Fife Diet Achievements and Reflections

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Mike Small reflects on the Fife Diet (published here)…

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‘Why don’t we eat more food from near where we live?’ 

This was the simple question that began the Fife Diet – a year long local food experiment which has since morphed into an exploration of what sustainable food looks like, and a hundred more questions. Over an eight year period it has developed from a simple idea framed around ‘local eating’ to a complex holistic one about sustainable food, environmental justice, globalisation and culture.

We set out to build a sustainable food movement that popularised eating healthy, local produce in Fife. We started from the understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong with the food system but also from the thought that we can, if act collectively, do something about it.

We are delighted beyond our expectations at the support it has received and the impact it has had. We believe the projects success was based on its authenticity – i.e. ordinary people trying to do this for the first time, but also based on a fundamental truth, that is that we as a society will have to actually change our own behaviour, institutions and experiences to meet the challenges of climate change and that no magic bullet, techno-fix or legal sleight of hand will wish-away the reality we are all part of.

Crops are planted

The last eight years has made us realise that food has become central to the precarious economy, it has become a form of social control, and, while it remains a means for great change and a source for love, community and solidarity, it has also been captured and turned against us.

The ‘restorative practice’ of a better food system will only be victorious if we want it enough. But we think it’s there right now on the table in front of us.

Real progress won’t be made until we end hunger in Scotland and the disgrace that are food banks. It won’t be made until we regain control over our retail experience, and confront the profiteers that benefit from products that fuel our children’s obesity. It won’t be made until we create opportunities for the ‘right to grow’ and create an expectation of quality healthy food in our public institutions. Some of these arguments are put forward in ourFood Manifesto.

There’s a whole lot more to be done if we want to be taken seriously as a ‘Good Food Nation’. We think that debate is just starting, not ending.

Here’s some of what we consider to be our key achievements on that journey:

CELEBRATING OUR OWN FOOD CULTURE It’s worth remembering that when we started we were met by a mixture of incredulity and poorly-disguised scepticism. People really didn’t think that you could eat food from Fife, and survive at all. It was just unthinkable, unimaginable.

CARBON SAVINGS In 2011-2012 we saved 1019 tonnes of C02e. Then, in a three year period (April 20912- March 2015) we saved a further 6976.37 tonnes of C02e. These are immediate savings, by diverting food waste from landfill thereby avoiding creating methane, for example, or by sequestering carbon and enriching soil with compost, but also by eating locally, growing our own food, eating organic, changing the meat we ate (and eating less of it).

OUTREACH We held or attended over 500 outreach events over the three years, engaging with 15,520 people.

GROWING SPACES

We established a community food growing garden, a wildlife and forest garden and a vibrant volunteer and community group who are maintaining them. We hosted 57 events at the garden, including the children’s gardening club, large community lunches and volunteer sessions.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT We ran 79 weekly children’s gardening clubs (79 clubs over three years) and hosted 7 large-scale community events.

LEADING THE WAY We were part of building a new food movement in Scotland that encompasses the right to food, championing small producers, insisting on sustainability as a measurement of quality in food production and celebrating food sovereignty.

NEW ORCHARDS We planted 7 orchards around Scotland from Galloway to Sutherland with our Silver Bough tour (‘ a cultural conversation about apples’).

SCHOOL LUNCHES PILOT We collaborated with Fife Council and the Soil Association in a pilot project exploring regionally sourced, healthy, sustainable and organic school lunches.See here.

INSPIRATIONAL PRINTED MATERIAL We published a series of inspiring posters, postcards, booklets and other materials including recipe books, calendars, guides onnative apple varieties and a booklet on gardening with kids. We also produced a free Ebook for our members of Collected Recipes from the life of the project.

BIRTHING THE ORCHARD COLLECTIVE We curated and hosted the National Orchard gathering and helping the Orchard Collective into existence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE We are proud to have been part of a wider movement and welcomed the collaborative work over the past eight years with such groups as Nourish, the Soil Association, Slow Food, Permaculture Scotland and Transition Towns.

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Vote for veg! Our new government must take action to support plant-based diets

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Rob Percival – 02 April 2015

Veg MarketEach year, we Britons throw away 570,000 tonnes of fresh meat. This is the equivalent of 110 million animals. Most of these are chickens. 3 million are pigs, typically intensively reared to minimum welfare standards. Over 200,000 are cattle. Globally, each year, 12 billion animals are born to be binned, an extraordinary waste of life.i

These wasted lives may also be measured in wasted water, wasted land, and wasted crops: the resources used to nourish these animals that could instead have been used to feed people. Philip Lymbery, author of Farmageddon, has argued that if all the grain destined for industrially reared animals were planted in one field, it would cover the entire land surface of the European Union. If fed directly to people, it would sustain an extra 4 billion.

This legacy of waste extends as well to habitats and forests. Thousands of acres of rainforest are felled each year to be converted into cropland for animal feed, devastating vast areas of wildlife refuge and releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Animal agriculture is consequently responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation combined.ii

These are daunting statistics. But they are also statistics that we can influence directly – the politics of food is participatory: we vote three times a day, each time we pick up a fork.

And growing numbers of us are voting for veg, choosing to cut back our daily meat consumption. The Food People, a global trendspotting and ideas agency, report a “seismic” shift in attitudes in the UK towards “celebrating vegetables and opting to eat less meat.” They propose that ‘flexitarianism’, or ‘less but better’ meat eating, is soon to become a “mega trend.”

A recent YouGov survey seems to support their suggestion. The survey found that one in three Britons (35%) say they are willing to consider eating less meat, with one in five (20%) saying they’ve already cut back their consumption. Tellingly, concern for animal welfare was the top reason given, indicating that eating less meat and eating better meat are two sides of the same coin.

Eating better meat means choosing to eat pasture-fed animals that have been raised within a climate friendly farming system, such as organic. Organic farming systems have been shown to help to protect carbon-rich soils and wildlife, while providing for higher level of animal welfare.

If ‘less but better’ meat eating is on the rise – and the thousands participating in last week’s Meat Free Week would suggest so – then we are perhaps on our way to becoming a nation of conscientious carnivores. But is the shift seismic enough? And when will Government step up and support those looking to eat and farm more sustainably?

Whoever forms a Government next month must make a concerted effort to support plant-based diets and climate friendly farming:

  • This means committing to a joined-up food strategy, aimed at ensuring that a healthy and sustainable diet is accessible and affordable for everyone.
  • Clear guidelines on sustainable eating should be issued, promoting the benefits of eating less and better meat, and supporting businesses to provide more meat-free options.
  • British farmers who produce meat in ways that benefit the environment, health and animal welfare should be supported and encouraged, and provided with a fair return for their efforts.

The millions of wasted lives, the wasted crops, the wasted forests, collectively add up to the promise of a wasted planet. Our new government must take action to support sustainable diets: we need nothing less than a fully flexitarian future.

Exposed: top Scots universities dealing in arms and fossil fuels

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This seems shameful – Edinburgh Uni votes on divestment tomorrow, let’s demand change #EdinburghUniFossilFree.

Article can be found here.

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​NUS Scotland exposes top universities’ unethical investments

Scotland’s universities are making millions on the back of unethical investments, a freedom of information (FOI) request has discovered.

Leading universities continue to invest in what the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) deems harmful industries, such as fossil fuel exploration and arms.

In its FOI request it found nearly £16m is invested in companies involved in oil, gas and coal extraction, over £6m is invested in fossil fuel services and almost £3m is invested in the arms industry.

The University of Edinburgh, which at £291,806,852 has the largest investment portfolio in Scotland, invests almost £8.6m in fossil fuels, a further £5.9m in fossil fuel services, and £675,000 in the arms industry.

At the moment, many of them either don’t know or don’t care what companies their investments are supporting

The University of Strathclyde invested 10% out of its overall endowment of £27,040,000 into fossil fuel companies and 3% into arms.

And the University of Glasgow invested 5% out of its £43,327,918 endowment into fossil fuel extraction, and 3% into the arms industry.

It also discovered the University of Dundee, with an endowment of £21,039,968, invested 9% of its fund into oil, gas and coal.

Most of the institutions who responded recognised the need for socially responsible investment principles in their investment policy, but have no formal exclusions in place for companies that cause environmental damage or contribute to armed conflict.

NUS Scotland is now calling on universities and other publicly funded institutions to ensure they are investing their money in a socially responsible way.

“It’s shameful that Scottish universities are still pouring so much money into industries that are destroying the planet and fuelling conflict,” said Kirsty Haigh, NUS Scotland vice president communities. “Our institutions should be working to benefit not just their campuses but wider society as well, and we should expect more from them.

“At the moment, many of them either don’t know or don’t care what companies their investments are supporting.

“None of the reasons for divestment are contentious, and universities should recognise that and take action.

“Burning fossil fuels is causing disastrous climate change, and arms companies profit from conflict and human rights abuses. Our universities—who are at the forefront of world leading research, innovation and social progress—should know this better than anyone.”

Last year, the University of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to commit to fossil fuel divestment, and the University of Edinburgh are taking a decision on fossil fuel divestment later this month.

DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PUBLISHES GUIDE ON HOW CLIMATE CHANGE AFFFECTS CONFLICT AREAS AND FRAGILE STATES

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The UK’s Department for International Development (DIFD) has published a guide for UK aid workers that outlines the ways that climate change and climate-related factors are already worsening conflict and social breakdown in fragile states across the world.

http://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/sustainability-climate-change/sustainable-scotland-network/news/department-for-international-development-publishes-guide-on-how-climate-change-afffects-conflict-areas-and-fragile-states/

Leave fossil fuels buried to prevent climate change, study urges

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New research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands

George Monbiot: Why leaving fossil fuels in the ground is good for everyone

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/07/much-worlds-fossil-fuel-reserve-must-stay-buried-prevent-climate-change-study-says