Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Love the Countryside?

Living in the Cairngorms since the age of two, the first and most curious of two children, the areas unique beauty has not escaped my eyes. Whilst walking the hills or valley fields my constant companion is a digital camera. I enjoy photography, the landscape of the Cairngorms lends itself readily to the camera. But whilst many will enjoy these scenes I would argue that the real value in the Cairngorms lies on a smaller scale. This is where I part ways with many ‘lovers of wild places’.

The Cairngorms has the highest density of rare species of any similar sized area in the UK. These 1,300 species represent the areas true character. Many characteristic species can be appreciate on the Macro scale: Scots pine, Broom, Snow bunting an numerous heather species; but others need a Macro lens, huge diversity and number of very small species that set the Cairngorms apart as an area of peculiar richness and biodiversity.

I love the ecosystem with its myriad parts containing the complexity, environmental significance and beauty. To put it bluntly; aesthetics do not constitute my primary interest in the Cairngorms. To use an analogy, i have a dog, i would be concerned if his organs where damaged by illness: this anxiety would not be even slightly remedied later on by the work of a skillful taxidermist. I see value in life.

Life in the Cairngorms, as around the country, and in fact the globe is currently under the most profound threat since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Accurate modelling is not possible but the best science we have suggests species losses of between 40-70% depending on the level of climate change and the assumptions used. Being interviewed for The Independent Prof. Des Thompson of Scottish Natural Heritage likens the plight of Scotland’s moorland birds to a train crash:

“The birds are being buffeted about: the snow isn’t there where it used to be, the insects aren’t emerging as expected, the whole hillside’s not looking the way it used to. It might seem tranquil enough to us, but the birds are experiencing this huge dislocation in their lives. Nothing will be the same as it was.”

With this perspective in mind you can imagine what I think about opposition to wind farms by “lovers of the countryside”. Britain’s largest environmental organisations understand the order of priorities and have been remarkably supportive of wind power. The RSPB, where some conflict may be expected has—to its credit—been very pragmatic, objecting to sighting of grave concern and helping to improve siting.

There has been increasingly vocal opposition to wind farms and associated works throughout the UK. Mainly by people who “don’t want to see the countryside spoiled”. Such an anthropocentric view of the countryside is just the sort of ignorant and harm full attitude that really does threaten our lands real beauty.

When a wind power project is proposed near your home, will you protect your most treasured land and support wind?

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