I've been reading, rather belatedly, the concluding report (March 2016) of Scotland's Learning for Sustainability National Implementation Group. This is packed with flag-waving claims. Given Scotland's reputation for claiming that it does things differently, better and yesterday, I was not surprised to find this:
Leading the world to a more sustainable future
Scotland is a renowned nation of innovation, science and great thinkers. We take pride in listing the many Scottish discoveries and inventions such as the television, telephone, pneumatic tyres and even the overdraft! Less well-known perhaps is Scotland’s contribution to the creation of a more sustainable world.
- 1827 – Scottish essayist and writer Thomas Carlyle introduces the word ‘environment’ to the world.
- 1890 – The conservation work of Scottish-born John Muir in Yosemite in California leads him to be known as the ‘Father of National Parks’.
- 1915 – Prominent Scottish thinker, town planner and environmentalist, Patrick Geddes, introduces the concepts of ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘thinking global, acting local’.
- 1992 – Professor John Smyth co-writes the education chapter of the United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio Earth Summit).
- 1999 – Opening of new Scottish Parliament. Emergence of a policy agenda building on the work of many of the great thinkers above leading to Land Reform and Naional Parks Acts, etc.
- 2005 – The Governments of Scotland and Malawi sign a Cooperation Agreement, leading to a decade of reciprocal exchange and partnership working on education, health, agriculture and renewable energy.
- 2009 – Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 becomes the most ambitious legislation of its kind in the world setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
- 2013 – Scotland becomes the first nation to join the Circular Economy 100 Group. It also becomes one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations – second only to Wales.
- 2014 – Scotland becomes the first nation to embed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and learning for sustainability in its professional standards for education practitioners.
- 2014 – Voting is extended to sixteen year-olds to allow them to participate in the Referendum on Scottish Independence.
- 2015 – Scotland is the first nation to commit to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- 2016 – The Foundation for Environmental Education recognises the success of the Eco-Schools Scotland programme by awarding Scotland the status of the best country in the world for sustainable development education and environmental education.
This is, of course, a record to shout about, but you cannot help but note the shift over time from the achievements of Scots (as individuals) to those of the Scottish government (as an institution). Are there no great (in a sustainability sense) individual Scots any more? Or are the sort of people who draw up such lists just likely to promote what government does?