Time for a more sustainable future, a greener and fairer one for all

A blog post by Barry Fisher

Barry Fisher
Chief Executive

Posted 18/07/2020

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If I'm honest, taking on the CEO role of a national environmental charity a couple of weeks before lockdown began has not been easy.  I enjoy being in an office and developing relationships with my team.  I thrive on direct contact and am eager to return in part to what I know – but we can’t ever go back completely, not if both the economy and our environment are to recover in harmony.  Which they must.

As restrictions continue to lift, allowing us to see loved ones again, to visit some of the places further afield that we have missed, I am mindful of what this means for the charity I lead.  Of both the challenges and the opportunities of building back better.

Despite the worldwide health pandemic that has paused so much of life as we know it, the global environmental challenges we face haven’t gone away.  

Climate change is still a very real threat to us all.   We need Scotland to be climate ready, for people to understand the carbon impacts of their lives and the lower carbon life choices that are available.  While in lockdown we have seen innovation across communities and a resurgence of growing food, buying local and staying local. 

Litter and waste are still causing real issues.  Our recent polling shows many people perceive there to have been a ‘lockdown effect’ with increased dissatisfaction with levels of litter and dog fouling in their communities since restrictions began.   And we know the increase in our use of single-use items, from carrier bags to PPE, is a staggering step backwards in our attempts to lower consumption levels and ensure Scotland has a circular economy.

And the need for us to protect and enhance the local places many of us have reconnected with and care about, and to restore them and their heritage has never been more acute.  As we start to travel further afield and rediscover Scotland, we want to ensure that the communities in the places we value don’t suffer detrimentally.

People around the world living under lockdown have been forced to adopt different behaviours. Across the world people have surprised themselves.  Businesses, charities and individuals are utilising technology like never before to connect with one another.  Covid-19 has changed the way people work, travel and socialise. It has reawakened communities.  Evidence shows that when habits are disrupted by major events people are more open to changing their lifestyle choices. As a country we have a real chance to build momentum for positive change if we all embrace it.

As a national charity we recognise that we can help people to retain the positive elements of the changes they have made.  We will look to reduce carbon consumption across our own activities and are committed to our own net zero plan.  And, with online learning, networking and improved communications tools, we believe we can also reach more people than we have in the past with our behaviour change campaigns and training. 

We have work to do. Fundamentally we all need to regroup. We need to educate, train, reward, collaborate, network and influence.  We need to engage more people to join us on our ambitious journey to make Scotland clean, green and sustainable.

The time we are all living through right now is not normal.  The future will not be the same as we imagined it to be as we entered 2020.  And, yet I believe that we have a real chance to build a more sustainable future, a greener and fairer one for all.  A future which sees stronger connections between people and their communities; one which sees us really value our environment and recognise the important role that our green and blue spaces play in maintaining our own health and wellbeing; and a chance to pause and reassess the global supply chain and the opportunities our local systems can play.

My question to you all, is if not now, then when?

Together we can make a difference.  We need you all to join our network, to partner with us, to enable us to engage more people as we set sail on this new journey and harness the opportunities ahead.  We can’t afford to lose this progress made and to revert to our old ways.

First published in The Scotsman in July 2020.

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