Editorial by Stefano Lavorini

In its commitment to the Green Transition, if it wants to appear sincere, the world of packaging should perhaps take a wider view, and come to terms with the great moral and social issues of our society and, as Vittorino Andreoli seems to suggest, also the crisis of Civilisation which is in progress.

Technological neutrality, LCA, Advanced Recycling and the PPWR are themes that spur reflection on the problems of sustainability and are destined to build a new world of values to accompany packaging towards a more informed future.

Put in these terms, there is a cultural change in progress which affects all of society, without contradictions and conflicts. To put is clearly, it’s sufficient to point out that the earth, for us modern westerners, has for centuries represented no more than what it can provide in raw materials: «As faithful executors of the biblical command giving Adam dominion over the earth, we have transformed its use into abuse. And, as Umberto Galimberti (1) reminds us, for the short period of our lives and thanks to our short-sighted economic calculations, we force nature to respond to our needs beyond what is right».

As if the atavistic delirium of omnipotence that has made us forget how much the fate of man is not in his hands were not enough, today «we are going through a period of widespread malaise, often reaching pathological levels». This was well explained by Vittorino Andreoli, psychiatrist and member of the New York Academy of Sciences, during his keynote speech for the inauguration of the academic year 2023-24 at the University of Parma. Today, a general increase in the fear of living, in the struggle of living, is evident in the population, attributable to two scenarios (contexts), related to each other.

According to Andreoli, the first cause is that we are intoxicated by our Ego. It’s a general psychological process which, in the ancient myth, is represented by Narcissus, who was unable to relate to others, was not interested in others, and did not know what love was.

Other forms of the ego pathology are linked to this, from mania to paranoia, which distance individuals from the perception of their own fragility. «It’s not possible to be humans unless we have a sense of limit, and everything that lacks a limit becomes a pathology of the Ego ». The only Ego possible, therefore, is a fragile one, which is aware of its own limits and precisely for this reason needs others. In this way “I” moves to “Us”. ». Now is the time for a psychology of “Us”, affirms the scholar, because only with Us is it possible to feel that another person can be a strength, not because they are stronger or more powerful, but because they are fragile like us.

The second cause is that the “struggle for survival” is no longer guided exclusively by instinct and impulses, as Darwin postulated in 1859, but is also guided by desires. «The transition from survival to quality of life is linked to desires that can change according to context and to history. This is due to the fact that part of our brain is flexible, that is, it changes according to experiences and through teaching ».

The result is that it’s no longer possible to say that the only way to survive is to fight. It has, in fact, been widely demonstrated that cooperation can enable survival equally efficiently. «If we are aware of our limits and we can see that they are the limits of another and that my fragility united with the fragility of others gives me strength to live, then it would no longer be a case of “I am the strongest”, it would no longer be “I am male, she is female” and finally it could be possible, leaving aside social rights which cannot be diversified in any way, to promote from a human point of view that historical aspect of compatibility and coordination which characterizes us ».

In conclusion, Andreoli, summarising, warns of the ongoing crisis of civilization, that is, the loss of the set of first principles that represent human needs. «Remember that this man can change, but it is not only a question of psychology or of psychopathology; the question is to make known and defend the principles of a civilization which, in contrast to social dynamics, are the result of a long journey. Our great civilisation is what came out of ancient Greece starting from the seventh century B.C., continued with the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages and the invention of science, and which can be lost, leading rapidly to a regression: from civilisation to a society of heroes of nothingness, to barbarism ».

So, summing up, when we talk of sustainability, have we reflected on who we are? We have made our own the exhortation “Know thyself” inscribed in the temple of Apollo in Delphi? I have serious doubts!

(1) Umberto Galimberti: La natura inumana, 27 December 2004,
(2) Vittorino Andreoli, psychiatrist and member of the New York Academy of Sciences, on 22 February, during the inauguration of the 2023-24 academic year of the University of Parma, gave the keynote speech titled “From I to We and from the “fight to survive” to Cooperation as a foundation of civilisation”. See:

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