What does a Climate Emergency Look Like?

A man falls from the sky out of an plane into the back-garden of a house in Clapham.

His partially frozen body makes an indent.

Like a sign from the heavens of a world completely out of control, it passes the headlines for a day and then is forgotten.

Theses signs are increasing now. Like the winter-summer we just passed off with a shrug.

Our “climate emergency” is declared often, but closer examination suggests little real change.

Examples of bogus propaganda and inertia are everywhere.

The airline company Etihad, which offers customers a three-room “suite in the sky” with butler, has pledged to remove 80 per cent of single-use plastics across the business by the end of 2022. Now you can fly Edinburgh to Dubai safe in the knowledge that your cutting down your use of plastic, a bit, in the future.

This is high-end greenwash.

What we need is some flygskam.

Climate science denialists used to be cranks and willfully ignorant old men with difficulties in social integration, or people in pay to Big Oil. These types have now been taken out of service, abandoned even by the tabloids and right-wing press who employed them as “columnists” then routinely printing the apologies on page fifty-four when a press regulator forced them to acknowledge that last weeks five-page spread was a tissue of lies and disinformation.

Now climate science deniers come into two new and different categories. There are those of us still clinging onto the idea that our lifestyle changes are in someway relevant to where we are now in the process of catastrophe; the second is those corporate marketing people – the Don Draper’s of the climate crisis generation – bunkered down protecting or advancing some of the worst polluting industries in the world.

But how are we faring in Scotland?

The new EDF offshore wind farm has a lovely gaelic name – Neart na Gaoithe – which means “power of the wind” – and promises clean green renewable energy. It’s a £2 billion pound investment. The project has the potential to generate 450MW of renewable energy, which is enough power to supply around 325,000 Scottish homes – more than the whole of Edinburgh & will offset over 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

All of which is great. But instead of using the BiFab shipyard at Burntisland currently lying idle some 15 miles from the site, EDF are using Indonesian yards some 7,300 miles away.

This, we can exclusively reveal after work with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) that shows that shipping the turbine parts from Indonesia (7000 miles away) will costs 160,000 tonnes of C02.

That’s a huge carbon cost, but the combination of globalised capitalism and Scotland’s energy policy being run by Westminster means there’s nothing we can do about.

Our inability to create a just transition programme of any meaning, means that the opportunity to take people from industry in oil and gas and re-employ them in clean green energy is being lost. Scotland, having lost out on North Sea Oil is in danger of losing out to the renewables revolution though lack of control of our economy and our energy policy.

Just over the hill from Burntisland nestles Cowdenbeath, and just before it Mossmorran ExxonMobil’s ethylene plant.

“Representatives of ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant have apologised after unexpected flaring sent black smoke high into the skies across Fife for most of the past week. But the community remains furious at what it sees as regulatory failure and corporate evasion from ExxonMobil.”

I wrote this in May of this year but I could have written the same words last week, as its happened again (and again).

Apart from being the top polluter in the whole of Scotland – the plant produces 885,580 tonnes of C02 per year – its routinely terrifies local inhabitants in Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath who are exasperated at the prevarication and uselessness of the Scottish Government to take control of the situation and address the reality that the regulatory body (SEPA) is not fit for purpose.

Much of this is just routine powerlessness and incompetence by government in the face of oil companies.

But the level of intransigence in the face of climate breakdown pops up everywhere.

This week saw retired politician Kenny MacAskill write in the Scotsman about cruise liners in the Forth (‘Why Edinburgh needs a new cruise liner terminal.’) He started strongly arguing “cruise liners emit as much emissions as 1 million cars” – and even managed a few lines about the need to deal with climate problems (or something).

He writes: “Global warming needs tackled. If shopping and aviation are not addressed, it’s reckoned that 40 per cent of CO2 emissions will come from those two sectors by 2050.”

But then he concluded that we really needed a cruise liner terminal and they’d be around for a while so we should just build one.

He concludes:

“Cruise ships are here to stay, so let’s regulate them and maximise profit from them.”

It’s a sort of desultory ignorance of an entire generation of people.

In the face of clear knowledge, every single time we just opt for profit.

It’s woefully inadequate, its morally unforgivable and it shouldn’t have been published.

Our climate change emergency is really a performative act where we do nothing at all.

A man falls from the sky out of an plane into the back-garden of a house in Clapham.

His partially frozen body makes an indent.

Like a sign from the heavens of a world completely out of control, it passes the headlines for a day and then is forgotten.

Theses signs are increasing now. Like the winter-summer we just passed off with a shrug.


Image credit:
Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W) Installation by Pekka Niittyvirta & Timo Aho at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre 2018

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    I came across a more reality based climate change emergency declaration the other day, via Dr G Chia, 2017, although it was expressed more in exasperated reply to a sarcastic ‘what would you do to solve the predicament if you were king of the planet’ comment:

    1. Abolish all nation states. Demobilise all military forces everywhere and re-employ all ex-military personnel for the refurbishment and maintenance of essential domestic infrastructure, for civil defence and for disaster relief. All nuclear weapons to be dismantled, all weapons manufacturers to be eliminated.
    2. Equitable redistribution of resources, which will require that people in the rich parts of the world give up their luxuries to allow poorer people to survive. This will also require that refugees from climate ravaged and war torn parts of the world be allowed to emigrate to more climate favoured areas.
    3. Impose a moratorium on all human reproduction for the next 30 years, following which we allow only one child per couple until the global population falls to perhaps 100 million and thereafter allow only for replacement reproduction rates. Draconian? Yes, but far preferable to chaotic die-off which could trigger nuclear war.
    4. Transform the existing predatory rapacious capitalist system to a steady state ecology based economic system which penalises polluters and “closes the loop” – to treat and use all waste as a resource.
    5. Stop all unnecessary “economic” activity which will include the cessation of all fossil fuel based tourism and the entire process of globalisation. Limit activities to essential ones such as the production and distribution of food and clean fresh water and the construction and maintenance of dwellings. Localise all economic activities, although international trade in non perishable goods can still occur by use of sailing vessels.
    6. Educate everyone that the main “solution” to our looming energy shortfall must be energy efficiency and conservation, not new whizbang technowizardry such as fusion energy. Cease all fossil fuel electricity generation and change electricity provision to decentralised renewable energy systems such as solar PV for individual dwellings or microgrids. Let the central grid rot or better still, cannibalise it for materials. Pursue research to determine whether we can manufacture and maintain renewable energy generators and batteries using only renewable energy sources.
    7. Phase out all industrial scale monocrop agriculture (which is doomed anyway as fossil fuel based fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and the petroleum to run mass agriculture will eventually become unavailable). Reduce meat and seafood consumption by more than 90%. Food security to be achieved by the establishment of hundreds of millions of local permaculture smallholdings providing a plant based diet with abundant protein from peas, beans and nuts and supplementary protein from eggs, dairy products, aquaponics and even farmed insects. ”

    Add that to some of the idea in this:

    and we might be getting something other than Hopium to smoke!
    More of Dr Chia’s musings from Australia here:

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      No offence Mark but I seem to remember some childish Sci-Fi film made in the ’80s, I think, that portrayed such a dystopian world?

    2. Thanks Mark.
      I am with you apart from 3.

  2. Kate McGarrigle says:

    Not everything is about climate change. I would attribute the tragedy you refer to as evidence of a lack of humanity as well as racism. “Climate change” is just a convenient label to divert attention away from the real culprits which the powers that be do not wish to address as western poputions are duped into becoming more and more racist by a compliant media.

    1. Actually everything is about climate change.

      1. kate mcgarrigle says:

        Oh dear, bit of a fanatic aren’t you? Everything is about the system that causes climate change – presuming that such a phenomenon actually exists considering the amount of disagreement between experts. I am talking about the capitalist system which is responsible for so many of the world’s evils. Not a very deep thinker are you?


        1. john learmonth says:

          The ‘evil’ capitalist system that allows us to communicate via the internet as opposed to the wonders of socialism that caused the deaths of well over 100 million people in the C20.
          Theres nothing new about climate change, has always been with us and always will be irrespective of the activities of humanity.
          Nothing wrong with a warming world its a cooling world we have to fear as when Jack Frost comes back (and trust me he will) the only ships coming into Edinburgh will be ice breakers…..brrrrrr

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @ john learmonth, the Internet originated from publicly-funded military-government research and is fundamentally based on communist principles of shared, open source, patent-and-royalty-free protocols, standards and software. Most web servers run open source operating systems:
            most people use open source web browsers:
            and the World Wide Web Consortium is dedicated to an open, royalty-free web for all, recognising its social value as well as being a platform for commerce:

            Commercial, for-profit attempts to produce Internet-like services failed, repeatedly.

            The Internet stack is an everyday success story of applied communism, and the global digital commons enriches us all.

        2. “the amount of disagreement between experts”

          Can I ask how old you are Kate?

          1. John learmonth says:

            So how come it was created in the capitalist west as opposed to the Soviet Union or North Korea?
            Speaking of North Korea it has the lowest C02 emmissions of any country in the northern hemisphere not to mention massively reducing its population by adopting socialist agricultural policies leading to mass starvation……lets all go live there sounds a green paradise!

    2. milgram says:

      Racist closed border policies and promoting the acceptance of such are the closest the right has to a climate change policy.

  3. John Learmonth says:

    When the romans founded Edinburgh in C1AD they planted vineyards as the climate was so much warmer. Climate change has always been with us and has nothing to do with human activity. Just the usual liberal guilt /leftie self loathers who are making an ’emergency’ out of it.

    1. milgram says:

      Away you go, you’ve had your time, this kind of dishonest, wilfully ignorant shite has been tolerated long enough. You won, we’re fucked. Thanks. Bye.

      1. John learmonth says:

        Why are climate alarmists incapable of engaging im rational debate (fuck/shite etc etc)
        You might not like it but its a fact that for 75% of its existence the planet had no polar ice caps so quite obviously the earth has been a lot warmer than it is today
        Unfortunately when the next ice age inevitably arrives and we all freeze to death your going to look like a bit of a tit

        1. milgram says:

          The rational response is to not let you waste any more of our time with your pretence of being interested in “debate” and nonsense factoids about ice caps. How much of that ice cap-less time corresponds with human civilisation? What was the dominant life form the last time we had this much CO2 in the atmosphere?
          Go bother someone at a bus stop.

          1. John Learmonth says:

            Oh dear, terrible thing the geological record as it tends to get in the way of a good scare story. But your right I’ll leave you all in peace in your self confirming group think mentality.
            Will take the 4×4 out and put some plant food
            (Co2) into the atmosphere and help with the fantastic greening of the planet thats been going on the past 20 years and keep the ice man at bay!

  4. John Monro says:

    We are living in the environmental equivalent of what was called the “Phoney War” or rather better by Winston Churchill “The Twilight War” (Sept 1939-April 1940) a time of stasis after war was declared, when life seemed to proceed normally in Europe (except Poland) but everyone knew that something horrible was going to happen. More and more people that I know and meet are now getting really concerned for our future, partly for themselves but as many of my friends are my age, 72 , they are more frightened for their families and their communities. My brother in law is facing a personal existential crisis, including thoughts of suicide, and I am aware of a creeping sense of dismay or dread in our community – which I know about because we talk about it. But, we continue to live a “normal” life (though we should understand what we consider as normal is only the experience of a privileged population for about 70 years and for a billion more in the last 30 years – a very short time indeed in human history) by driving ICE cars or taking long flights to the UK and Europe for their holidays or contributing to the global economy and shipping and aircraft emissions by our thoughtless purchases of goods from China and other places overseas, and their inherent CO2 emissions. Now, I admit, that most of the people I talk to may be early baby-boomers like myself, but unlike too many of my era, they are socially and environmentally aware and left-wing, so my experience may not be typical.

    What you are describing is our “Global Warming Twilight”- a time of increasing concern and certainty, indeed a time of increasing dread, but also of increasing frustration and the feeling of impotence that you so well describe. To bring reality to your wish for Scottish independence, as any sort of cure for the power of business and the growth model, then here in New Zealand, much the same population as Scotland, and of similar wealth, we have the near the OECD’s worst record in global warming emissions and a country that hasn’t even started to take global warming seriously. A small country can be just as compliant with the wishes of powerful business interests. These interests are a huge fixed and inertial feature of politics and business in NZ and has been for the last 30 years since NZ became a world cheer-leader for neoliberalism. We run a community and government based on Anglo-Saxon history and values, not Norwegian. The likelihood that NZ would bring in any taxation regime on ICEs as in Norway is as remote as the US changing its gun laws. We have the world’s third highest ownership of private cars and New Zealanders are welded at the hips to their motor vehicles, on which we spend vast fortunes on new roads, and on which we place no mandatory emissions.

    It’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, that the only thing that might bring change quickly enough is the failure of the economic and fiscal system which is causing all the trouble in the first place – this would for instance be one of the things most likely to economically capsize the cruise ship market, that’ll easily solve Edinburgh’s cruise liner problem (and Venice’s), otherwise I don’t think humanity as it is presently constituted will do anything effective enough in time. According to James Hansen, then we are well past the rubicon already, which he claims is around a CO2 level of 350 ppm. We are now 410 ppm and climbing at the record rate of 3 ppm per annum. .

  5. Stiubhart Jackson says:

    Just wait too the Ganges and the Yellow river give up the ghost. Christ we new about all this in the early 90s, digitalization and Arms development seems to have distracted everyone, not that that’s much of a helpful comment, unfortunately it’s getting left so late that it’s pretty essential to direct organisations like the EU to halt it. For myself I’m happy to propose a state centric way of dealing with it consumer led environmental acton are like pissing in the wind, you also need direct intervention against companies and trade policies that affect these conditions.
    You need direct environmental, social and economic intervention to curb and protect at this point in time.

  6. Willie says:

    The real problem with climate change and the attendant destruction of our environment through the myriad of pollutants such as plastics, chemical wastes, etc is that the vast majority of people do not care.

    Unless or until folks are choking to death in plastic, or baking in dessert heat, they will do nothing to effect change.

    Modern living, driving, flying, eating food, wearing clothes made of synthetic materials, using computers and cell phones made of plastics and rare earth material for circuits and batteries, building infrastructure, are the issues.

    Yes some of us may rail against flying or cruise ships, but the problem is bigger than that.

    And what about world population. No one seems to talk about that as we add an extra billion or so souls every decade or two. Ten, twenty, thirty billion – do we just keep on parasitically growing until the parasite kills it’s host.

    Unless and until we address how mankind has evolved and is consuming the planet in all of the myriad ways that it is doing so, then nothing will change. And yes, I like everyone else, including the developing nations, like modern living – and that’s why I’ve stopped using plastic straws.

    Thomas Malthus was maybe right.

  7. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps younger generations who place more value in the digital world than the material may be more easily convinced to give up material possessions and world travel, as long as they can keep a screen or smart device, and have access to wifi. Cruises (as I learnt from in-depth exposition from a work colleague) are a kind of hierarchy factory, with all kinds of incentives to claw your way from steerage to the Captain’s table, where horrible rich people demonstrate advancement without merit. However, once sunk in a suitable place, existing cruise ships (and aircraft carriers and suchlike) may form valuable reefs.

    Of course, if ecocide and other environmental crimes carried the death penalty, the world’s human population might be quickly reduced.

    1. Willie says:

      Yes Sleeping Dog, ecocide May well carry the death penalty.

      And yes, it usually takes a disaster to provoke a response from the carefree masses and their corporate masters. However, like wars such as WW1 and WW2 the inoculation effect of disasters wears off as the myriad of smaller wars, but not mega conflagrations since has shown. Heaven forbid, but maybe the planet is needing WW3 to restore the balance. Maybe that is the evolution of humanity – get the keys to the chemistry set and then blow us all up.

      But let us not fret. Eco disaster looms. The current economic and population growth model guarantees that as we kick the environmental emergency can down the yellow symbolic road.

      It’ll certainly take a bit more than my dispensing of my plastic straw and plastic coffee cup!

    2. Jean de McKluskey says:

      Mike’s piece provides, with regards to a major news story, important perspectives that the Scottish print papers have not engaged with sufficiently; contast that with the Malthusian, disaster-porn fantasies expressed by some of the commentators above. Several of the commentators display undisguised mirth at the proto-fascistic policy of coercively limiting the size of human population. Mike, instead, addresses the complexity of the issue, moving beyond the futile trend of merely blaming certain specific groups within society: the futile and infantile “it’s all the fault of people who still have kids / go on cruise-liners / drive diesal cars” approach. By juxtaposing the failure to give the wind-turbine approach to Burnisland — where are the strong SNP or trade union condemnations of this decision? Anyone got information on this? — while the bosses at ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant continue to oversee the negligent production of ethzlene to feed the one-way plastic industry — we are reminded again of the size of the economic interests preventing a Green Transition, a Green New Deal.
      Well grounded in the facts, I would nevertheless dispute the article’s claim that the ExxonMobil Plant is “the top polluter in the whole of Scotland – the plant produces 885,580 tonnes of C02 per year”. Could it not be argued that the largest supermarket chains active in Scotland — Morrisons, Tescos, Asda, Sainsburys, Aldi, Lidl — if taken as a unity, far outstrip this level of pollution — also in terms of the total quantity of CO2 produced by their economic activity? No one’s saying we can suddenly switch to net carbon zero food production and food retail. But unless we initiate structural changes here — right down to how individual households shop, cook and eat — we’re pissing against the wind with the whole topic of climate and environmental emergency.
      Could someone qualified write for Bella on the interrelationships between: how food is grown in Scotland; how food is sold in Scotland (including insights into alternatives, however tiny proportionately: food buyers-producers cooperatives, etc); and how WHAT people buy and eat interrrelates with the climate emergency? Summary of what we should know more about: the quantities of (relatively) cheap wheatflour, sugar and one-way plastics in our supermarkets are doing just as much to devestate our environment as ExxonMobil et al doing. The way forward must be the socialization of our food production, distribution and retail. The socialization of the means of production is a concrete utopian project.

      1. “Could someone qualified write for Bella on the interrelationships between: how food is grown in Scotland; how food is sold in Scotland (including insights into alternatives, however tiny proportionately: food buyers-producers cooperatives, etc); and how WHAT people buy and eat interrrelates with the climate emergency? ” – yeah I might know someone who could do that.

        1. A sustainable food system will not emerge from a lab, or a meat factory or from a ‘vertical farm’ or be created by Monsanto. You won’t get it by Deliveroo or Walmart. It will be delivered by small farmers and producers who sustain rich soil and who sell within short supply chains. It will be highly seasonal and organic, though in the sense that all food used to be ‘organic’. It will contain less meat, but of higher quality, and it will look very different not just within each country but within each region. It will be enriched by a living food culture that knows something of its own traditions but isn’t captured by them.

          With the revelation that the Trussell Trust’s 400 food banks in Britain distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.2 million people for three days in 2016- 17, the first thing to recognise is that a substantial amount of people are going hungry every week in Britain today. That’s morally unacceptable and any other considerations need to be based on — and stem from this reality.

          So the first and most basic human right and essential element of the ‘food system’ must be an ability to feed people. In an advanced Western, post-scarcity society the fact that we are not able to do so is a direct result of government economic and social policy and this takes the issue beyond technical fixes or innovations and into the realm of social justice and social struggle.

          We can look at sustainable food systems as having three essential elements to their structure, and three essential aspects to their delivery.

          Any food system we intend to create must not be an attempt to restore a tradition from the past, it must be forward-facing and contain the following key ingredients. It must be low-carbon and engage in a major shift away from the high-intensity, polluting and displaced globalised food that has dominated our plates in the post-war era. It must be affordable beyond the metric of artificial food at artificially cheap prices. Affordable is not the same as cheap. And it must be ethical both at the point of production and consumption.

          All of this is possible but not if we contain the discussion and the vision within the current extremely narrow terms of the debate, where corporate capture and business as usual are the norms, with only peripheral innovation allowed as window-dressing to the dysfunc- tional juggernaut that has brought us our now well- worn list of diet-related ill-health.

          Let’s be very clear: at the moment there is no credible strategy for reducing carbon in food, or for dealing with the childhood obesity epidemic or the long list of other diet-related disease, or for tackling food poverty and in- security. While some of that failing can be put down to the lack of leverage in devolved powers for Scotland (over benefits for example) — some of it could be pushed much harder in terms of planning (to subvert supermarket expansion and dominance), and joined-up health and ed- ucation policy.

          While some of this has great scope and potential, any food policy may well be undermined by the Brexit settlement and the potential withdrawal of European agricultural subsidy for our farmers.

          The scale of carbon emissions from the way we produce, transport and consume our food are routinely ig-nored behind the ‘big ticket’ items of energy, with which in Scotland we have made ambitious strides. By compar- ison in the food industry we are barely out of the blocks. Small-scale tinkering with ‘local food initiatives’ are dwarfed by mainstream Scottish food policy which is aimed squarely at export-growth to the virtual exclusion of all other policies.

          The affordability of decent food isn’t just about mak- ing that food dirt-cheap. It’s about increasing the number of jobs in local communities; increasing wages for those with the lowest incomes; making jobs more secure.

          The race to the bottom of cheap food results in, for example, dairy farmers going out of business as they sell their product to vast retailers at a below cost price. The insanity of that model excludes the reality that milk is one of the most wasted food and drink products.

          In this sense, the precarity and waste in the food system is mirrored in both production and consumption. The current system offers stability only for a handful in the nexus of relationships — for many it offers a combi- nation of economic instability and ill-health by being enthralled to a vast corporate machine or faced with the over-consumption of highly-processed, nutrition- ally-dubious foodstuffs.

          This is not some sort of wishful nirvana. There is no need for the barbarism of industrial farming, the hell of battery egg production or the cruelty of transporting live animals cross continents for no good reason.

          But if any coherent viable sustainable food system has to have these three key elements, there is one grand unifying principle that is even more essential, and that is that there must be no grand unifying principle.

          Any truly sustainable food system that produces a healthy diet for people and planet must look very different wherever it is. A relocalised diet must be regional and seasonal, adjusted to the carrying capacity and conditions of place, it must be the opposite of the globalized food industry that knows nothing of season or soil.

          Such an approach will inevitably be based on the democratic principles of food sovereignty as developed by Via Campesina in the Nyéléni Declaration.

          In February 2007 more than 500 representatives from more than 80 countries, of organizations of peas- ants and family farmers, artisanal fisher-folk, indigenous peoples, landless peoples, rural workers, migrants, pas- toralists, forest communities, women, youth, consumers, environmental and urban movements gathered together in the village of Nyéléni in Sélingué, Mali to strengthen a global movement for food sovereignty. They defined food sovereignty as:

          “…the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sus- tainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and cor- porations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and disman- tle the current corporate trade and food regime, and di- rections for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty priori- tises local and national economies and markets and em- powers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal-fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food pro- duction, distribution and consumption based on environ- mental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality be- tween men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.”

          In Scotland this means a challenging process of breaking the land ownership model that lies at the heart of much of the power dynamics at play. This is particu- larly difficult for a nation that has much of its ‘food and farming’ culture and policy dominated by landed interests.

          We are told that corporations are the creators of food, the providers of security and the harbingers of future abundance, but this is a toxic myth worth dispelling. As Vandana Shiva wrote in her recent book Who Really Feeds the World?:

          “Women, who are the primary growers and providers of food, nutrition, and nourishment in societies across the world, have evolved agriculture. Most farmers in the world are women, and most girls are future farmers: they learn the skills and knowledge of farming in fields and in farms. Women-centered food systems are based on sharing and caring, and on conservation and well- being. What is grown on farms determines whose livelihoods are secured, what is eaten, how much is eaten, and by whom it is eaten. Women’s food is diverse and sustaining, and when women control the food system, everyone gets their fair share to eat. Women are the world’s biodiversity experts, nutritional experts, and the economists who know how to produce more using less. Women make the most significant contributions to food security by producing more than half the world’s food and by providing more than 80 percent of the food needs of food-insecure households and regions.”

          So our emergent food system, fighting against gigantism and vested interests has three dynamics in interplay with each other: soil, democracy and creativity combining to produce new models and ways of working.

          As Vandana Shiva writes: ‘While women manage and produce diversity, the dominant paradigm of agri- culture promotes monocultures under the false tenet that monocultures produce more.’

          This urge for productivism, a force of top-down technocratic control of the commons is a nightmare worth resisting because beyond it is an end to sustain- ability. What does a sustainable food system look like? It looks like the opposite of that. Diversity versus mono- culture, small-scale and multi-varied rather than a one- dimensional food system.

          We are all suffering from what Wendell Berry has called ‘cultural amnesia’:

          “The ideal industrial food consumer would be strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into his or her stomach. Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical — in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.”

          So the first act of creating this sustainable food sys-tem, what we can call a ‘restorative practice’, is to remember. This act of remembering is to cast off the dead hand of corporate food which serves up swill for profit.

          There are hundreds of community projects, farm- ers, cooks and gardeners up and down the land who know this and are actively engaged in creating the system we need. But there is a long way to go and we need critical mass.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, agreed, broadly and in much of the detail. There are still some edge cases like nomadic herders who do not steward areas of soil, and I would also say that there should be an international ban on claiming intellectual property on agriculture and the natural world (amongst other things), and agriculture should be brought entirely into the commons of global science (lessons learnt in any place should be available in all places). Agricultural run-offs from one eco-system can still poison another, so monitoring and enforcement at a higher level will be required.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Jean de McKluskey, I am not sure what points in my comment you might be addressing, but I am serious about establishing patterns and norms of behaviour that recognise and respect non-human life, and de-recognize and de-respect the artificial and harmful hierarchical human structures that have caused so much global damage. Legalism is but one tool, but establishing and enforcing the international crime of ecocide would be an important correction to international law (it exists as a concept, embryonic or more fully developed) in a few national constitutions).

        Socialism will be required, but as a form of humanism it cannot be the central ideology in a solution for the planet. And in my view, Green parliamentary parties like the one in Scotland tend to be too libertarian and individualistic, when we need Green authoritarianism (based on good science and mature ethical philosophy) and collective action. In other words, it is not our individual minds we need to make up, but our collective Mind. For me, this should be about stewardship, not ownership or ransacking, of our planet.

        When Australian cartoonist First Dog on the Moon says we should fire our billionaires into the sun, that’s not fascism, although I disagree on its cost-effectiveness. When human life is portrayed as sacred, all other life suffers, as the UN report on species extinction demonstrates. If to preserve other species, ecosystems, habits the human population has to shrink dramatically, I am fine with that, particularly because it is so likely to shrink by war, famine, disease and environment collapse anyway, including nuclear war.

        If what you are calling for is an analysis of Scotland’s global footprint, in terms of resource usage, waste exporting, harm causing, recycling/reusing, pollution, species extinction/rewilding and so on, then I agree this would be exceptionally helpful.

        1. Jean de McKluskey says:

          @editor and @SleepingDog.
          I read the editor’s pertinent analysis attentively. I share many of his standpoints; Bella Caledonia should continue in future to devote stand alone posts / essays to question of food sovereignty in Scotland and the actors currently involved in that project.
          @SleepingDog: you write: “Of course, if ecocide and other environmental crimes carried the death penalty, the world’s human population might be quickly reduced.” There’s a misanthropic schadenfreude in you saying this. You know ecocide will never carry the death penalty – who would be in the dock? the 3.5 million adults in Scotland who continue to buy non-organic, produced at cost of biodiversity shrinking ? – yet you toy with idea of putting a couple of billion humans “up against the wall ” as something jolly, bracing, a solver of problems. If faced with ethical conundrum of who to rescue from a burning house, a parent will rescue their child before rescuing a rare butterfly. Any green political project that ignores the reality that billions of humans do indeed find human life sacred — I’m reminded of Tom Leonard’s “all human language is sacred” — will fail to gain critical mass, and will fester in the corner of green elitism , or even eco-facism.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Jean de McKluskey, I imagine ecocide law, if successful, would operate something like corporate manslaughter with individual prosecutions of executives, who would receive heavy but not capital sentences.

            Your burning house example perplexes me. The most common cause of fire fatalities in dwellings (if recent English statistics are a guide) is smoking materials, so parents seem much more likely to cause the deaths of their children in domestic fires than be their saviours. A burning house is also the image used by Greta Thunberg in her speech “Our House is On Fire” to the World Economic Forum in Davos this January, where she finished with “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” And of course many more people’s homes have been burnt by wildfires due to global heating:

            You employ a false dichotomy, a choice between rescuing a child and a rare butterfly. There is a web of life that connects species throughout ecosystems. It is not a zero-sum game, life supports more life. Yet remove a keystone species identified by science (like a pollinating insect) and expect a catastrophic cascade failure in that ecosystem. Disappearance of another species could have chaotic effects (small changes, large consequences).

            What about all those parents who support nuclear weapons pointed at the children of others and threatening life all over the Earth? Or simply those who are collectively endangering their children’s and children’s children’s generations by their current patterns of consumption and pollution?

            Absolutist views on “sacred human life” quickly run contrary to ethics. Perhaps, like Mother Teresa, you find suffering beautiful and holy. Perhaps you think that the planet and its life are there for humans to despoil. Perhaps you think this is but a shadow of the world to come after death. If so, you are in a dwindling, aging minority in the UK, according to latest research.

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