There is no one left: none but all of us
Until the 20th December, the organisation that looks after Natural Heritage in Scotland is asking for our views on protecting places of wild character. These are the remote and untamed places many of us visit, as gentle adventurers and extreme athletes, campers, photographers, nature lovers, poets, pirates, refugees and vagabonds of all castes, colours, professions and political persuasions. Some of these are also places of work as well as play, for hundreds of thousands of small business owners, crofters and scientists. And these places are also full of wild life and rare species that we depend upon, and that depend upon us...
I'd like to urge you to take some time over the next few days to submit your defence of the Wild Land Map, which is being suggested as a means to protect our collective and fast diminishing inheritance. We've been asked our views before, and I think it's even more important we continue to give them now: as evidence builds in the case for protection, and inevitably some tire of an admittedly tiresome process. In the spirit of disclosure, it's no secret that I work part time for an organisation that campaigns on behalf of Wild Land, and I have included my own response below. This is a personal response, shared on a personal website, written in my own time - not everyone will agree with its emphases. If you choose to respond, yours should also be personal - please don't copy and paste, as generic responses are now discounted. You can find the form required by SNH, and guidelines for filling it in so that your views are properly heard
. I know things are busy for many in the run up to the holiday season, but please find 20 minutes to respond before the 20th December. Sharing this information online is also helpful, but you can go one better - submit your own response and share that - even if you live outside Scotland. The rest of the world is watching, we can lead by example.
''I believe Wild Land is vitally important as a source of ecosystem services (flood defence, clean water, carbon sequestration) and a source of mental and physical inspiration, solace and adventure. It has recently been estimated as worth circa £23bn PA to Scotland alone, a significant part of which is tourism. I am extremely concerned at the present rate of loss of Wild Land as documented by SNH, in particular due to unsustainable and heavily subsidised energy developments and hill tracks. Two particular examples which come to mind personally are Allt Duine and Stronelairg, but many equally vulnerable areas are in the planning or development stages.
I strongly support the present and future protection of Wild Land and the principle and methods of Core Areas of Wild Land used by SNH, as it provides a readily understood and administratable means by which Wild Land can be safeguarded by policy makers and local authorities, for both people and nature into the future. The map clearly shows where Core Wild Land is and what is left – the boundaries of these areas should NOT be repeatedly challenged by industrial development but be respected as our common inheritance. I agree with the SNH statement in paragraph 2.2 that Wild Land
is not or has not always been devoid of human activities, but request that we manage Core Wild Land from this point onwards for the benefit of a flourishing habitat and wildlife - that is also of wider economic and cultural benefit to humans in Scotland, the UK and far beyond. We have something entirely unique in terms of World Natural Heritage here, and should not squander it.
I appreciate that a map may not be an absolute or definitive measure of all conditions on the ground forever, but it is by far the best means we have of measuring CAWL’s at present. In the immediate future, we should respect the current boundaries of the map and concentrate on protecting what is left, before any more debate and delay causes further losses. A map is a practical means of protection. It allows immediate action and therefore I support it.
Our existing designations (National Parks and National Scenic Areas) are not sufficient to protect ALL of Scotland’s remaining Wild Land and I strongly believe all policy makers should recognise all areas identified as Core Wild Land at consulation, in their present and future planning decisions. Core Wild Land is a more thorough measure of this valuable and finite resource than any other existing designation we have currently at our disposal.
I would like to question the current drawing of boundaries around Core Areas. Simply because planning permission has been granted, does not mean a development will go ahead. If we assume an area is no longer wild because permission is or was granted, we risk further ‘creep’ of industrialisation into Core Wild Land Areas. I would like to see this stopped and a new approach considered. Given that this is a consultation, I’d like to point out the Public Perception of Wildness in Scotland Survey 2012, for SNH and Scottish National Parks, as well as a You Gov poll for the John Muir Trust in 2013, both of which showed overwhelming public support for Wild Land Protection as well as the effect the current lack of protection may have on tourism. The CAWL map may not be perfect and could be revisited in the future to include more areas of coast, island and peatbog that have been omitted this time. In the meantime it offers a practical and structured means to address to an immediate and rapidly degenerating situation. I believe we need to stem the loss of Wild Land now, and this is the tool to begin that process.''
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world