Plant Trees! – They say… but which ones?

Everywhere around the world people at large are planting trees. India planted 66 million trees in 12 hours in the region of Madhya Pradesh on July 2nd. Yacouba Sawadogo in Africa began planting trees in 1980 to save North Burkina Faso from desertification. In Niger farmers are turning to Gao trees, considered magical and extremely useful to growing crops (unlike other trees), moreover its fallen branches give wood for fire and its pods feed the animals. Italy’s current most ambitious project is called ForestaMi, which aims at planting 3 Million trees (one for each person who lives in Milan) by 2030. 
Among the multiple reforestation campaigns I am observing around the world, one has caught my attention (also the news are not covering it too much, perhaps it’s one of those things that has the potential to bring immense change): The Great Green Wall in Africa. As a matter of fact The Guardian wrote a piece over 8 years ago. All began as a conversation started by Richard St. Barbe Baker – professional forester and pioneer in environmental activism – back in 1952. He suggested a bold solution to the problem of desertification: plant a barrier of trees wide 50 km that cuts in two Africa, from coast to coast. In 2002, during the World Day to Combat Desertification & Drought, the ex Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo launched The Great Green Wall project. Five years later, in 2007 the African Union officially approves the grandiose project. What is it? In brief, it’s a wall of trees covering Africa from side to side in the region of Sahel, right below the Sahara desert, extending for 8000 km and 15 km wide. The symbol of such extraordinary project is more than just combat desertification. It’s a wall symbol of life and unity. It has the potential to decrease, if not stop, wars between African tribes/States. People come together for a bigger cause. It will give shelter to animals, feed people, and show the world that Africa can be united beyond profit. However in 2012 the project changed its vision to adapt more to the countries’ morphology, as planting solely trees was going to be unrealistic: The wall is no longer seen as a narrow band of trees along the southern edge of the Sahara. The vision is now to surround the Sahara with a wide belt of vegetation – trees and bushes greening and protecting an agricultural landscape. The new vision engages all the countries surrounding it, including Algeria and others in North Africa, not just the 11 original sub-Saharan countries of the Sahel – The Conversation
It’s not an easy task! It needs a lot of effort and especially cooperation and flexibility: The sub-Saharan countries are not all the same and the techniques (and plants/trees) must be adapted accordingly. Though lets not despair! 🙂

Why are trees important?
Trees eat CO2. … CO2 is carbon dioxide, a colourless gas we find naturally in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s produced by all aerobic organisms when they metabolise carbohydrates and lipids to produce energy by respiration – hence we humans too. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the primary carbon source for life on Earth and its concentration in Earth’s pre-industrial atmosphere since late in the earliest part of Earth history has been regulated by photosynthetic organisms (plants, algae and cyanobacteria) and geological phenomena. The “problem” with CO2 is that it absorbs and emits infrared radiation at wavelengths of 4.26 µm and 14.99 µm and consequently is a greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in influencing Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere has been attributed to human activity, particularly deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. This increase and other long-lived greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere has produced the current episode of global warming. Between 30% and 40% of the CO2 released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into the oceans, wherein it forms carbonic acid and effects changes in the oceanic pH balance (causing among other things coral bleaching, and also threatens the future food chains linked with the oceans). – You can deepen your basic understanding of the carbon cycle on wikipedia 😉
Last but not least, Alejandro Jodorowsky proposes a psychomagic act to heal the planet: plant a tree on the 7th of September.
I asked Giorgio Vacchiano, researcher in forest management and planning at the State University of Milan, if planting trees helps:
Planting trees to sequester carbon works IF those trees survive and grow well after being planted, IF they are replaced with others at the end of their cycle, and IF their plant does not affect other important services such as food production or flora habitat or fauna. T
hose trees will absorb carbon as they grow, so over time their usefulness will increase (if they are maintained and not eliminated, not even by fires or insect attacks). Forests have a different time than ours … but starting now is better than nothing.”

On Tropical and Boreal Forests
Most tropical rainforest plants are considered to be evergreens, replacing their leaves gradually throughout the year as the leaves age and fall, whereas species growing in seasonally arid climates may be either evergreen or deciduous. Most warm temperate climate plants are also evergreen. In cool temperate climates, fewer plants are evergreen, with a predominance of conifers, as few evergreen broadleaf plants can tolerate severe cold below about −26 °C. E
vergreens don’t photosynthesise all year round. In cold areas, winter temperatures are too low and photosynthesis takes place minimally or not at all. In the Mediterranean areas, the evergreens close the stomata (the “hatches” of the leaves) during the summer to avoid losing water by evaporation, so even here photosynthesis stops.
Boreal coniferous forests are the second most important carbon reservoir after the tropical ones. FYI, two thirds of the Boreal forests are located in Siberia.
What makes these forests so important it’s the fact that they are the ones that contain more biomass, therefore more tissues capable of storing carbon.

The Family of 5 Primary Forests (National Geographic2015)


So today we hear excessively about needing to plant new forests (as if it were that easy… few people are aware of the fact that forests need management) since we see them as carbon tanks. Because humanity emits more CO2 into the atmosphere than plants and oceans can accumulate, forests are ecosystems that can potentially help reduce the impact by storing carbon in its biomass. However they can also emit more CO2 than their storing capacity, hence why management and planning is needed. 

And the question is, any tree is good or some are better than others?

My Conclusions

If you want to plant a tree make a research about the area that you live in and choose an evergreen possibly. If you have enough land to plant more trees, I would advice you contact a forest management expert in your area or at a University. In Italy I would like to indicate Mosaico Verde, based in Rome they operate in the entire country even for just a quick consultancy. Something I really like about the job they do is the fact that if, for example, you live in a city and don’t have a garden nor yard whereto plant a tree don’t despair! 😀 Mosaico Verde has multiple projects you can support by simply buying a tree: you choose the area and also the tree that is good for that specific area.

To plant a tree (or trees) to clean your conscience is not ideal as the tree won’t be enough to clean the air you pollute by your lifestyle.

Take care as much as you can of the local forests: we are so used to looking at the Amazon and giving money to protect the Amazon while forgetting about our home and our country.
I asked Mr. Vacchiano about the present situation of European forests, “There is a forest expansion of 800’000 hectares every year – of which 50-70’000 ha in Italy – mainly spontaneous on abandoned fields and pastures. Means good news for carbon sequestration and hydrogeological instability, even if all that glitters is not gold – in some places, it also means an increase of fire hazard. At the same time, the very few virgin forests remaining in Europe are actually getting smaller and smaller, especially in Romania and Ukraine, due to illegal cuts to obtain valuable wood and, in part, energy biomass. At last, climate change risks stressing forests (especially in Italy) with more frequent droughts, storms and fires. I would say this is the biggest problem, which we must learn to face.”
Europe’s virgin forests are fundamental treasures of biodiversity and unique places able to make us understand how nature works without human intervention. 

Plant trees for the sake of planting them and as a gift to Mother Earth. And remember the best tree to plant is the one that grows better in your area. 

900 wild bisons live in Bialowieza (© Tomasz Kaminski)

Scienza in rete
National Geographic

The Brazilian Issue – Beyond the Fires

After an intense week of facebook posts about the Amazon burning, people shocked, people panicking over the “World’s lungs” burning, people calling for the end of the world etc… I finally read something that made me stop, reflect and question how much do I actually know about the Brazilian issue?
Here is my girlfriend’s post that made me think:

I write this post to be able to have a broader point of view on the issue not to create useless debates and absolutely Not to justify the barbarity of the human being.
Good morning to all dear ones, I really apologise with all my heart if this morning I will have to show you the Amazon issue from other points of view, lets begin with my socio-political lesson and economics.Just as I did in front of the campaign against palm oil, which is actually raising the GDP of very poor countries, causing damage to the multinationals, which use our ignorance to hit these countries by causing us to boycott the products that contain it .. .A little reminder ... Remember that these peoples began to cultivate palm oil after the 2003 Tsunami and that through this culture they retired up on an economic level ...Now lets look at the Amazon case together.The important things to know about the Amazon is that there are many points of view on this, we indignant Western beings, we look at the Amazon as a precious asset of which we feel indirectly the owners.
If we look at Bolsonaro's policy he is trying, in a crazy and questionable way, to pull his country up and make it independent economically and socially from the presence of other peoples, from the leaders of other countries who would like to exploit its resources ... A bit like what happens in Africa where we steal their metals and minerals and to wash our conscience we build a well and a school ...Brazil is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, through the deforestation and supplying the land to the peasants Bolsonaro intends to reduce the hunger of its people, reduce the poverty of its people by making every single landowner capable of self managing his family creating jobs and wealth ... What makes LOTS of fear to the most northern countries!Yes, the green lung of the Earth is a land that will nourish its people.How shocking ... How did it come to his mind ???Now, to change the situation we should collectively take care of the next (the neighbour, of each other).If we valued this thing there could be those who produce oil, who produce food ... And those who produce oxygen for everyone ...Some nations could be producers of oxygen ... But the community should take care of providing the payment for this resource ... And then there would be more trees for everyone ... But who is willing to pay for oxygen?
That country and those people have the right to become independent ... And we who talk about respecting the resources of the planet, in beautiful fresh air-conditioned cottages, with 4 cars one for each family member ... We who throw away tons of food in the toilet ?? ?We should just be quiet !!! And 5 minutes of Shame!So the current indignation we are being pushed upon relies on our gullibility ... it's another pro-ignorance maneuver ... OURS!


What follows is my opinion and my reflections upon Brasil, based on what I have researched and read.

I never studied politics and I have convinced myself that I am not interested in it simply because I don’t know enough. Also, where do you start from to make sense of what’s happening today?
I wanted to understand if the international community going so full on against Jair Bolsonaro is right, I too dislike him and have disliked him from the day he got elected president… however, now I need a deeper understanding and I feel the urgency to form an opinion which is not based upon the opinion of others. Moreover it’s not enough for me to condemn the actions, I want to know the reasons behind them.

I began by googling “Brazil GDP growth” – The Gross Domestic Product is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. As a broad measure of overall domestic production, it functions as a comprehensive scorecard of the country’s economic health. In 2018 Brazil scored 1.1.% … it means its economy is growing. I wanted to understand what is the current state of Brazilian economy. On Trading Economics you can see the forecast for Brazil is extremely positive, its GDP is growing fast. And especially since Bolsonaro’s election…
What does this mean?

I must share some data before continuing my point (bare with me):
Country            # Rank in population               Growth Rate                    2018 GDP
Brazil                             6                                        0,75%                              1.1%
Russia                           9                                        0,09%                              2.3%
India                              2                                        1,02%                               7.0%
China                             1                                        0,43%                              6.6.%

Let me introduce you to BRICs -> a grouping acronym referring to the countries of Brasil, Russia, India and China, deemed to be developed countries at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development, on their way to becoming developed countries. In 2010 it became a formal political institution. And in 2010 South Africa joined.
What would happen and how do you think the current world political powers would react if kicked off of their throne? …..
A report by Goldman Sachs in 2010 says that the 4 BRICs may account for 41% of the world’s market capitalisation by 2030. We are then observing the new upcoming world power countries…

Brazil had been exploited by BIG FOOD COMPANIES (mostly American) for many many years, of course after the US have used all their land they go look for cheap land in poor countries. However, it happens that an exploited country wakes up and decides to implement the so-called National-Champions policy: The idea was to select Brazilian exporting companies and transform them into large transnational corporations that bring home large revenues. How? Frequent mergers and acquisitions and consolidation across several meat segments (beef, pork, poultry, etc.) and other parts of the value chain (feed, additives) are key to the meat industry’s strategy in increasing profits. In this way, the companies used a large portion of BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank that funded such project) resources to swallow up small businesses. They continued to rapidly amass power through further mergers and acquisition activities in key meat producing and consuming countries. Flash forward to today: Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of soybeans; the second largest exporter of maize; and the world’s largest beef trader, exporting more than 20 percent of the world’s beef. It has overtaken the United States to become the biggest exporter of poultry in the world, close to 39% of total global exports.
WOW right?

I wondered why Macron has so brutally and publicly attacked Bolsonaro….
the group of seven major advanced nations is formed by: France (which is 2019 host), Germany, Italy, Japan, US, UK, and Canada.
…..and it makes sense now.
What happens if from this Amazon scandal the EU stops buying meat from Brazil? (EU is the second bigger customer)… How can you stop the economic growth of a country?…… What happens if the public opinion of that country and that president is marked negatively? ……

But but but check this report by Friends of the Earth Europe:

“The EU serves as a huge market for Brazilian soy and beef, the production of which drives deforestation and human rights abuses in Brazil on a vast scale. The EU is also Brazil’s second largest trading partner, and taken together, its Member States are Brazil’s largest source of foreign direct investment.”

They ask to stop the negotiations between MERCOSUR and EFTA, by appealing onto the human rights  and environmental principles of the European Union. Oh too bad though that the current members of the European Free Trade Association are Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Iceland: none of which is a member of the EU. They do collaborate with the EU, only they are not bound to it and its principles.
MERCOSUR –> it’s a South American trade bloc; its members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. Mercosur’s purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

And Saturday afternoon just as I was reading and writing all this… I stumbled upon Bolsonaro’s instagram story which stated that the agreement has been signed!


Where am I going with this? …..
Goldman Sachs predicts that China and India, respectively, will become the dominant global suppliers of manufactured goods and services, while Brazil and Russia will become similarly dominant as suppliers of raw materials. … Isn’t it bizarre how Brasil and Russia burned extensively this year and none of the Presidents did nothing?
Also, The Guardian released an article clarifying about the fires and stating that it was not the actual Amazon forest burning! …

Check out this title, yet another one of the Friends of the Earth:

Do you think it’s recent?… This week’s maybe? Eh you wish… this is dated January 2011. The problem of deforestation isn’t today’s problem. You know in 2007 the Brazilian company world leader of meat production bought 50% of the shares of an Italian company leader in Europe of meat production and transformation. I will not make names but it’s all on the internet. This is the price of cheap meat.

My Conclusions:

When the Italian Pianura Padana was deforested to make space for the thousand pig farms; when  United States deforestation has caused the destruction of virgin forests by 75% percent since 1600; when Nigeria has lost 81% of its old-growth forests in just 15 years (1990–2005); …. and I could list many more but I’ll stop here. When all that was happening it was for the name of progress. Today, because we are living a moment of transition and change of the Planet’s climate we cannot call progress Bolsonaro’s manoeuvre to make his country great. No because the Amazon Forest doesn’t belong to Brazil but to all of us. The Pianura Padana though belongs only to Italy. The US Ancient forests belong to the US. Nigerian Tropical Forests belong to Nigeria (also, their country won’t ever become as great anyway, right?). Many countries’ fortune and greatness have been reached at the expense of nature (and I won’t even enter what are the other costs, ie human lives).
If this was happening 15 years ago, we wouldn’t be so alarmed but because people are in a high panic mode and shitting their pants (due to misinformation about climate change and the end of the world!) …. now the favourite game is to point the finger at the guilty one. Bolsonaro in this case. Of course because the Big Group has already done enough to take this planet to this critical point, now they can go by and set the rules to everyone else not to screw up anymore.
I’m sorry to say people but Bolsonaro, for as much as I dislike him, is not worse than any of those leaders who now turn their back at him and call him out for the Crimes Against Humanity.

It would be ideal that Brazil looked at the example of the US: how greed and ignorance turned a beautiful and rich land into a desert. Perhaps if there is anything positive about all this pressure against Brazilian fires is that perhaps deforestation will be managed better and more wisely.
I do hope that all the attention will force him to change his politics, but truth is that it’s far more complicated. Also, for us to know the truth is almost impossible. America is a great example of how a rich country doesn’t necessarily translate in its people’s wealth, but perhaps the pride of being part of such great nation pays off for being poor: in the eyes of the world we are The Americans, never mind I cannot afford food let alone go to the hospital if I’m sick.
Sadly Brazil is going in that direction, as the models and examples are not that illuminating.

Anyway, these are my considerations and you can have yours. I don’t excuse Jair Bolsonaro’s politics and ways but I do understand them. Also a few years ago Brazil had big financial problems and so to get back on track they must’ve adopted very unpopular politics (to say the least). And it worked as their GDP started going up and up, however because the GDP’s calculation is based on the invoices of course it creates a dependency upon those few huge companies that account for the majority of the country’s GDP. Meaning if its growth depends on meat, soy and corn (just like the American one!) then deforestation won’t be an option.

As you know there isn’t much we can do except for educating ourselves on the motives that drive our leaders, choose wisely what we eat, question our current reality…etc 🙂 Actually it’s already a lot!


A few links I read:
High Country News
La Conceria
Institute For Agriculture & Trade Policy
The Brazilian Business
New York Times

Beauty & The Beast: Is there a link with the NPD?

Lately I have been absent from the web, and from everything. Struggling with my own personal life, thought to be healed and instead kept falling down over and over again… wondering how after one year of working hard on myself I still find myself crying for someone I can only describe as a narcissistic asshole.
Talking to my girlfriends this year I realised I have not been the only one falling into the illusory fairytale trap of a man who is an avid manipulator, a violent, and someone who is all but a good person. In psychology there is a Mental Disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and while many may have a few traits here and there… some are pathological narcissists. Of course I stumbled upon him.

I actually don’t know where I found the strength to do all that I have achieved this year after the official (official? Can it be official when he periodically found ways to get back into my life for his vital supply?) break up: I wrote a book! I began filming my first documentary! I also started a holistic training and begun learning about the healing powers of nature! Meanwhile I also worked! I bought myself the car of my dreams! I discovered true friendship! …. All this while inside there was still an ongoing battle. At my every high, I would get an email from him and I fell down again: how dare you feel well and happy and achieved? This trap of not deserving anything, especially that what I so hardly work for…

Last week, as I was reading about the NPD disorder and researching about the traits of the victims to understand myself better and deeper, I photo of the film Beauty & The Beast popped up. I had a flash! There is something wrong with this beautiful and romantic fairytale. The more one studies about psychology, the more one gets deeper glimpses at the true messages hidden behind the romance, cartoons, fairytales….
What happens to girls when we teach them that their love and patience and care-taking will change the best into a beautiful human?
How many of us still live that myth? How many of us still silently hope and pray “he” will eventually change? How many of us hide the scars of a life spent curing someone else’s wounds? How many of us believe that a woman must be just loving, understanding, patient? …. Belle teaches us that. She is perfect beyond just the appearance. She is presented to us as someone strong, whose love goes beyond the physical appearance of the other. She can see his wounded self and she can love the beast. Eventually she wins. And THAT ladies and gentlemen is a fairytale. In reality we, the Belle in real life, lose our sense of self, our light, our beauty, our friends, our independence. Having to do with someone who manipulates our reality and our thoughts, who is psychologically violent and yet we love him is just a complete waste of energy. Unless. Unless we use that relationship to understand more about ourself.
Perhaps it is time to ask the right questions and the time to answer them. Sometimes this means to go back to the past, somewhere in your childhood. I recommend getting the help of someone, sometimes a friend is not enough.

What makes me think of the link between NPD and the beast? …. Simply because as a coincidence he acts just like a pathological narcissist: everything revolves around him, his rage and mood swings make everyone afraid of him, he doesn’t accept being contradicted, he isolates Belle from everything and everyone (oh but still gives her the best room, the best dresses… and makes her feel that “it’s not so bad after all). She eventually falls in love with him (ever heard of the Stockholm Syndrome? … it’s a mechanism of survival, you fall in love with your tyrant) because if there is no way out, well the best you can do is find a way to survive inside. You mask your fear and your hatred with love.
In reality. Trust me. And I never thought I would say this: your beast will never change. No matter how many promises he makes to you. He will from time to time abandon you, then come after you. Meanwhile he already has a net of other women (Belles) who supply that energy and “love” he feeds of. He plays the victim and the hurt one just to tender your heart, this way he awakes your compassions… and makes you doubt everything you believed about him so that you fall into it yet another time. An infinite spiral.

An infinite spiral of hurt.

Now imagine for a moment what you could do with that energy you throw away his direction? 🙂 
Today is in fashion to talk about self love. Everybody seems to be an expert of self love and offers courses, remedies, online therapy, self love coaching… grab the best offer. Yet there is really no manual for it. To say: do what makes you feel good; do what you love; eat the food you love; exercise if you like; post a photo of your naked imperfect body as a statement of self love… means really nothing. Why? Because very few of us even know what is it that we deeply deeply want. What we deeply deeply love. What truly truly makes us smile. Nobody ever taught us where to find that nor how. We don’t have the instruments. And when you lived many years of your life surrounded by people (whether in your family or in false friendships or at work) who constantly mine that little self esteem and self assurance…. it becomes hard to know who you want to be for your self.
However, with that energy I regained I imagine putting it into my projects and my art. That polarised attention I put it onto my girlfriends. The trying to constantly understand the other, I finally want to understand what is it that I so desperately missed as a child, how was this little girl treated, and become that who she needs. At times someone strict at times not. To be your own parent means to finally take full responsibility of your life. It means you will stop relying on other people such as your parents (if you still have them), your partner and whoever else thinks they know you better than you know yourself. Others can only have an idea of you, see only a small part of who you are and feel entitled to give an opinion about the way you live.

Use wisely and cherish your energy and attention. Care for you. Nobody else will but you.


Fortnight – lingerie and swim for ALL women

Short interview to Christina Remenyi, founder of Canadian brand Fortnight Lingerie.

What made you start a lingerie and swimwear line? 

Lingerie came first and swimwear felt like a natural progression. It was really driven by a frustration with the market at the time, that was dominated by big box brands who only offered a very narrow range of sizes and uninspiring vision of femininity.  I was disappointed that a throwaway mentality was being applied to garments that are so intricate, personal and deeply personal.  I wanted to create a line that was inclusive in sizing and in style, that women could relate to. I wanted to create a line that embraced the body (not hiding it with padding). Spreading the word about how to find the perfect fit and how much that can improve our moods, self esteem and overall comfort and health was and continues to be very important to me.

You are a woman designer, designing for women. How do you see fashion being a male domain where it’s mostly men designing for women?

History has definitely seen male domination in the corporate world. It’s a sad fact – and when it comes to fashion, some are very gifted at creating pieces that make women feel beautiful. But with more and more women at the front of fashion houses, there’s something unique and exciting about moving away from a male gaze and into something more distinctly feminine and fresh. It is a more attuned perspective on what we as women want – who we want to be and how we want to feel.

What do you see a male designer usually lacks when making clothes for women?

Speaking to lingerie specifically, I think men lack the ability to understand how a woman wants to feel under their clothes. I think they tend to use sex appeal as the main design vision, whereas women design with a unique sensibility for ‘beauty’, functionality and luxury. What’s beautiful to a woman is complex, layered, thoughtful. I think when it comes to undergarments, it takes a woman to understand that and create something that speaks to us.

What makes a garment sustainable? Can you tell me about the production of Fortnight… where is the material sourced, who makes it, where etc..

To me a garment is sustainable when it is made ethically, thoughtfully, with quality, good fit and endurance in mind. A garment is sustainable when it employs people in safe conditions with fair wages. When it’s materials, consumption and factory are chosen carefully. When it’s designed to be worn again and again until threadbare. 

We’ve built our own production facility in Toronto, Canada.  Because lingerie is such a detailed complex layer of clothing to make, we found it was best to manufacture in a setting where we could keep an eye on every stitch and detail.  Even 1mm in a garment so small and body contouring can make a big difference in fit/feel.  We Employ women who are seriously passionate about the craft of lingerie making. Quality, endurance and functionality at the forefront of our designs.  

Our fabrics are sourced from ethical mills all over the world from Europe to North America to Asia. We’ve always been very fortunate to work with companies who want to do what they can to help a smaller business.

Advertising… I noticed you made a choice by portraying different women in your lingerie and swimwear, I’d say more close to every woman. Why that choice?

To be honest, it began to happen very organically. Because we make a wide variety of sizes, I always wanted to find ways to show the range. But when I started in Toronto in 2010, models at agency were all very similar proportions.  So we started shooting friends, women we were inspired by and it continued to take off from there.

What is beauty to you? Where do you look for it?

I think beauty is an ease, a confidence, accepting yourself and others, loving and being there for yourself and others. 

I had the beautiful opportunity to shoot their 2019 swim collection in the beautiful nature of Puglia with photographer and friend Lily Cummings.
Lately I began paying attention to photography and advertising through women’s eyes. There is a lot less sexuality involved and while before I was feeling a little lost (I can count on one hand the number of female photographers and brands owned by women that I have worked for in my almost 20 years of career) this time I felt at ease. Shooting for women is so different, there is less perfection involved – perfection in the way we think of perfection today: of a body without marks nor cellulite, of a photo entirely polished where your skin doesn’t look like skin anymore, of a woman stripped off of her natural curves that remind us of the beauty abundance and grace of Nature. And so I love today to move towards this new fashion wave of female designers using a great variety of women as an inspiration to make clothes and lingerie and swimwear. Christina’s brand (which you can find on instagram and here) is coherent and really makes women, whether in their twenties or pregnant or moms or business women or athletes or artists or cleaning ladies, feel themselves and right and beautiful.

Bye Instagram

And at last it happened! I deleted my instagram account 🙂
The following day I receive an email from my German agent asking if all was ok, what happened and if maybe I changed name. All was and is ok.

There is a real world here and I was starting to miss it out. The thing is that the most beautiful things I do or see I never share online, also the best moments and the people I love the most I never share them either. I tried many times to keep my instagram “real” and not follow the trends to gain followers but I still realise I get in a mindset I don’t like. I can’t control it, I begin obsessing over getting new content, new publishing material, what if I don’t show that at the moment I haven’t been working? Will people label me as looser? What if I don’t show them how successful I am… what if I don’t show them how happy I am… What if what if what if. Lucky the one who is immune to it! I am certainly not.
In my profession having instagram today is crucial, yet I have agents who should guarantee me the work. We models forget that. It’s very easy today to get a girl with +10k followers to book jobs…. but can you get a girl booked if she has no followers? Where are those booker’s skills then? I dropped agents in the past when they started telling me unless I reach 10K they will not book me a job, well that goes against my philosophy.

Instagram has the ability to rewire your brain. Many bend their reality, change their bodies, have plastic surgery, choose the right friends, choose the right girlfriend… to be photogenic for instagram!!! Are we crazy? As if that intangible world is more important than our physical one. Instagram gives you the illusion of reality, because the thoughts and images you create in your head are the way you access emotions but the problem is that you are not connected to your body. Another problem is that the people you start interacting with that you have never actually met before create after a while an illusion of friendship and “knowingness”.

I am still here though. More alive and ok than ever. Funny how people immediately think one has problems if she gets off line, no?
One thing that I had been thinking about was … 15 years there wasn’t social media, how was I keeping in  contact with friends? Well I wasn’t! Or rather, I had the phone number of those who interested me or email address but after a while unless I was physically seeing them we would lose touch and to each his/her own life. Today there is this crazy belief or myth we must keep in contact with everyone and see what everyone is doing. Well I thought: what if I stop keeping contacts through social media? What if I start looking around myself more? What if instead of looking at millions of photos I start travelling the world? …. There is a photo of every magical place on Earth, or so they make you believe, but aren’t you tired of looking at photos? Everywhere we live beauty is offered to us but we look for a prepackaged beauty, we look for someone to point out that that is beautiful. That is worthy of instagram. That is worthy of thousands of likes. You are worthy of thousands of likes… oh but if you’re not reaching that then you are certainly unworthy, uninteresting, etc.

Illusions…. when are you going to give up on them?


Sustainable Tourism in Transylvania

Ten years after my first visit to Transylvania I have been invited by my friend Marta Pozsonyi as a speaker at the first conference ever organised on Sustainable Tourism in Transylvania, which took place at the University of Cluj.
Marta is a pioneer in this sense because 10 years ago she organised the first gastronomic summer campus for kids, and the following year we co-organised the second one plus an international conference for the youth in gastronomy (it wasn’t really the Slow Food Youth Network, as this came years after our conference).
This time she brought together different experts in the gastronomic field who work in Transylvania, besides Rosemary Barron who came from London and is a real food and travel critique (I say real as in she is not an instagram celebrity) and myself who came from Italy. But firstly what is a gastronomer and what professions includes a “gastronomic field”? … On the superficial level a gastronomer is a lover of good food, a gourmet, a connoisseur of good food and drink, etc. On a deeper level gastronomy is the study of food. And the food in question has a background: history, politics, art, agronomy, zoology, economy, ecology, genetics; it has a taste, it encloses the stories of those who made it from the first seed planted to the person who sold it to you, it travelled across different cultures until it got on your table, and so on.
Marta has a vision and it’s the reason for this conference: She sees a national network of producers, historians, creatives, farmers, restaurateurs, students and so on, working together to better Transylvania; to preserve the land and create a sustainable tourism from which many people can benefit.

As she was speaking my mind brought me to my hometown Giaveno, where I have tried to put together producers and restaurateurs but haven’t yet succeeded. For some reason people have a hard time collaborating, also there are communication problems between the main town and the spread out villages that are part of this town. I told Marta that perhaps this won’t happen overnight, if people are used to working alone this won’t change from one conference but maybe … maybe in some years. The importance is to keep trying and keep talking about these things. Something I found incredibly interesting is the work of Cristian Cismaru, whose aims at changing the way food is served in the villages. In fact he and his partner organise events, such as Transylvania Brunch or picnics or by inviting chefs to revisit old recipes, in small rural villages. Although extremely happy and satisfied of his activity, he can’t but wonder: are we contributing to globalisation by innovating traditions? … What a good question! When I was in university I went through a phase where I was against innovation. Anything too new or two creative was for me an attack to traditions and seeing how American food system and “culture” has changed the way we eat and think of food… I wanted to preserve the old grandma’s recipes. But now I realise time cannot be stopped and what we view as traditional today is perhaps only 200 years old. Think of this: tomato sauce wasn’t traditional in Italy until little over 100 years ago!!! And we had no idea over here of the existence of tomatoes, so what was traditional before that huh? … and what will  be traditional in the future in 300 years? Who knows..
I believe it’s a blessing to be able to have a great variety of foods, I believe that traditions will be moulded on the national and local tastes. A chef coming to a village to cook an old recipe in a completely different way can be viewed as an incredible experiment and the locals can really benefit from it. We must not forget that what is being done by Cristian is to bring together the locals and offer them something new! We are so used to think and design events for the foreigners that we forget to include the people living in the area… this is different. This is creating a sense of community by organising gastronomic events that can sparkle a new idea, a new encounter, a new way of viewing the same food/recipe. It also gives pride to local producers, something that we too often take for granted. Cristian Cismaru found a way to preserve life and culture in the mountains 🙂

The presentation of Tibor Hartel on the agricultural space in Transylvania and the potential in development has also caught my attention as it is a topic extremely dear to me. What is the aim of landscapes? – He begins by asking us. We want to work toward landscapes that work for both people and biodiversity. An answer so simple and obvious, yet the reality is much different unfortunately. The problem is that usually local authorities (I’m not talking about people like Tibor Hartel nor the people present at this conference) don’t cherish the land they manage and sell it for whatever use only to earn money. … During my travels I’ve seen a phenomenon I really dislike: I go to a country and find myself in a hospitality structure built by foreigners for foreigners, where the local ecosystem is bent (or completely destroyed) for the sake of making it ideal to welcome a certain type of tourist… there is nothing left of the local culture if not the world reckoned cliches! Basically if the locals don’t recognise and don’t value their culture, this will be exploited and you will slowly lose your sense of identity. While designing a touristic plan one should ask him/herself where can we modernise yet stay Romanian (and this opens another question: what is being Romanian?.. what is Romania? what is Transylvania?…). I think the biggest lie ever told by globalisation is that there is only one way to become modern, and that is to copy what America is doing, to sell Romanian souvenirs made in china, to open burger places instead of traditional restaurants etc.
I believe also that integrated farming is the new old-way of preserving life, biodiversity, and culture. And regarding this I would like to share with you a reality in Colombia I happen to follow and one day will also visit… Deveras – founded by Michel Pineda. So we move back to a farming that integrates on the same area: animals, forest, vegetable garden etc.

At last… chef Oana Coanta of Bistro de l’Arte in Brasov spoke about her experience. Her bistro uses 80% local products and she is doing her best to educate the customers. However, she says there is a difference between the foreign customer and the locals. Foreigners are very curious about the provenience of the produce, while locals never ask and don’t care. I believe this is just because they have not been taught to ask nor to think about it. We, in the west, have been bombarded in the past 10 years with books and notions about the importance of local food but there are countries where such thing is still obvious so people don’t ask. In Belarus the meat you find both at the market or in stores or in the restaurant comes from Belarus, so do the vegetables. I wonder if it’s the case for Romania…
I am a firm believer though that the customer must be educated. We never think of this but McDonald’s and all the crap that has been sold to us from the American companies have educated our taste… so if chefs don’t re-educate the customers, who else will? Sure it’s a tiring and frustrating task but I consider a chef much more than just a person who cooks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.