Science Festival interview with Dr Isabel Fletcher
Dr Isabel Fletcher is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Law, whose expertise focuses on the interactions between nutrition research and public health policy. Dr Fletcher is introducing two speakers, and chairing discussions with the audience, examining the environmental impacts of the food system and ways in which we can start to eat more sustainably.
What can the audience at your event expect to discover?
It will introduce them to the inter-relationship between two important topics. First, the negative impacts of how we produce and consume food on the environment – the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that meat production now generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s transport combined. Second, how to reduce this impact, whilst at the same time eating a healthier diet.
What are the biggest challenges in encouraging consumers towards eating sustainably?
Sustainability is a complex idea and applying it to eating healthily is difficult. There is also no one sustainable diet, rather there are many different patterns of eating that can reduce our impact on the environment. However, this event aims to encourage people to think about the impact their diets might have.
What are the simplest changes consumers can make, that make a worthwhile difference?
Eating less and better quality meat and wasting less food. For example, people in the UK consume nearly twice as much meat as people in Japan and we throw away an estimated 100kg of food each year. Without making drastic changes, it’s possible to reduce the environmental impact of our diets, with benefits for our own health and for the planet.
Can you identify some common misconceptions or surprising facts relating to sustainable diets?
The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat and dairy. Beef production results in far more greenhouse gases than pork or chicken. Rich countries, such as the UK, consume a higher than average amount of beef, so reducing our consumption would benefit the environment by reducing GHG emissions and deforestation.
How do you hope people will benefit from hearing about your research?
Ideas about what makes diets sustainable are still developing. I hope to introduce the audience to some of these new ideas, and hear their responses to them.
What has inspired you to take part in the Science Festival?
In Scotland our diets are not good; they are neither healthy nor sustainable. Events such as this are a small part of the bigger discussions about how to improve our diets that we need to have, in order to reduce inequalities in health and ensure future food security.
Should We Give Up Meat to Save the Planet? will take place at 8pm on Friday 6 April in the Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall.