This statement appeared on the day of the budget in my Twitter feed. The person tweeting was referring to the ‘Sugar Tax’. There was heated debated about how futile it was, or what a good idea, or how it was taking the heat off other more important issues (are there many more important things than our children’s health and well-being?)
I got a bit foot-stompy and this blog is the result. Well, no, of course it isn’t ‘the’ answer, or not the whole answer anyway. No one is that naïve, not Jamie Oliver, not the general public, the nutritionists not even the politicians who approved it. But here’s the thing, maybe things are so bad, with our own health, our children’s health and the health of our environment, that there is no single big ass solution – maybe there never was. Big ideas, high level strategic solutions are for governments and world organisations. As people, we identify with the practical; what’s meaningful for us. We feel irritated and overwhelmed by policy, policing and projects. Most of us I suspect want to engage, but when the message is: ‘you must do this’ or ‘you can’t do that’ – negative dictates from above – we feel quite the opposite: disengaged, disenfranchised, and if you’re me, down right rebellious.
We long to be inspired by a vision of something we can achieve, something positive. The carrot being infinitely better than the boot (to mix metaphors). We need to see results of the steps we’re taking and to take them one at a time, each one leading inexorably to the next until we’re on that journey towards making a difference. Thankfully there are trail blazers, eco warriors, impressive environmentalists and campaigners for the health of the planet and the health of the human race. And we need them to inspire and encourage us to take action.
However, there are people who struggle to survive now, people in this country who have to work out where the next pay packet, the next meal, the school books, the bus fare, the money for the electricity is coming from, and people in other places in the world who are far worse off than that. It’s not always a lack of care that stops us from taking action as much as a sense of priority. Ironically it is the people least able to take action that poor health and climate change impact first, and to a greater degree.
No one wants to see the earth burn; no one wants their children to be morbidly obese and unfit. We have to deal with challenges at all levels: personal, societal and political to start making a difference to anything.
So, no, the sugar tax won’t cure childhood obesity, but it has raised awareness of the issues involved, it has raised the political profile of an insidious, damaging and costly epidemic. There is much more to be done to rescue a generation of children from bad sugar and bad advertising, and a great deal more to be done to save the world for them.
And we all have a part to play. We are all part of the jigsaw which will give us the panoply of answers required.
The Plan – Jamie Oliver http://www.jamieoliver.com/theplan/