The keynote speeches from the Harmony in Food and Farming conference follow on from the Prince of Wales’ keynote address, which can be seen here, and explore the breadth of harmony principles and how they relate to agriculture, including music, education and the economy.

Natural Capital

Prof. Tony Juniper, Professor of Practice at the University of Wales Trinity St David

Tony Juniper speaks of the concept of ‘Natural Capital’, drawing parallels between financial capital and how the natural world works. Looking at the ecosystem as an example, it is clear that if we care for the natural environment, we can get dividends in the future, much like making a financial investment.

Juniper comments that we are currently unable to see the long-term consequences of our actions on the world, and instead see it as something that can endlessly be exploited in order to meet short term needs. This way of thinking is so prevalent because we have become disconnected from nature.

Natural capital is a way of reconnecting with the reality we inhabit – a reality that we are 100% dependent upon for healthy natural systems and for our wellbeing.

Education and Food

Richard Dunne, Headteacher, Ashley School

Richard Dunne spoke of his clear vision for the future of education – a curriculum informed by the principles of Harmony and based upon what Dunne calls “enquiries of learning”. In education, the idea of connectedness means that rather than separating out the different subjects – individually studying maths or science, art, geography or music – a topic like climate change would become the subject of an enquiry of learning, with all key disciplines explored in reference to the topic. Richard Dunne described this as a “project-based” approach, in which it is possible to fulfil curriculum requirements in an interconnected way that is both engaging and stimulating for children.

Dunne explained the significance of a ‘harmonious’ education system, based on a flexible curriculum informed by seven key Harmony Principles, including nature’s cyclical structures – seasons, weather patterns, water, food and carbon cycles, as well as interdependence, geometry, diversity, well-being and oneness.

The Circular Economy

Dame Ellen MacArthur, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Dame Ellen MacArthur speaks of her childhood goal to sail around the world solo, an ambition which she achieved twice, once in 2000 and again in 2004. During her expedition, she gained an insight into how systems function, realising that on the boat, the resources you have are all that you have, they are finite. This realisation led her to look at the economy in a different way. The conveyor-belt system of human extraction and consumption is part of what she calls a ‘linear economy’ in which the majority of products get thrown away. Dame Ellen asks us if there is another way of doing things, a way of shifting the line so that it becomes circular.

What if you were to apply this idea of a ‘circular economy’ to materials – both biodegradable ones as well as technical material – metals, plastics and polymers? And what if these materials were also designed to fit the cycle, designed to be recoverable and able to re-enter the manufacturing cycle, feeding back into the economy. This is very much in line with the Harmony Principles – which are concerned with the interconnectedness of everything, as well as about strength and diversity.

Music and Agriculture

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Conductor

Sir John Eliot Gardiner speaks of the true meaning of the word harmony: “the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing effect.”

Farming, he states, is both a business and an art. Much modern farming ignores this truth, but it is important to remember that nature is not a machine powered by agrochemicals, and maintained by toxic sprays. The art of agriculture instead lies in working with the grain of nature, not against it.

Gardiner tells us that you have to observe and then follow the processes of nature as they reveal themselves to you on your specific plot of land. Once you’ve grasped these principles you need to learn how to woo nature into working for you. You then have to balance all of that with inconvenient factors – such as market prices, bank balances and climate change. This, he argues, is not dissimilar to the challenges one faces as a conductor. Music, by its very nature, is fluid – up in the air, refusing to be pinned down. It only comes into being when you have the right number of skilled people to play it. “Oppose them and you’ll end up with a sterile performance – a bit like applying agrochemicals and destroying the soil structure of your farm. Instead, just as you observe nature at work and what it’s trying to tell you, you need to listen to your musicians and how they interact, and make sure you adjust to what they bring to the party.


The Food System

Gunhild Stordalen, EAT Foundation

Gunhild Stordalen tells us that food production is the single biggest driver of climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss and the depletion of our ecosystem and its resources, while one third  of everything we produce is either lost or wasted.

When we talk about sustainability, she states, we cannot forget the 1 billion people working to produce and serve food every day, including the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – the 500 million smallholder farmers. Nor can we ignore other beings. As the demand for cheap meat grows, so too does the prevalence of intensive livestock production at the expense of animal health and welfare.

All of these food related challenges are set to get worse. With 2 billion more mouths to feed in the coming decades and increasing numbers of affluent people in the world, the FAO estimates that we need to produce an extra 50% more food. The ‘business as usual’ approach cannot achieve the Paris agreement or the UN Sustainable Development Goals – most of which concern food and farming.

On the other hand, ‘getting it right’ on food, could be the greatest opportunity to improve our health and wellbeing, whilst at the same time protecting the planet.

Knowledge alone is not enough, unless we can translate this into action. We need more innovation, not only in technology, but in our business models. The EAT Foundation helps to turn these many scattered changemakers into an efficient, comprehensive movement.

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