‘Just as no one person is too small to make a difference, no single country is too small to make an impact and bring forward change.’
Extract by Lyndsay Croal, Cameron Mackay and Eilidh Watson taken from Imagine a Country: Ideas for a Better Future
Edited by Val McDermid and Jo Sharp
Published by Canongate Books
No one is too small to make a difference. This is the key message from the burgeoning youth-climate movement that first began in 2018 and has since swept across the world. Nobody would have guessed that a teenager from Sweden would be the catalyst for a global political movement that intends to hold the polluting neoliberal system accountable for the damage it has caused for generations. A system left unchecked and unanswered for decades. Whilst Greta Thunberg is just one voice amongst many climate activists from across the world, together these voices are united. We would like to imagine that this is just the beginning. The beginning for Scotland and for the world.
As part of a contingent of young geographers with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, we had the pleasure and privilege to travel to Sweden to present Greta with the Geddes Environmental Medal in the summer of 2019. We travelled across land and sea, brought together with other environmental activists by our shared goal of addressing the climate emergency and our passion for telling stories. Over the course of the journey, we discovered the diversity of our ideologies, faiths, identities, but that together, this diversity made our approach stronger. Similarly, the process of writing this piece collaboratively is exactly the sort of collaboration we imagine and hope a future Scotland would adopt: we want to be part of a country that takes into account every voice and is therefore able to make a greater impact than the sum of its parts.
When we met Greta, Scotland had been hailed as a world leader in climate-change action, even before passing the responsible and ambitious climate legislation it adopted later in 2019. However, the measure of leadership is changing and so Greta’s message to Scotland was clear: every country must act, and every government must do more. Many argue that as a small country, Scotland’s emissions are insignificant in comparison to other nations. But we believe that climate change is everyone’s responsibility and it is irresponsible to accept no blame for a problem to which we, as a nation, have contributed. Currently the impacts of climate change are disproportionately borne by poorer countries and communities. Often the people most vulnerable are those who have contributed least to the human causes of climate change. This injustice is just one of many reasons to make a change.
Today there are glimmers of what a positive future could look like in Scotland. From community energy and a flourishing renewables sector, from shared allotment space for local food production to circular resource- and tool-sharing networks, we have the knowledge we need to move forward. Scotland has the potential to continue on this path, to invest in a better future and to become an example of what sustainability that works for everyone looks like. It is not too much to imagine a future where inclusive, welcoming and sustainable communities lie at the heart of our culture.
So, we imagine a country that has embraced the shared message from Greta Thunberg, global activists and our own home-grown Scottish climate campaigners.
We imagine a future Scotland that prioritises climate justice; a Scotland that is not afraid to stand up for those that are voiceless.
We imagine Scotland leading the world by example: empowered by an inclusive, innovative and sustainable society whilst at the forefront of challenging some of the biggest problems facing the world today.
We imagine Scotland’s land delivering benefits for nature, biodiversity, climate and society. A Scotland with a clean and affordable energy and infrastructure system that is just and provides benefits for all.
In that future, we will have listened for solutions not only from politicians or businesses, but from the younger generations, minority groups and others who have traditionally been separated from decision-making.
The way we structure our economy will be tied to a global green agenda, and Scotland will continue to be at the forefront of forging that path internationally. Just as no one person is too small to make a difference, no single country is too small to make an impact and bring forward change.
Lyndsey Croal, Cameron Mackay and Eilidh Watson are the current editors of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Young Geographer magazine. Eilidh is a PhD researcher focusing on climate, energy and gender justice issues, based at the Centre for Climate Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cameron is a documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental stories and also works in the Scottish sustainability sector, and Lyndsey works for WWF Scotland in Edinburgh on environmental and climate-change policy and writes in her spare time.
Imagine a Country: Ideas for a Better Future is edited by Val McDermid and Jo Sharp and published by Canongate Books.