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World Food Day

Posted by Sara Cowan Campaigns and Activism Co-ordinator

16th Oct 2014

Today is designated World Food Day by the United Nations. It's a time to recognise that despite living in a world that produces enough food for everyone, 1 in 8 people still go to bed hungry.

It therefore must also be a time to challenge the inequality that makes this our shared reality.

I have spent today, along with hundreds of others, at the Nourish Scotland 2014 conference - Our Common Wealth of Food. It has been a packed day with more to come tomorrow.

At the heart of the discussion about how we can ensure everybody has enough to eat, in this country and around the world, are the challenges of climate change and inequality.

At Oxfam we've used the shape of the doughnut to help us visualise these twin challenges.

The outer ring of this doughnut reflects a set of planetary boundaries which, if breached, could lead to dangerous and irreversible environmental tipping points.

But of course, we can't just look at the environment in isolation: we need to recognise there is also social foundation below which people are denied a dignified life.

In other words, we need to ensure everyone meets a social foundation (the inner part of the doughnut) while ensuring we don't breach the environmental ceiling (the outer part of the doughnut). We call this space in the middle a "safe and just space".

There's lots of detail behind this, but here is a quick look at the doughnut for Scotland.

It shows that on both counts, the environmental ceiling and the social foundation, Scotland is currently falling short. And it doesn't take much analysis to see why.

In July, data revealed some 820,000 people are living in relative poverty - up 110,000 on the previous year. Some 180,000 of them are children. We are failing too many people.

Meanwhile, in all but one of the environmental indicators, Scotland also fails to stay within safe limits. Taking just one measure: climate changing emissions, we currently emit far beyond our safe global share. 

We clearly need to change things if we are to move ourselves within the safe and just space.

But we don't think we can do that without addressing extreme inequality.

Just this week, a new wealth report by Credit Suisse shows that global wealth now stands at a record $263 trillion dollars - that's more than doubled since 2000.

Yet the distribution of that extraordinary wealth is incredibly unequal: right now, the bottom half of humanity owns just 1% of global wealth. It doesn't have to be this way.

Change is possible and by challenging ourselves and our Governments to live within the safe and just space we can be part of the process to make change happen.

The Nourish conference aims to contribute to meeting that challenge by bringing together ideas from all the attendees on how Scotland can move toward an ethical food policy.

Such a policy would ensure we provide for everyone in Scotland and recognise the impact we have on the wider world. Keep an eye on their website to find out more.


Blog post written by Sara Cowan

Campaigns and Activism Co-ordinator

More by Sara Cowan