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Tomato Seed - by Giovanna Guiffrè

It’s the 26th of May 2050. Today is my birthday. My son wanted to celebrate my birthday at a famous restaurant on the moon. He wanted to fly us to the moon in his new airbus. But I refused by saying that I would like to celebrate my birthday at our house. Now the party has ended, and I am sitting on my terrace. The sight of many vegetables and fruits growing on my balcony, bees are flying from plants in the surrounding buildings, and flowers as far as my eye can reach is magnificent. I cannot stop smiling, thinking back on how different my city has become: technologically advanced yet climate-friendly. It was not always like this, global warming had us all living in fear. It all started many years ago when I was in my 20s. The year was 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic had shaken up the world. Now, that story is just a few pages in your textbook, but we are going through something we were not prepared for at the time - a true health crisis. We were losing loved ones without being able to say goodbye. We were afraid of contact, fearful of closed spaces, afraid of travelling. People feared each other. They felt loneliness and loss. And an economic crisis flung wide open the door to social distress. In a crisis, it’s common to look for a scapegoat, the sinner, the plague spreader. This time was no different. People started to blame the Chinese, the pharma companies, the young, the elderly, even the joggers. For my part, I lost my job and blamed myself. I started going to the nearby park. There was something sacred in the richness of nature while humans were tangled in the fear of the end of the world. It was at that moment that I first grasped the intrinsic value of nature. Suddenly, I felt I was doing too little to help nature, to protect and restore it. So I planted a tomato. It was a small step, but it was the start of something. Two months later, it died—what a waste of time, money, and patience. I realised I needed a little help and I called on my friend Francesca. She had given up her consultancy work to become a beekeeper. A keen participant in urban community action, she knew why my tomato died, as well as many other things. I learned ‘all you need to know’ about nurturing a vegetable garden on my terrace through hours of video call meetings. Hint: it is not just about water. There’s the culture of the soil, the time of seeding, the attention to the sun and the protection against the wind – not to mention a myriad of insects that you should know about. Francesca also suggested me reading some books related to agroecology. It was a revelation: not only did I have food growing on my terrace, but I was enjoying this new fatigue of learning how nature works. And I took to social media to spread the word. I started a campaign on doing something small and accessible to take care of nature. I was not expecting to become an influencer or to start a revolution. But probably the timing was right: the recovery plan with its green promises was there, companies were willing to follow new directions, and citizens 33 were looking for a change. It wasn’t painless, but plant back better! My urban garden and Francesca’s suggestions got millions of views in just a handful of months. After endorsing a few celebrities, I started to see tomato plants sprouting in nearby buildings. Maybe because it was a good excuse to speak to neighbours again, but the city landscape began to change in the next couple of years. Policies followed: urban lots for gardening became normal, not the exception. Incentives were given for vertical farming, community actions, green activities and ensured a green space in each neighbourhood. Most importantly, the experience of growing a few vegetables triggered citizens’ curiosity around the food supply chain. Many started questioning where the food came from and how it was produced – searching for products harmless to the environment and their health. The citizens’ curiosity and new interest changed the market rules; after all, eating is a political act. Finally, in 2040, social and environmental values sneaked into the globalisation laws. It was a slow, deep, sweet revolution–created by a tomato seed-that build-up the landscape I am part of today.

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