Released in October of last year, the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report warned that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. A rise in global warming beyond 1.5C is predicted to cause severe risks of floods, drought and extreme heat, resulting in hundreds of millions of people falling into poverty.
With food and agriculture being enormous contributors to climate change – more so than transport –what food you put on your plate matters more than which car you do, or do not drive. Worldwide, this is something which governments have begun recognizing and acting upon – resulting in things such as calls for a Scottish Good Food Nation Bill.
According to the Scottish Government’s, 2014 food policy ‘Becoming a Good Food Nation’, the vision is of Scotland becoming a Good Food Nation (GFN) by 2025, “where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day.” It has a clear vision of making food and drink ‘one of the key reasons why people of Scotland take pride in their country’.
Following this policy, multiple political parties committed to a new law on food in their 2016 Scottish election manifestos. Many organizations have welcomed this commitment and feel a new law on food – a Good Food Nation Bill – is key to making vital changes to Scotland’s food system.
On top of the poor-diet-culture that encapsulates the country, with over 64% of the adult population either overweight or obese, there is an inherent disconnect between Scottish people and their food. This, along with the rise in food poverty and high food waste is something campaigners feel a bill should set out to change.
At the end of 2018, Scottish Ministers launched a consultation on potential new legislation to overhaul the Scottish food system, in which they consider the right to sustainable, healthy food for everyone. Consultations are the Scottish Government’s way of making suggestions and asking the public what they think. When the Scottish Government launches a consultation, they are inviting anyone to reply to the government with their views.
The Good Food Nation consultation recognizes that there are divided opinions on how to make these changes happen – whether through further legislation, policy-making, or a mix of both. As a result, Scottish Government wants to know what you, as a resident in Scotland, think!
Allowing for the voices of everyone in Scotland to be heard, the consultation is online, until the 18th of April. However, the academic and technical policy wording of the survey can be difficult to process– demanding what many deem as too much effort.
This issue was addressed in Stirling on March 17 when volunteers and staff from local organizations collaborated to create a consultation event. The Scottish Food Coalition rallied volunteer ambassadors from the 2050 Climate Group’s Young Leaders Development Program to work with Forth Environment Link and Transition Stirling. Together, they brought members of the Stirling community together for a meal and put the consultation questions into layman terms, allowing locals to express their views on the consultation.
“Everyone eats, so everyone’s opinion on this is valuable” says Naomi Ross, Good Food Nation volunteer ambassador and board-member at Transition Stirling – a charity helping people in Stirling transition to a low carbon, sustainable lifestyle.
“We all want to be the change, rather than have the change done to us. And the best way to achieve that is by us taking part and saying, ‘this is what we want’”, she argues – urging people to take action on their words.
Upon discussing the power of each individual, Ross points out that “if you rant about things on Facebook, it’s unlikely the right people will hear it. Copying and pasting the same text into an email to your local MSP can be so much more effective.”
“Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, is the prime example that one person can make a difference. She has created a mass-movement just by standing outside Sweden’s Government buildings, and so could you. We should all believe in the power our own voices.”
“When it comes to legislation/policy-making” says Ross, reflecting upon the consultation, “far more responses usually come back from industry and large stake-holders like that. Individual responses are just as important, but much rarer.”
With several factors predicted to affect the aims of Good Food Nation, such as a probable rise in food prices after Brexit – threatening to lower demand of more expensive organic foods and more people pushed into food poverty – Ross stresses the need to take action and make your voice heard.
“Austerity outside of Brexit will probably affect the Bill too”, she says, pointing to budget squeezes in the NHS, in schools and the rollout of Universal Credit. “If schools have to choose between books and organic foods, they will probably – and maybe rightly so – choose books.”
Although doubtful about whether or not Scotland will be able to reach the goal of becoming a Good Food Nation by 2025 if progress continues at current rates, Ross is still optimistic about the future. “If you, me and everybody, write in and take action to push for change, it is definitively achievable.”
Food is something we all need to survive, something we should all have the right to, and its production and consumption will determine what the future of our planet will look like. So it is absolutely worth getting involved!
Find the consultation here: https://consult.gov.scot/food-and-drink/good-food-nation/
Read the IPPC Report here: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/