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Food and Agriculture at Aspen Ideas Festival

2012_0705_AspenOverview

A SPECIAL REPORT


Food and Agriculture at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Editor’s note:

ASPEN, Colo. — If anyone still thought that the nation’s elite is uninterested in issues of food and agriculture, that idea was dispelled at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, the annual gathering here of international intellectuals and leaders to explore the ideals and ideas that define a good society.

This year’s festival featured discussions led by former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman on “how we will feed 9 billion of us” in 2050 and a preview of a new film on hunger in America, followed by commentary from Glickman and a panel of young scholars who shared their visions on how food systems fit in with the future of cities.

The importance of food and agriculture was signaled by the fact that discussions were interspersed with other speeches and panels on topics ranging from the 2012 elections to the issue of concussions in sports to “why we should care” about the “Higgs particle” three days before the scientific community announced its existence had been confirmed.

Former Pakistan President Perez Musharaff, Israel Defense Minister Ehub Barak, Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels (who will become president of Purdue University), White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood all were featured at festival events.

The Aspen Ideas Festival is organized by the Aspen Institute, which was established here in 1950 by Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth as a gathering place for thinkers, leaders, artists and musicians, and The Atlantic, the magazine founded in 1857 by abolitionists and the publisher of work by Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.

The festival, now in its eighth year, was held on the institute’s Aspen campus, and attendees paid at least $2,500 for one of the two four-day sessions held between June 27 and July 3. Organizers described the festival as the nation’s leading writers, public officials, artists, scientists, business executives, scholars, economists, foreign policy specialists, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all kinds, interacting with “thoughtful people who have stepped back from their day-to-day routines to delve deeply into a world of ideas, thought and discussion.”

Following are reports on sessions and conversations about food and agriculture.