It’s drizzling rain, with autumn on its way. The telly is on, to provide background noise and prevent the inevitable feeling of loneliness that so often accompanies travel. The video pans across a house inspired by “earthship” designs. An angry accent trembles through the air outside: a worried father.
I’m writing from a hotel near Aberdeen, Scotland. It’s hard not to feel slightly uprooted, even in another English-speaking country. Though I’ve been to the United Kingdom before, I’ve never ventured this far north. Flowers embellish yards, roads twist beneath arched bridges, pubs open early and tourism is booming.
I’m here for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalist’s Congress (#IFAJ2014 on Twitter), which kicks off this week. This is an incredible opportunity for me and I’m nervous, yet increasingly excited.
The short period of time I’ve been here has hardly been enough to make sound observations, particularly considering much of my time has been hiking, camping, scratching (midge bites) and exploring geographical formations with my best friend. Still, it’s important to reflect, lest we forget what we never realized. And I’d like to share some of what I’ve seen with you.
The land is buzzing with anticipation over the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. The cities in Scotland are dotted with bold “Yes” signs. Citizen beliefs stick to windows, windshields and lapels. It’s hard to say which way the referendum will sway, even though pro-independence paraphernalia outweighs its competition 30:1 (in an anecdotal, purely observational, amateur survey). Many believe the overwhelming “Yes” campaign is merely an example of what a loud minority with busy hands can accomplish, and there are still many questions needing answers. According to the BBC’s poll tracker, polls indicate only a slight difference in voter intention at this time. But it won’t be until Thursday, September 18, that see which path Scotland will take.
Frugality is not well-rewarded, if the intent is to eat out. Meals are relatively expensive, though grocery shopping isn’t as extreme and dairy products seem quite affordable. There appears to be much promotion of locally-produced foods, and though the gluten-free market doesn’t appear as large as back home, it pops up every now and then. Oh, and eggs are sold from the aisles, not the fridges.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Responsible reuse and disposal of materials appears to be a priority in the UK, with recycling containers rarely discriminating between urban and rural geography. At the international market in Aberdeen, consumers drank lemonade from completely compostable glasses. “Gummy Bins” and “Gumdrop” stations are available for used gum disposal, and though completely new to me, recycling gum isn’t new to the UK. In fact, there are already many recycled gum products available for purchase, from frisbees to rubber boots.
There’s far too much to cover in just one post. Mostly, I just wanted you to know I’m still alive and well.
I hope to further explore many topics. The prominence of recycling receptacles certainly has me thinking; I’ll have to make a note to follow up with the agricultural community on how farm plastics are handled. We toured a distillery and cooperage, so once I speak with a few farmers, I can begin to put all the pieces together, from white oak casks to barley and eventually: Scotch. I would also like to learn more about the preservation of forest lands and the importance of ecological goods and services in Scotland. And of course my greatest desire is to share what I learn with all of you.
No shortage of aspirations, it seems. We’ll see. For now, it’s off to bed.
Good afternoon, Canada.