Will Scotland vote for a greener and better future?

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on political parties who have campaigned on green issues for the recent Scottish elections.

By tomorrow we will know what path Scotland has chosen. It’s been a very subdued campaigning for the just concluded Scottish parliament elections. Due to Covid restrictions; debates, hustings and door to door campaigning was limited. A blessing in disguise for many of us who had to put up with cold calling on our door steps. This one year has been difficult for all of us in terms of our physical, mental and financial health. Job losses in millions and the benefit system that was supposed to be a safety net, proven to be wholly inadequate and demeaning for those that wanted to apply for financial support. Food prices going through the roof with many staple foods rising by more than 30 percent, and nearly 3 million food parcels handed out to British citizens in March-April 2021 alone!

This on top of the Brexit related chaos and incompetence by the Westminster government and you can see why the majority of people in Scotland are struggling to put food on the table while accumulating debts to pay their bills. In this backdrop we have a global climate catastrophe enfolding before our eyes and the impact of our inaction since the industrial revolution playing havoc with our children’s and future generations dreams.

Having spent the last few weeks scrutinising the green policies of all political parties, we as an organisation are still waiting for bold economic policies that will not only save the environment but also provide financial security in terms of jobs, skills and a humane benefit system for all, especially young people who are facing a dire and bleak future. This lack of manifesto vision may be due to the 5-year election cycle where the political parties focus on short term policies that give immediate results within the term of the parliament, undermining long term goals and objectives and well-being as a society. All the major parties are offering some form of policy to fight climate change but none going far enough.

We have to be thankful in Scotland that since the SNP came to power in 2007, they have been kept in check by the Greens who have supported a minority SNP government in two out of three election victories by supporting them in exchange for a push towards a greener Scotland. Having been involved at various policy level meetings and committees as a grass-root organisation within the framework of the Scottish parliament we have seen significant changes that are now beginning to bear influence and traction among the electorate and the wider economy.

Clean air, good nutritious food, healthy work-life balance and overall good mental health should be the focus going forward as a nation. Here is hoping that whoever wins this election will work towards attaining our climate and environmental goals and keep Scotland green.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th May 2021.

Reduce meat and dairy consumption to reverse the impact of climate change

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on how we can live on a less meat diet that does not have a devastating impact on our planet.

When we talk about climate change, it mostly refers to reducing our air or food miles and moving from oil/coal to an environmentally friendly renewable option. One big factor is most often missed out in discussions and legislations at government or international levels; meat and dairy farming. Western meat and dairy diet are a big contributory factor to carbon emissions since the 80’s and has gotten worse with many poor and developing nations like China increasing meat in their diets from occasionally to every day! It’s not rocket science to understand the damage this will do to reduce our carbon footprint globally even if we make massive changes to other aspects of our lifestyle. Current data shows that meat and dairy farming is responsible for around 14% of greenhouse gasses.

Research shows that vegetarian and vegan diets are much more sustainable and climate friendly than meat consumption. So how do we go about achieving a reduction in meat and dairy in our diets? Simple solution is to reduce and ultimately stop importing these foods from other countries were its cheaper to produce them but as a consequence have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystems and people. For example, cattle raised on UK lands get access to greener pastures than those reared in South America where deforestation is creating a huge problem to local indigenous populations, their livelihoods and contributes to soil erosion due to pesticides and fertilisers used to generate single type of crops for Western consumption.

Unfortunately, subsequent studies have also shown that even if all Western countries shift to home produced meat solely fed on grass, then that too is not the solution as the already high consumption by countries and individuals will not make a dent in the carbon emissions. The only way forward is producing meat and dairy sustainably, locally and using organic farming methods.

Supermarkets sell milk and some meat products at cost or even at a loss in order to keep their customers coming through the doors. This practice alone not only distorts prices and the perception that meat is affordable but also creates huge amounts of food wastes that goes to landfill and money down the drain from the point of view of the customer. In the UK 4.5 million tons of edible food is thrown away by households and this also contributes to our carbon footprint.

A few years ago, food policy experts concluded that Western countries like the UK should adopt a radical method of eating, whereby they ate meat once a week and reduce milk to a maximum of one glass a day. If you convert to being a vegan and vegetarian than the impact improves dramatically. Growing up in India my family could only afford to buy meat once a week or on special occasions like birthdays. We had a very varied diet with fish, vegetables and pulses and food was cooked from fresh produce and ingredients bought on the day from the market. Only a radical change will stop the planet from tipping over. Tinkering at the edges and shifting the blame on countries like China where the local population want the lifestyle of the West will not help solve the issue. It’s time to act globally but we as citizens of Scotland need to act locally too as any small changes we make will collectively have an impact on polices that will help reduce our carbon footprint.

 Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 5th March 2021.

Sustainable farming methods is the best way forward after the pandemic.

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on our knowledge of where and how our food is produced and the far-reaching consequences of not changing our current commercial food production to a more local and sustainable form of farming.

 In the last few decades humanities thirst for everything quick and fast has accelerated to the point of no return. Its ironic that humans were stopped right in their tracks by a virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you closely look around you in nature, and we are very lucky over here in Peeblesshire and the Borders in general; plants and animal life is thriving as mother earth is repairing and healing itself. It’s such a wonderful sight to behold and some would call it a miracle! The planet has shown us who is boss and also sends us a message that the earth will not only survive but thrive in the absence of humans as a species. Since the dawn of the industrial age, humankind has plundered and exploited the natural resources made available to us as a gift by mother earth, while she watched in silence hoping that men would change their ways.

Commercial farming on an industrial scale has decimated the soil and people’s livelihood wherever it was implemented. Food and water are the two essential things we need as a species in order to survive on this beautiful planet, only after clean air. As a species we have polluted not only the air but also the water and our food systems across the globe. Since the beginning of the so called ‘Green Revolution’ in the 50’s, soil, water and the immediate environment have been sprayed with Agri-chemicals to boost food production, often to the detriment of local ecosystems. Forests have been cut down to grow what came to be known as cash crops. But all is not lost yet! Individuals and grass-root organisations have come together as a collective to tackle this problem head on last year. Since farming is labour intensive, the West outsourced its food production to developing and third world countries, while at the same time providing huge subsidies to its farmers not to grow, thus artificially controlling prices of essential food commodities.

Corporations in turn have been funding our politicians directly and through other means in order to make sure their profits are not impacted. Corporate greed is held in high standards at the expense of citizens right to water, food and environment. Protest movements have risen throughout this pandemic across continents to oppose our current political and financial model and are looking to replace these with sustainable practices in farming, environment and social justice for the working-class man and women in all countries. Scotland should remove all farm subsidies and encourage small scale farming initiatives across the country with training and expertise provided to high school pupils so that they can make a better choice going forward as a career option. Farmers markets should be encouraged in every town, village and city and not just well-off areas where this is mostly a hobby for the middle classes. We want the Scottish government to provide financial aid to small local groups and businesses that produce food in order that this country reduces its reliance on imported food from Africa and the far East.

Now is the time for governments across the world to change gear and this may probably be our last hope to look out for the collective good of humankind rather than just a few, transcending countries, boundaries and continents.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 12th February 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling Tools Project Scuppered Due to local politics!

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Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on how a successful reuse project set up under the You Can Grow umbrella was scuppered by nepotism, favouritism and local politics!

During the final year of delivering our pioneering growing project “Food for Life” at St. Ronan’s primary school, Innerleithen; we embarked on a reuse project working with Dominic Hodgkiss from Scottish Borders Council’s Waste Services. Initially we setup a 3 month pilot to collect data on number of gardening items going to landfill. Alex Wilson, Project Manager was working with the council to setup this much needed service as part of the recycling facilities at Eshiels, near Peebles. 

Our pilot was an instant success and we were given a contract, unpaid of course, to collect unwanted gardening tools to be refurbished and given back to the community. We developed a partnership with Scottish Prison Service(Saughton) and  Garvald Edinburgh where tools collected from Eshiels would be taken to Edinburgh, repaired and  refurbished as new and then delivered back to us to pass on to communities. All this was done by our organisation using our own financial resources in the hope that after proving its success and providing evidence of need, reduction of items going to landfill and huge carbon savings to the council we would be given a service level agreement (contract) that would at least cover all our running costs. During this time with the help and support of Dominic Hodgkiss we expanded the gardening tools reuse hub to all other recycling centres in the Borders. The whole project was now set to move to the next phase with the approval of our financial proposal to the council.

We were informed that there was no money to support this project even though the costs on a yearly basis to the council would be less than £20,000!  SBC elected councillors turned up for a photo opportunity in the beginning of the contract, but this project has never been a priority for the current ruling administration as I have known to be very vocal about my views and my organisation has paid a heavy price over the years. Elected representatives and community leaders back only those local groups, organisations and individuals that keep their mouths shut or make funds available to organisations that they themselves are on the boards as Chair or Directors. £15 million for iPads can be made available in an instant to boost the egos of this current administration but not £20,000 a year for a reuse project that has proved beyond doubt its impact and community benefit. I have never pandered to politicians and their ideologies and have constantly paid the price in our so called democracy! 

The decision to not fund this initiative financially was taken before Covid-19!

Finally! With a heavy heart we had to take the decision to terminate this project as no financial package was forthcoming. We have suffered a financial loss during this time but that’s all part of the political game and not having a “Godfather” and not being one of the boys! has definitely not helped. It’s time to expose these individuals and organisations that claims that they have the communities interest at heart.

On a positive note, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff, volunteers, supporters and well-wishers including our partners Saughton Prison, Garvald Edinburgh, Dominic Hodgkiss (SBC), Change Works (Peebles) and Why Not? (Galashiels) for their whole hearted support of this pioneering project in the Borders.

Wishing all a Happy New Year 2021!

Teach them young

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on growing food as a subject alongside home economics in schools.

One thing the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely taught us is that humanity has to get its act together in order to survive on this planet. No more climate change deniers being elected into power, no more control, funding and lobbying by oil companies of our politicians and governments both local and national. The future may look bleak at the moment but this pandemic will pass like many before it, but we need to radically change our economic policies. More emphasis should be placed on a work-life balance while food and health should be at the top of any governments priority list for its citizens, no matter what the political ideology. 

Having setup You Can Cook and You Can Grow in 2007, we have seen massive changes in the communities we delivered our projects. Not many are aware that we were the first social enterprise/community organisation to setup an Organic Training Garden on school grounds in Scotland in 2015. This project is still going strong with community support and has not folded since the original funding ceased. We worked tirelessly with the school and with support from school staff and volunteers helped develop an educational programme that was linking with the school curriculum, an achievement that has far exceeded our expectations. Pupils from Nursery up to Primary 7 were given hands-on training on how to grow and also cook from scratch with raw ingredients. We acquired four allotments plots on a 5-year lease from Traquair House Charitable Trust for local residents to grow their own food. We provided all the growing materials, seeds, training and support throughout the process, while making sure allottees could cope with growing food for the first time. The project has managed to light the imagination of local residents who felt motivated and inspired to grow their own food locally. This was the first of many steps the organisation took in fulfilling its long term sustainability plan for the Scottish Borders. 

We were the first social enterprise in Scotland to launch a book for growers, no matter what your knowledge or expertise is about wanting to grow your own food. The time is ripe for joined up thinking in our schools with help from local councils to make pupils aware of the consequences of climate change and impart skills and training in cooking and growing so that future generations will be able to be self-sufficient and not have to completely rely on food imports which currently make up over 50%. 

Let’s face it, we all need good, nutritious food and it does not matter whether we are rich or poor, SNP, Tory, Labour, Greens, or Lib-Dems. This is one policy we can hopefully all agree on. Make Food Poverty History.

Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New year 2021! Stay safe and let’s grow, shop and eat local!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 11th December 2020.

Disposable Face Masks the new Plastics!

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on disposable face masks and the huge environmental impact on our planet!

Since the Covid-19 pandemic officially began in March this year in the UK, capitalists have taken advantage of the crisis to boost their profits along with Westminster Tory MP’s, who have given contracts to their mates and relatives in billions of pounds at the expense of the tax payer. During this pandemic the need for protective equipment has increased among the general public while also increasing plastic pollution. A research that was conducted by shopping comparison website, finder.com found that over half of the people surveyed were using single-use blue surgical face mask. If you take into account that each individual may use at least two masks a day, the UK could be sending as many as 55 million single use face masks to landfill every single day! If you want to understand what that actually means, it’s that we are using enough face masks that weigh the same weight as 100 cars per day. In March, the World Health Organisation estimated that 89 million additional disposable masks were needed globally per month in medical settings to combat COVID-19.

Disposable masks are the new plastic bags and the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the consumption of single-use masks, most of which are made from polypropylene, a form of plastic. Many environmentalist have warned that there is already a surge in disposable face masks and gloves floating like jellyfish across the Mediterranean along with the usual plastic litter of bags, cups and cans.  As much as 13 million tonnes of plastic goes into oceans each year and this estimate is based on a report called “The state of plastic: World Environment Day Outlook 2018” published in 2018 by the UN Environment programme. The report highlights why plastic is used so much (cheap, lightweight and easy to make), only a tiny fraction is recycled while 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year, harming biodiversity, economies and potentially our health. This paper sets out the latest thinking on how we can achieve this. It looks at what governments, businesses and individuals can do to check the runaway production and consumption of plastic.

Fast forward to November 2020 and this report findings has only got worse. If the global population adheres to a standard of one disposable face mask per day after lockdown ends, the pandemic could result in a monthly global consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves. As masks are likely to be part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future, we could do our bit to keep ourselves and other safe by reducing the use of plastic by following these simple steps; choosing reusable masks without disposable filters is a sensible way to help the environment and even keep costs down. Machine wash them regularly and carry a spare when out and about in case of damage to the one you are wearing. If you do need to use a disposable mask, take it home and put it into a bin with a lid. If this isn’t possible, place it in a proper public bin. Don’t put disposable masks in the recycling. They can get caught in specialist recycling equipment and can be a potential biohazard to waste workers and finally do not flush masks down the toilet.

Stay safe and let’s keep our environment clean and safe too!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 13th November 2020.

Why Governments Must Act Now!

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

Recent climate protests proves a point our organisation has been making since it was founded in 2007! Climate change is real and is causing havoc around the planet and will have a massive impact on whether we survive as a species in the coming decades. The greed of Politicians and Corporations have done everything in their power to bring us to where we are today i.e. on the brink of extinction. We fully support all the children who skipped school to make their voices heard as this is the generation that will bear the brunt of the chaos and devastation that previous generations allowed to happen on their watch. The organisers of this march had four key demands;

  • The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  • The government should declare a “climate emergency”
  • It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  • The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

This day of action was inspired by the Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg who started her climate change protest outside the Swedish parliament last year and encouraged students to walk out of schools to highlight the issue. Last year in May another group was founded and supported by Academics called Extinction Rebellion. This organisation is a socio-political movement which uses non-violent resistance to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. During their latest protests in London which kick started on 15th April, Greta was one of the high profile protesters along with actress Emma Thompson and author Philip Pullman. Extinction Rebellion is urging the UK government to “tell the truth” and declare a climate and ecological emergency and wants the UK to reduce its greenhouse gases to net zero by 2025 and the creation of a Citizens Assembly to formulate and approve legislations and processes initiated in conjunction with government.

The UK government has said that greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 42% since the 90’s, a gross inaccurate figure as international aviation, shipping and imports are some of the categories not accounted for in the final calculation! A very creative carbon accounting methodology as Greta Thunberg commented. Every year countries that signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement, submit their overall emissions figures to the United Nations. That reporting is all done on a territorial basis, so they unfortunately exclude the above mentioned categories.

China is the major emitter of carbon gases in the world, but is it really? The West has literally transferred most of its manufacturing to China in the last 3 decades, hence brining down emissions in their own countries. Is it fair to then accuse China of being the Worlds largest polluter just because its communist style governance allows the West access to millions of slave labour and cheap goods with no rights whatsoever?

It’s time to change now.

Earth Democracy

 

 

A talk by Dr. Vandana Shiva at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon, USA on February 24th, 2011

Dr. Shiva tackles Social and Environmental Justice.

For anyone interested in knowing a bit more about Corporations, its origins, Colonisation, Western Hegemony and more…