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Runway to COP26

Climate emergency through the lens of human health

As part of the RGU Creative Conversations theme, colleagues from across health and the built environment industry are collaborating to look at sustainability through the lens of human health.

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RGU Creative Conversations: Climate Change 2021 is a forum for conversation that can lead to collaborations from, at times, the most unexpected source. RGU is committed to thinking and working on sustainable working. The climate change emergency is of course a multi-faceted wicked problem – that will require multi-faceted solutions.

The forum was a daily offering of recorded conversations, presentations and live debate, exploring themes such as flooding and the impact on human health, food poverty as a result of flooding in a community, sustainable living, infant feeding and biodiversity and food banks as an unsustainable solution.


Monday 4 October

Flooding – a fireside chat

9:00 - a recorded conversation on local flooding and the human impact

An informal fireside chat exploring all things related to flooding and the impact of flooding for a small flood group, architectural students and The Scottish Flood Forum.

Welcome to an informal fireside chat between Whitney Bevan, Architecture lecturer at RGU, Paul Laidlaw, Community Resilience Manager for the Scottish Flood Forum and Dr Fiona Work, Chair of Edzell Flood Group and a Teaching Excellence Fellow at RGU. The informal chat will explore all things related to flooding and the personal impact of flooding for a Small Flood Group, architecture students at The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment and The Scottish Flood Forum.

RGU staff can login to view the recording:

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Tuesday 5 October

Why food banks are not a sustainable solution for food poverty or corporate food waste

12:00 - 12:45/13:00 - live conversation via zoom

Good food is good medicine: Why poverty, food insecurity and ‘surplus food’ or ‘food waste’, are words that should not appear in the same sentence.

This Creative Conversation is planned to provoke debate and discussion about the value, wisdom and implications arising from the idea that food waste can or should be used to feed poor people via a secondary food system of increasing numbers and forms of food banks and food pantries that have emerged within the UK in recent years. This idea - of diverting food system waste to feeding poor people - has caught popular and political imagination as a neat solution to the twin challenges associated with our dysfunctional food system on the one hand, emanating from the combination of overproduction and oversupply of highly processed food products within it, and, on the other hand, the increasing numbers of people in the UK who are living in poverty and with food insecurity, since the introduction of Government austerity policies in the late 2000’s.  Dr Flora Douglas who is a Reader and researcher based in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedic Practice, Ms Laura Chalmers who is the RGU Lead for Interprofessional Learning and Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the UK’s Independent Food Aid Network, will discuss why this apparently elegant solution is not as good or effective idea as it might seem, why it’s unlikely to make a sustained and fundamental difference to either problem, and why perpetuating the idea and further investing in the infrastructure that is building around that idea, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to do more harm than good in the long run as it depoliticises both problems giving an impression that something is being done to fix them, when it isn’t.

Passcode: L!J=40J1

Sabine and Flora also wrote a blog after their conversation which grew out of their reflections on the way the conversation flowed in response to the various contributions made during it. They thought it was worth setting down those thoughts for others to consider, as we all wrestle with our shared concerns about the increasing numbers of people living with food insecurity in the UK and the impact it’s having on their health and wellbeing, and, the health and wellbeing of our beautiful planet. 

During the conversation reference was made to articles, the Plenty to Share Campaign and the Scottish Government’s ‘Ending the need for foodbanks’ consultation:


Wednesday 6 October

Sustainability – are you living comfortably?

9:00 - pre-recorded session

A conversation with Whitney Bevan, Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, Stephanie Morrison Public Health, School of Health Sciences, Dylan Roberts Transition Carbon, exploring health and the implication of climate change.

Health and climate change are inextricably linked, with the impact of climate change impacting on populations who are most affected by the inequalities and inequities of health both globally and locally. Re-thinking on how we design settings to create good health requires different collaborations and understanding of health.

Presentation link to follow.

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Thursday 7 October

Supporting breastfeeding for public, economic and environmental health

9:00 - Sway presentation

Conversations around infant feeding have mainly focussed on health outcomes, but in recent years there has been an increase in awareness around the environmental cost of not breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is associated with healthier populations of mothers and infants and in addition emits no CO2, produces minimal waste and consumes zero energy when compared to the formula milk industry.

The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world with 8 out of 10 women stopping breastfeeding before they wanted to. For mothers to reach their infant feeding goals, a multi targeted approach in needed which includes parents having access to knowledgeable and skilled health care professionals.

RGU has just become the first university in Scotland to gain UNICEF Baby Friendly Achieving Sustainability award. This award is recognised as a mark of quality which ensures that student health care professionals gain comprehensive understanding, knowledge and skills to support breastfeeding and offer high quality and compassionate support for parents and their infants ensuring the best start in life. 

Through this presentation, the importance of breastfeeding for individuals, society and the environment will be demonstrated as well as RGU's journey in gaining Unicef Baby Friendly Gold Award.


Friday 8 October

Flooding and it’s impact on dietary choice

9:00 - pre-recorded presentation

The 'RGU Creative Conversations: Climate Emergency 2021' forum addresses sustainable focussed thinking for the climate emergency through the lens of human health and wellbeing. This presentation looks at the impact of flooding on diet and health.

There is not a day that goes by perhaps that we don’t hear about the importance of eating ‘5aDay’ and the importance of eating healthily to help prevent medical conditions associated with dietary choice.  Governments across the world publish healthy eating guidelines and policy to inform and guide individuals around health lifestyle choices.  People with the best of intentions who aim to follow these guidelines recognise that barriers can exist preventing, consciously or unconsciously, achieving good lifestyle choices.  Some individuals are required to follow a particular diet due to a medical condition which can change the spontaneity of buying, preparing and eating of food as well having an impact financially.  Whilst many of us recognise these barriers exists with regard to food choice, how many of us consider the full impact of a natural disaster of flooding to a town and how this affects an individual’s ability to purchase, choose and prepare appropriate foods?

Student studying Dietetics carried out an Asset Mapping exercise in two towns in Aberdeenshire which have been badly affected by flooding over the years to fully understand the constraints that this would have on daily lives within the town and being able to purchase and prepare foods which meet healthy eating guidelines and or a prescribed medical diet. hat could be the short-term and long-term consequences to individuals living in an area that is frequently flooded and disrupts their ability to eat and prepare foods as normal?

Presentation link to follow.

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