Hello and welcome to the Voice for Arran, we hope you are well and in good spirits despite the continuing corona restrictions. We have a full December issue for you, with a mix of local and global topics, and themes that span across current activities and discussions taking place in and around Arran.
There was unfortunate news last month with the vote by the SNP and the Conservatives not to back the call by the Scottish Greens to declare a Nature Emergency. However MSPs are continuing work this month on Scotland’s EU Continuity Bill. This is the Bill that will deliver post-Brexit environmental protections, including an Environment Watchdog for Scotland. As we report in this issue, in ‘Welcome improvements to Scotland’s EU exit laws, but bill must go further for nature’, initial amendments were discussed in November, with final voting to take place in December. This is a critical time then both in terms of raising the public’s awareness and for the future protection of Scotland’s precious landscapes and ecosystems. So far, the watchdog has not been granted power to take enforcement action on individual complaints about environmental damage and people in Scotland are at risk of losing access to environmental justice once the UK leaves the EU at the end of 2020.
Complaints such as these make up the bulk of the European Commission’s environmental work, and also seems, albeit in a different form, to be a practice upheld in US law. In ‘Nature on the Ballot and the Parliament of Things’, Kurt Cobb refers to the recent American election where he says nature was apparent on the ballot across all levels of government. Citizens in the US are given the right to decide on a range of conservation projects and amendments, so that in Orange County, Florida for example, voters recently overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment to give rights to two rivers to be free from pollution. Without these kinds of political and legal channels, or in Scotland’s case an effective environmental watchdog, the organising work of communities that is so evident around Scotland and in Arran (see in this issue the work of OurSeas Coalition in campaigning for better fisheries management), will most probably remain marginal. At best, environmental guardians will be a strong and passionate voice, yet in this legal and political context, the knowledge, commitment and energy they hold and which should be central, will be easily ignored by government and bureaucratic structures.
Sally Campbell’s piece on soya and the destruction of the Cerrado forest in Brazil points to a similar problem, this time through the business of an opaque multinational corporation. Cargill, America’s second biggest private company, controls huge swathes of soya production in Brazil and is linked to the associated deforestation taking place there. The local communities fighting against these issues on the ground have no real recourse against such a corporate giant which “has insinuated itself into almost every aspect of global agribusiness”. Meanwhile consumers in the UK have no idea that the chicken they buy from the supermarket has been fed on the crop responsible for this situation. The case for local, sustainable agriculture, and more local food supply has never been clearer, and The Arran Pioneer Project and the Basta collective in Berlin (see Food for Thought article) are two examples of groups taking community growing into their own hands. Whether intentionally political or not, groups such as these are resisting the globally unaccountable practices that define much of our current food system.
If these matters inspire you into some Christmassy environmental and political action, there are a range of online consultations and surveys to keep us busy while we are missing the usual festivities and gatherings! North Ayrshire are looking for input into their new Wellbeing engagement programme and COAST are seeking views from the community about their development plan. The Scottish Government are holding a consultation on Single-use Plastics which runs until the beginning of the new year, and finally there is still time to write to your MSP asking them to strengthen the proposed and vital Environmental Watchdog. The environmental imbalances we are experiencing come back to what Kurt Cobb says is our inability to understand things in nature as actors and not mere objects, as well as “our inability to place ourselves in a framework that stops separating humans from our surroundings….The recognition of the rights of nature is a beginning for this process” but we must also use our “voice to carry its concerns forward into our everyday social and political lives”. We hope you have a great month and from all of us at the Voice, have a lovely Christmas when it comes!