Congregação das Irmãs de São José de Chambéry | International Commissions

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    The Right to Good Living and Decent Food

    A view from the ethics of care

    The Good Life ...

    It is not possible to speak of “the right to good living and decent food” without thinking about the human reality constructed historically and socially from affective-collective relationships (otherness). The concept of “good living”, combined with the right to food, is justified by the “ethics of care”. For a “good life” is not only for the elite but for all “people”. And it is in this aspect that we speak of “ethics of care”, taking care of oneself and the other, as subjects of rights, expanding active citizenship. To speak of ethics of care is to affirm with emphasis everything that this expression evokes; more DIGNIFIED and more SACRED, because the “ethics of care” requires an attitude of permanent solidarity surveillance. The ethos (character), as care, indicates a type of behaviour and attitude of human being that is only conquered or acquired by habit, and if it is a habit it has to be a constant exercise - an asceticism.

    Good living is a category rescued from the culture of the Andean peoples, which needs to be better read and analysed in our socioeconomic context, as an ethical-political contribution to the regulation for the means of production, based on the principle of the human right to food and decent work for everyone. To reflect on good living, based on the right to food, is to give primary importance to critical consumption, keeping in mind the integral ecology and the principles of the ethics of care for the construction of a culture of solidarity and good living. This integrating vision, which the human being represents, involves everything that seeks balance with the vital energy of the universe (pachamama) and with God. In other words, it is what Pope Francis, in Laudato Si ’, calls “integral ecology”.

    The Right to Decent Food ...

    Reflecting on the right to decent food, in a critical view of the meaning of “food”, leads to some questions: what is our understanding of the ‘right’ and ‘food’? In whose hands is the accumulation of food while generating wealth / income and in whose hands, do we want it to be? “Rights” have to do with active and proactive citizenship, dignity, the participation of all and equal demands. It is a matter of thinking together about a healthy food chain, that is, production, critical consumption and solidarity (ethical / healthy). Failure to balance this shakes up social organization and exposes people to the risk of wild solipsist behaviour.

    Therefore, thinking about the right to decent food in the context of good living is reflecting on a set of practices which deals with the right to healthy food in regard to obtaining products and services, as well as reducing impacts on the environment. Food, health and nutrition processes are basic activities to sustain life with quality and this has political, economic, social and cultural implications.

    Thus, the right to healthy food must be the object of public policy, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as food is essential to life and health. But it is also associated with risk, when it does not focus on quality of food since they bring serious damage to health. We could illustrate this situation with many cases of empirical-illustrative character such as the use of pesticides, chemical preservatives, industrialized products etc. causing enormous damage to human, environmental and animal health. Therefore, agroecology today aggregates and integrates knowledge: scientific and practical, because it is a science for life and aims at sustainable, economical and socially fair development. Hence it implies responsibility for choices from an ecological perspective. Therefore, it is a fundamental right, yes!

    The Ethics of Care ...

    And we need to make rationally correct and healthy food options. This is the issue of food ethics, focused on the individual and public policies comes in, that is, managers concerned with healthy food and, consequently, with public health. Only the change in habits justifies the choice for a healthy diet. Agro ecological foods are closely linked to: “land”, “creation” and “care”. This involves dynamism between suppliers and consumers, weaving dialogues, exchanging knowledge, among others, generating reflections and transformations through different and humanized ways of caring for life. Leonardo Boff speaks of ethics and compassion for the humans in the sense of knowing how to take care of himself and the other, when he says: “Care is more than a singular act or a virtue alongside others. It is a way of being, that is, the way in which the human person is structured and fulfilled in the world with others. Better still: it is a way of being-in-the-world that establishes the relationships that are established with all things”. It is about the mutual understanding of people about the different dimensions of their experiences.

    It is necessary to pursue an ethical basis so that our choices do not negatively affect the present and the future of all living species, with very serious environmental impacts, already seen in various corners of the earth. We must remember that, as a result of the Green Revolution that began in the 1940s in Brazil, we are today the largest consumer of pesticides in the world (ANVISA & UFPR, 2012). And what about the animal production model? It is, without a doubt, unsustainable, because it strongly affects one\´s autonomy, that is choosing to plant and to feed. But, how to consider our food choices ethical?


    Care is an affective relationship in the constitution of being, humanizes people and expands the notion of pleasure. It is the art of living ‘more’ and ‘better’ because it is in all actions and situations, since the other (otherness) is important simply because it exists. The ethics of care indicates a mode of human behaviour that is "acquired or conquered by habit" (VÁZQUEZ), therefore, it needs be cultivated in our mind through knowledge. The ethics of care requires respect and preservation of everything that exists and lives. And food is indispensable. Food must be produced without poison. It is essential to support those who organize to produce healthier food in the territory they live and to show the society that it is possible to produce organic food and strengthen the relationship with consumers through direct sales. Thus, “Good Living”, associated with the right to food, is legitimized by the “Ethics of Care”.

    Our ethical conscience is a condition for our survival!

    Go ahead!
    Let us continue in the fight always!

    Nilva Rosin (CSJ) - Passo Fundo / RS

    BOFF L. Princípio de compaixão e cuidado: Encontro entre ocidente e oriente. 4. Ed. Petrópolis, RJ: Vozes, 2009.
    BOFF L. Saber cuidar: ética do humano, compaixão pela terra. Petrópolis (RJ): Vozes; 1999.
    FERRAZ, Mariana de Araujo. Direito à Alimentação e Sustentabilidade. 2013. 189f. (Dissertação de Mestrado). Área de concentração: Direitos Humanos. Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de São Paulo – USP.
    FREIRE, Paulo. Pedagogia do Oprimido. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 2005.
    SÁNCHEZ VÁZQUEZ, Adolfo. Ética. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2002.

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