Co-Chairs: Solomon H Katz and Pat Bennett
Food occupies a central place in human life. Not only are its nutrients necessary for our survival, but feasting, fasting, and sharing are integral to our history, cultural identity, and religious traditions. Yet, today, and for the foreseeable future, nearly half of the world’s people cannot enjoy the fullness of their potential due to problems with food affordability, safety, and access. Serious problems with food production and price increases currently leave about one billion people experiencing hunger, and many of them facing starvation. Another billion spend over half their entire income on food, but still have only marginally enough to eat. Yet, concurrently, at least another billion people in the world are experiencing problems from consuming too much food and/or from dietary imbalances and safety problems that result in serious chronic diseases and infections.
Among the questions to be addressed at this conference are the following:
- What are the origins and evolution of human diet and the food system, and how does this knowledge provide new insights about our contemporary food problems?
- What is the status of world food resources? How does it relate to macro and micro food problems locally and nationally in the United States and throughout the world?
- How does food serve as a symbol and a substance of various religious traditions? Has the loss of social traditions surrounding food production, preparation and consumption contributed to the problems noted above?
- How can the human food system be made more sustainable? How can healthy diets be safely and economically made available to all humanity? How can new scientific and medical knowledge optimally help with sustainability, safety, and access?
- What are the tensions created by climate change; population growth; demographic change; global trade and commodity pricing; market and business forces; water management; energy resources; food to fuel; new GMO technologies; agricultural practices; land use and agricultural practices; increased meat, dairy, and egg production; food sovereignty at local, national, and international levels; increased socio-political interests; and the demands for human rights and just food policies?
- What secular and religious ethics and values can help to balance and/or solve food problems at all levels of the food system? What human and institutional resources are now available or need to be developed to catalyze meaningful solutions to food problems?
- What are the potentials of a combined science and religion approach to achieving sustainable solutions to world food problems?
One of the conference’s aims is to derive, develop, and disseminate a statement of principles for achieving sustainable solutions to some of these issues, based on such a combined approach; and to issue an accompanying call to appropriate action at personal and communal levels.
An IRAS conference is a rather unique interdisciplinary experience, combining serious cutting-edge talks with many opportunities for in-depth discussions and workshops, as well as relaxed, informal conversation. Most speakers spend the entire week at the conference, giving plenty of opportunity to follow-up points over coffee and meals. Also, since conferees represent a wide spectrum of disciplines in the sciences and humanities, as well as coming from many different religious traditions, discussions are eclectic, stimulating and sometimes robust! And alongside the hard work of thinking and talking, and our traditional reflective sessions, there’s plenty of less serious stuff to enjoy too – music, art, laughter and jokes at Happy Hour, and all the rich and varied recreational facilities on offer to us guests at Silver Bay.
The deadline for poster proposals is April 19, 2013 and for workshop proposals is May 6, 2013. Visit the conference website for additional information, including a list of confirmed speakers that include several SAFN members.