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Chautauqua Preview: Feeding a Hungry Planet

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Photo courtesy of Chautauqua Institution
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Week two of the 2014 season at the Chautauqua Institution explores feeding a hungry planet, plus the return of a popular Independence Day tradition. 

Chautauqua is partnering with the National Geographic Society in an exploration of an increasingly stressed global food supply.  National Geographic's Environmental Editor Dennis Dimick and photographer Jim Richardson will lead off the week with a general overview.  Chautauqua President Tom Becker says subsequent speakers will then begin to dissect the topic.

They will explore "such issues as organic farming on the one hand and the aversion to genetically altered organisms," Becker said.  "If we don't have genetically altered organisms, you're not going to feed a hungry planet.  So, where is the middle ground in all this."

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WBFO's Mark Scott talks with Chautauqua President Tom Becker about some of the issues surrounding feeding a hungry planet.

One of the speakers, Professor Pamela Ronald of the University of California at Davis will address the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods on Wednesday.  During an address at UC Berkeley in April, Ronald talked about the issue of food waste and how it differs depending on where one lives.

"In developing nations, 50 to 80 percent of food is wasted before it reaches the table.  This is partly due to poor storage and infrastructure," Ronald said.  "When we think of food waste in the United States and Europe, it's a different situation.  Most of the food wasted here is wasted after it's put on the table, after we invested in water, energy, fertilizer, time and labor in producing the food."

This discussion continues during the Inter-Faith series at the Hall of Philosophy each afternoon at 2:00 when speakers will examine the moral obligation of feeding a hungry planet.  Associate Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno says there is a disparity between the well fed and the hungry in our world.

"It's a cultural thing at this point.  We are a country of people who indulge in excess," Rovegno said.

Among this week's speakers are Sister Simone Campbell on Wednesday.  She was the organizer of the Nuns on the Bus tour, promoting economic justice in this country.  Then Friday, public broadcasting's Tavis Smiley will speak. 

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Credit Photo courtesy of Chautauqua Institution
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Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra

The Chautauqua Symphony takes the stage Tuesday and Thursday.  The Thursday concert is the annual Independence Day tribute.  Programming Vice President Marty Merkley says Stuart Chafetz will lead the orchestra in a program that will feature dancers Kirby and Beverly Ward.

"It's a salute to the Red, White and Blue," Merkley said.  "We will have a lot of Gershwin that will be danced to in the second half of the show.   And as is our tradition, we'll do our version of the 1812 Overture with the brown paper bags as the cannon."

Indeed, at the appropriate time, the audience blows up their bags and then bursts them to mimic the sound of a cannon.  

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Chautauqua's Programming VP Marty Merkley talks about the Independence Day concert with the Chautauqua Symphony, plus previews a Wednesday night appearance by Loretta LaRoche.

Then, Saturday night, Chautauqua's Opera season opens with Madame Butterfly.  Opera Director Jay Lessenger expects this performance will draw a large crowd to the Chautauqua Amphitheater.

"Audiences just love this opera," Lessenger said.  "It's theatrical.  There's nothing you can't like."

Madame Butterfly will be performed in English.   Our sister station, Classical 94.5, WNED will record the performance and air it as part of the Tuesday Night Opera, July 22nd, at 8pm.

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Opera Director Jay Lessenger talks about Saturday's presentation of Madame Butterfly at the Amphitheater.