Last week a letter from the WI was printed in the Guardian looking at the 50 months that are left for action to be taken to reverse the changed climate before what is known as 'the tipping point' is reached; the point of no return. The WI has always maintained and still does, that the individual can make a difference no matter how small, that simple things like boiling only the amount of water in a kettle that you need right then, and recycling your 'rubbish' in a responsible fashion have long been at the top of our agenda.
In 2006 the WI began to ask supermarkets to reduce the amount of packaging on their products, particularly on fruit and vegetables. There have been inroads and the Courtauld Agreement does set down rules in this area but excess is creeping in again and the use of plastic carrier bags is increasing once again. Rubbish of all kinds can now be recycled; albeit some local authorities recycle much more than others, but too much still goes into landfill sites. Putting out the rubbish now means that we have to think what we're doing – one bin no longer fits all. All this household waste, never mind that of commercial plants, industries, airlines, transport and much more, contributes to the excess carbon dioxide that is bringing the climate inexorably nearer to this tipping point.
The NFWI, as well as many other organisations, have been calling on the government for many a year to take action on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lately, nothing much seems to be happening, which is what we say in the letter: "To create jobs, more secure energy systems and less pollution, investing in a massive energy-efficiency drive and a programme to expand renewables are just two of the more obvious steps that could benefit the economy and the environment".
Last week I also learned of the benefits that many children are receiving when their school incorporates gardening into their teaching. Food Growing in Schools, a large body of work in which the NFWI has had a small part, set out its intentions at a gathering in London's City Hall. First of all, it must be a campaign of celebration: there is a need to engage all schools with the idea of food growing in schools. Secondly, there needs to be a policy emphasis for this to happen. Many departments – education, health, food, rural affairs and agriculture - should recognise the impact of food growing for learning. There should be an online hub with resources available for all those who want to make this happen, and businesses should continue and extend their support for food growing in school. One supermarket in particular does this with its voucher scheme for gardening tools.
Promotion of food growing by school leadership teams is a key element in the whole process; e.g. they should use food growing as part of a whole school approach to food, health and well-being, and integrate it into the curriculum and work with other schools, especially those in close proximity and with their local communities. Last but by no means least, there should be clear connections made between food growing in schools and food- and land-based careers. For some, this will not be something new. My own father, a science teacher before the days of the national curriculum set up a vegetable garden with pupils in the school grounds where he taught, and this was instigated again at the next schools where he was a Deputy Head and then Headmaster. I have a brother who is a horticulturist, so it must be in the genes but nowadays, a career in horticulture or agriculture is not something that is top of the list with either pupils or careers advisers.