory. Ahem.
Everyone had their chance to say ‘We produce this. We can survive on our own. We provide this, we do our bit for the world.’ but the underlying myths of how the event was funded, where the profits go, the ridiculous amounts of imperishable waste and extortionate prices took the shine away for me. Stand out Pavillions were Korea, Argentina and Spain.
More personal disappointment dawned when after 4 hours of searching for the ‘Gender Equality/Women’s Empowerment area, I was met with the below. A mere puff of smoke and lack lustre statement of a key issue in sustainability in the developing world. What I learnt from that board, I could have Googled in less than a minute. Surely in a world cultivating for a sustainable future, promoting ethical buying and the future of our planet, this fact that empowering women in developing countries is part of future success and an positive step towards ending world poverty?
Underneath the surface, it may be controversial, politicely confused and uber brandtastic, but you certainly can’t argue that the message is a good one.