Your contribution 2003-06

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24 September 2006

Nice article. The protected areas unfortunately are not at all protected - parts of the SAC are about to be licensed for oil exploration. If an idiot on a jetski was buzzing a dolphin, call the police! It is illegal under the CRoW act - I'd love to see a prosecution.

Pembrokeshire is a special area, and with the degree of protection and sympathetic ownership, it should be safer than most, but unfortunately this does not seem to be the case - with the recent granting of permission for the large holiday village within the NP, and the oil issue - shows that protection is a label not a reality.

Is seal shooting actually happening in Pembrokeshire? I must admit I didn't realise that the law was so open on seal shooting. I agree with your conclusion that protected areas should actually be protected.


22 April 2006

Very pleased to see your site and the network. Back in the early nineties a couple of us tried to set up a thing just called 'The Wilderness", the idea being to buy land and leave it alone. We called it 'an idea whose time has come' but I think we were probably wrong. We got some good response, in particular from Richard Mabey, but it all fizzled out.

Looks like maybe the time has come now, and anyway you seem to be doing a better job of promotion than we did!

All the best to you in your efforts. I never heard anyone else use the term 'self-willed' but I'm glad you are and I hope a lot more start. To me that is what wild means.

Thanks, Andy, for the file of quotations. Here's one for you:

Senator Frank Church, the floor manager of the Wilderness Act, said that the Forest Service: “…would have us believe that no lands ever subject to past human impact can qualify as wilderness, now or ever. Nothing could be more contrary to the meaning and intent of the Wilderness Act. The effect of such an interpretation would be to automatically disqualify almost everything, for few if any lands on this continent—or any other—have escaped man’s imprint to some degree”
The Wilderness Act Applies to the East. Congressional Record Senate. January 16, 1973


3 March 2006

I am troubled by your unqualified use of the word 'freak' - do you have any rational justification for such a description of your own species?


4 January 2006

The following is a response to the comments from John on your site about Blacka Moor.

The comments from John could not be made by anyone who knows Blacka Moor and its situation. I have known Blacka Moor for over 30 years and I have observed closely the present dispute.

John says all nature reserves he knows are preserved because of rare species. Blacka Moor was not made a nature reserve because of rare species. Occasional rare species do visit but that is because this site is on the edge of an 8,000 hectare expanse of open moorland. Those birds will not be endangered if Blacka Moor continues to be left alone as it has been for many years, which is what we want. The story of why Blacka was made a nature reserve takes some believing. The people who designated it a nature reserve three years ago, the city council and the local wildlife trust, were very open as to why they did so and their reasons are on record. The reason was to give the wildlife trust some land to manage. Again they were very open: they wanted the land because it would enable them to apply for a substantial grant from the HLF and their ownership of the land would qualify them for that. You can imagine that obtaining a large site like this of over 400 acres was a coup for the wildlife trust and it has led to them enjoying a much higher profile, helped them to persuade other funders to part with large sums and perhaps also in one way or another helped to pay the mortgage on their new smart headquarters and fund the largely deskbound management jobs of those who work there.

The trouble is that the land should never have been given in this way. This land was given to the people of Sheffield by a benefactor in 1933 as charitable land stipulated to be used only as a public pleasure ground. He did this to protect it from development and the regular walkers on the hills have thanked him ever since. Now the first thing that the wildlife trust has done is to cross it with barbed wire to help them farm the land with cattle. This will bring in several more thousands of pounds from DEFRA which otherwise would not have been available.

If I were a conservationist I would be demanding the heads of these people for bringing my trade into disrepute!

As for dogs, yes there is something of a dog-walking issue here. Some people do allow their dogs to walk off the lead here, having always previously taken the conscientious decision not to do so on all other comparable nearby areas which have a longstanding designation for wildlife protection or are places where livestock graze. Those people had considered that Blacka, a wild area giving nobody a livelihood, was the one place where they could walk with their dogs responsibly. The wildlife trust’s first arrogant attempts to impose dog restrictions have now been withdrawn because of the strength of the anger felt against an obvious injustice.

As regards management of land being necessary, well this is another thing which has me scratching my head with disbelief. A man on his own used to maintain the paths and take up the small birch saplings until the 1970s giving complete satisfaction. Then a moderniser in the Town Hall got rid of him in an economy drive. Now the place is being managed with the help of considerable public sums by people who spend most of their time at workstations devising ways of getting fund providers to cough up for their next management plan!! When they run out of ideas because they rarely visit the place they ask the local walkers for suggestions so their jobs can continue.

As the saying goes you couldn’t make it up!

20 December 2005

I can not agree with your point of view Mark,  although I am certain your point is popular. You want to give something to everybody, You seem even against restricting free running dogs in a nature reserve.

I have worked in nature reserves myself on the continent of Europe and have never noticed that landscapes were "preserved" as farmland.

In all cases that I know of a nature reserve was preserved in the first place always because a number of rare to very rare species were to be found there. Whether plants, amphibians, insects and very often even mostly birds.

When you leave a piece of land to it's own devices it will eventually evolve into the climax state, mostly oak-birch wood at our latitude and very often the species for which the nature reserve was set up in the first place will not be able to survive there. In almost all cases wetlands and open water will disappear if one does nothing and it are those that have by far the highest species density and diversity. Often the rare species are the only reason an area is not build up immediately.

Scrubland may be valuable as a place to relax and walk in but it is not as diverse as the landscapes it originated from. If rare species are worth preserving then management work is essential.

In fact it is horribly sad that a well meaning person like yourself finds it necessary to attack other well meaning conservationists because there is so little of value left. Of course woods and scrubland are also important. But these are not disappearing in the first place because of agriculture! They are disappearing for motorways and factories and new suburbs; concrete and noise and pollution until there is nothing left and we have a real silent spring.

The despoilers have nothing to fear as long as well meaning naturalists fight one another like you are doing.

A Friend of Blacka Moor
19 December 2005

I love the article. It's just what we needed 2/3 years ago!!! But I think it could still have a useful impact if it became widely read locally. The trouble is we've been finding out about these things, the issues, the context as well as the information that was being carefully shielded from us as all the time the conservation bandwagon was rolling along.

If there was a way of getting the article widely circulated beyond the web I think it could have quite an influence. Maybe it would also generate more interest in the general issues.

We must think how we can best use your excellent article.



11 September 2005

In another life I did autopsies and was involved in Tb research. At present I am a small farmer in SW Ireland. I have taken a look at more than a hundred badgers killed in traffic and I have not seen one single case of Tb. This is in West Cork where supposedly one in four badgers is infected.

In the case of bovine Tb there are special factors working through the research. It has become a minor industry in it's own right,  with quite a bit of employment depending on it so it is in quite a few peoples interest to maintain a status quo.

Any animal can carry Mycobacterium bovis bacilli and even farmers are not free from it. In the 60's studies were done in Poland that indicated that more than 30% of all infections of cattle in that country came from the farmers that tended them. That possibility is never even mentioned here.

Once we had an embarrassing outbreak of bovine Tb in a herd of Wisent (European bison) in the zoo where I was working at the time; the victims were slaughtered in all haste and the carcasses were fed to the carnivores in that zoo. Half a year later several lions died from bovine Tb.

I know for a fact that sheep, goats, horses and sheepdogs can be carriers and all these animals are kept together with cattle on many farms and the department of Agriculture refuses point blank to do any testing of these animals. In fact I think the one animal most susceptible to bovine Tb is the Guinea pig. Not ever tested.

Take this together with the fact that many condemned cattle still enter the human food chain when no lesions are found and that there are indications that there exist some inside lines to this cheap meat. And that I have never seen even one sign of Tb in road killed badgers makes me think that the whole affair is a bit of a scam.

Since I have not much trouble in being tolerant to wild animals and their depredations on my crops, I suppose it is possible to develop this in others. And believe me that some of these depredations are serious. Last year I let my attention wander away from a plot of peas for a few weeks. Rats ate the lot. We harvested just 14 whole peas. This year we got our usual 60 kilos of dried peas from the same plot. I have otters and cormorants in my fish pond and bull finches have killed several expensive trees by eating every single last bud. In the past we had foxes and mink nearly wipe out lambs and poultry. I have had to take action to preserve our existence. I killed quite a few foxes up to the point that they learned not to take what is mine. Mink as an exotic that does very serious damage to wildlife I will take on everywhere and we have a continuous war going on with rodents. However, I will not use rat-poison so has to do no damage to natural predators. And any stoat that wanders into a mink trap is released.

I think it is necessary to take up our role of apex predator seriously though. At one time we had so many foxes here that very few other creatures survived.

I agree completely that we have created a landscape whereby we have become intolerant of the predations of wild animals and I do keep almost 30% of our land as truly wild space.


26 June 2005

I was disappointed to read about your comments on Whinash being unremarkable farmland. I take it that you have not actually walked through the remarkably beautiful Bretherdale (includes ancient woodland) and Borrowdale valleys where you would not even know there was a 6 lane motorway fairly close and you get a great sense of remoteness. See pictures @

There are also superb panoramic views of the Whinash area and its virtually unspoilt fells particularly from the Howgills, the fells above Haweswater and North of the Whinash Ridge. The visibility impact of the Ridge to a large part of Cumbria, North Yorkshire and North Lancashire would affect fell walkers and those people who get away from the likes of Manchester and Liverpool because they've had enough of looking at industry and built up areas.

I was fortunate to have been able to visit the public enquiry and listen to the expert witnesses regarding landscape and invite you to look at the evidence at

I am for renewable energy, although wind is a very expensive (heavily subsidised) and not very efficient option and would like to see a substantial investment in green coal, biomass and tidal technology. It would be very sad if we had to desecrate some of our finest scenery in order to provide a relatively small amount of power and the have the very expensive task of decommissioning the wind turbines in 15 to 25 years time. We could never replace the 260 tons of peat or restore the Whinash Ridge to its former glory. In my opinion wind turbines if we have them are more suited to plateaus and offshore.


9 March 2005

Fascinating account, Mark. Raises lots of issues that are germane to any discussion of "sustainable agriculture" (or more properly, sustainable land use). Although I recently retired from the University, I am still doing some odd consultancy work for them, one aspect of which is rewriting our p/g Environmental Decision Making course. If you don't mind, I will copy your article to the course team for this, because it is such an excellent example of the way that perceptions of environmental issues can distort the decisions that get made.

2 March 2005


Thanks Mark for interesting stuff on crofting.

I've just finished doing a pilot OCN2 in coppicing at the green wood trust, which was very good. The week started off with a very gloomy look at the way it was. Many people lamenting the passing of the good old days and livelihoods of coppicing. This is not quite the way I view it.

The wide scale practise of coppicing as it was, did represent sustainable and economic management of woodlands. Less wood was imported from overseas. Lots of skill was built up and handed down over generations. Woodlands were well integrated into the local economy and way of life. Wildlife was happy.

But coppice workers were poor and landless, wages low, living conditions rough and the work repetitive and physically hard. Coppicing was a successful system because it addressed the economic and social needs of the time. People simply wanted a good deal for their pea sticks, fencing and treen etc.

The economic and social climate has changed and coppicing largely given way to mass plantations and industrial methods. This situation must change but there is no way back and maybe that can be a good thing. What is the way forward now for society and woodlands? I reckon our greatest needs are personal and ecological health, education, recreation and spiritual well being (what ever form that takes).

This represents a social product for woodlands, social forestry. In terms of economics for me, wanting to make a living from sustainable management of woodland resources, this can be a good thing. It presents more varied work, social challenges, is people oriented.....and quite possibly lots of other benefits yet to be discovered.

The main obstacles are slow development and low cash flow for many years, planning, bureaucracy and the mindset of people against you. Maybe the question people like me need to find an answer to is......In true Permaculture style, how can these problems be turned into solutions?

Any comments anyone?

Adrian Leaman , Wholewoods Environmental Arts


Robert Macfarlane
3 April 2005 (abridged)

Mark, I understand that you come from an anti-anthropocentric position, and that one of the prime motives in your involvement with rewilding initiatives, and the wilderness debate, is to induce a larger-scale viewing of land use, which sees human involvement in certain types of landscape, or areas of landscape, as neither necessary nor generally desirable.

My approach is from a less radical, more community-focused angle. I am interested in the "good" which certain types of landscapes have done for people, often large numbers of people, and I am also interested, as you point out, in the strata of cultural memory which get laid down on and around certain types of landscape, and certain specific landscape forms, and determine the ways we as individuals, cultures, and governments, behave towards them. I see the clear water between our positions, but I do not see that we have to be sworn enemies. You talk about "true wildernesses" as offering "richness and beauty from which to draw knowledge and inspiration from". I am in complete agreement with you. This is the central tenet of my approach to these ideas.

And I think that our respective moral compasses, to use your term, are both set by the same lodestone. Certainly, I think we have the following aims in common, although we are pursuing them in different ways 1. to contribute to and heighten the awareness of the debate over the nature and value of wildness. 2. to prevent, for various reasons, the spoliation of what "undegraded" landscape (however comparatively one understands undegraded) there is in the British Isles by ill-thought out and short-sighted policies of land use. 3. to move towards rewilding initiatives which do not simply set aside land for use and recreation (preserving "bleakness" etc) but in fact reduce the "dominant human influence" and allow the land to run/be itself. 4. to historicise our understandings of wilderness, and its associate concepts, the better to understand where they might lead from here, and how they might be reshaped (actually, perhaps this is not what you wish to do, as inexplicably you sneer at ideas of "state of mind, cultural context", as though such factors are somehow irrelevant to "wildland initiatives"). 5. - and this is the biggie - to help people to "see a future for our landscapes past their own lives." Having these five (or at least four) aims in common seems to me to put us firmly on the same side.

You then kindly take it upon yourself to predict the content of the book I'm now writing. I am interested in the book [in] ways in which humans have historically, and do today, react to certain types of landscape (coastal, moorland, mountainous, island, headland etc.). I'm also interested in abolishing the ridiculous idea of the "pristine" wilderness (which Muir so harmfully espoused in Yosemite) as having any purchase in Britain. So I will be writing historically about The Clearances, the Irish Famine, the decline of heavy industry in places like the Calder Valley, the deforestation of Scotland and Ireland, the arrival of agribusiness - about all the processes which have, historically, brought the British Isles to its current landscape state. I will be writing about how - your phrase - "the emptiness and bleakness of the artificial landscapes that can be found in the British Isles" came to be.

You admit towards the end of your piece that you "may have to give Macfarlane some due as he has put a finger on something that does need addressing eventually - a literary canon for a wilderness view in Britain." This is in fact something I'm working exceptionally hard on. First of all, I'm putting together a course here at Cambridge on Literature and the Environment to be taught to English undergraduates. There is currently NO course here which offers any kind of ecological slant, or environmental approach to writing - the future opinion-makers and policy-makers of Britain go through their Tripos without. Secondly, I'm compiling, for no money, and over five years, a major anthology of wilderness writing, which will compare and contrast the British tradition with the American and Australian and Nepali etc. etc. traditions. It'll be the first such anthology (though lots of "green" readers and "environment" readers exist) and I hope it will prompt the establishment of even more courses on the environment in this country - and get people thinking hard, in non-anthropocentric ways, about the way we treat our "nature".

12 March 2005

I was completely re-assured when I recently discovered your website. I am a countryside warden for the National Trust. I have been working there since the age of 16 and I have been building a foundation of knowledge for this vast and important subject. Over the last five or six years, I have become more and more frustrated with the way that conservationists and associated organisations seem to operate. I love your terminology 'mindscape' and 'anthropocentric conceptualisation'. I fear that the people that we need to recruit are many of the so called conservationists and they would most certainly need a definition of your term! I also know people in my field that I feel are keen to promote re-wilding but easily become frustrated with the very real problems with doing this, particularly because of our large population (I'm sure I don't need to tell you that!)

So why am I emailing you? Well, for a number of years I have been pestered by an idea in my head. It is to embark on an environmental quest that would hopefully create the right culture to accept re wilding or creating the 'wildwood' as I refer to it on my website. I have created a small gardening business which seems to be unique. I call it Wildwood Gardens and I actively encourage people to create their own tiny pieces of the wildwood. I have had interest from people with small holdings and this has triggered an idea that I would like to pursue through WWG.

I would like to see a television programme that follows the creation of this habitat ranging from gardens to arable reversion. I would be actively seeking out areas of land to revert. I would focus on linking the surviving areas of habitat (the best we have left) and connecting by proactive advertising and community involvement. The programme would be controversial and depict the destruction of wilderness over the last 5 thousand years. It would show people how we were connected to this special habitat and that in the last 5 mins of time it has been turned upside-down by our actions. It would tug on the heart strings of the public by showing CGI Aurochs, Tarpan, wolf, lynx, boar and bears being pushed to extinction. The draining of Britain's marsh (fens) the Highlands that appear to be a wilderness but are not of course.

I have learned that television can be such a useful way of reaching people.I would hope that this would be an opportunity for the public to be educated and reflect on what effect we have had as a species.

3 March 2005

Just read your article on your web-site - fantastic stuff, and I probably agree with most of your points. I find the caution within the nature conservation sector unbelievably frustrating; as much as the tendency to garden nature reserves rather than let nature just let rip a while. Wilderness is the one good trick up our sleeves, in my mind, and yet many can't seem to find it or are afraid to show it to the wider world. Meanwhile I still find myself being drawn into pointless arguments as to whether sycamore is a 'valid' species for this country... .



27 September 2004

Once again, your rhetoric has me mesmerized and I was with you on the walk in the mountains.

I do not know how the plants you describe look in real life, but my mind made the connections nevertheless. The peace and tranquillity and oneness with nature you describe must be part of our psyche (or mine, at least) along with feelings of deja vu.

I contrast this with my many trips to the east coast along flat or undulating monotonous arable land stretching seemingly forever, which could be so much more interesting and varied. Yesterday, the roads were foggy with topsoil, dry and lifeless after years of neglect being blown away, past the yellow monsters dragging their offspring behind.

Perhaps on my next trip, I will imagine, as you do, a different landscape filled with variety and mystery, woodland and meadows where people know and interact with nature rather than destroy it.... but not when I'm driving!!

Regards and happy day dreaming.


16 March 2004

Apparently humanity is destroying the planet through  overpopulation and pollution. Therefore the two-pronged message to get across to the people and our political masters is to reduce birth rates ( increasing death rates has a sinister ring to it ) and reduce our polluting activities.

May I suggest we criticise those ethnic and religious  groups who promote large families , and in turn > promote education to help emancipate ( specially)  women - who , given the choice would often rather have small families. Promoting tolerance of homosexuality would also be helpful - they tend to have fewer children than heterosexuals.

On the pollution front, challenging car use ( the media seems to think it a positive sign that Iraqis in Basra are buying more cars ), and promoting the separation and recycling of household waste at source e.g. composting kitchen scraps, dry sewage systems .

We all know we are killing off our home planet. Please can we have more practical and proactive advice and help, and a bit less theorising and philosophising.

Stella (Canary Islands)  - In response to John Turner
17 March 2004

The problem with criticising as a design strategy is that the only thing it is reliably effective at is creating more misery. And the destructo-culture very heavily relies on our unhappiness: it is always some form of misery - like poverty or feelings of deep hopelessness - that makes people do all sorts of illogical things (eg. breed, or buy cars, or consume too much when this is obviously not helpful for the planet or person).

So you may get some short-term change by criticising (like managing to manipulate someone into a behaviour you want) but the likelihood is that this is far too painfully reminiscent of the mountain of criticism we have to endure all our lives to actually create anything life-affirming in the longer-term.

Singling out ethnic or religious groups for special criticism (or praise) is particularly unhelpful, as the destructo-culture also very much manipulates our very deeply rooted knee-jerk responses in this area in order to keep things as they are (eg. to provide the temporary relief - but lingering distraction - of feeling superior to others, to separate & divide us, & ultimately help towards justifying great massacres & continuous wars in places where 'life is cheap' - & our fuel resource in danger of becoming too expensive).

In a world where 20% of the population consumes 85% of the worlds resources we have to do our 'overpopulation' maths a bit differently, anyway.

And when tackling a design as complex & all-encompassing as today's version of an expanding global economy, it is essential we put our compost toilets firmly in context.

Supporting each other in thinking for ourselves (including theorising and philosophising lots) is one of the most practical and proactive things we can do in this era of turbo-capitalism - where the majority of us are so caught up in panic and survival-mode to be extremely vulnerable to neatly packaged simple-sounding solutions (if we climb out of the deep funk caused by all the bad news of our dying mother earth long enough to care).


16 February 2004

Wild boar in New Zealand can be very savage, and wild pigs eat newborn lambs and can root up a lot of pasture.  However, I do agree that all living things should try to share resources as much as is practicable.  I don't like to see animals or people having to live like zoo animals. 


24 January 2004

THANKYOU! This is great... love your article, and the website is wonderful.

Last weekend I had a wonderful insight into timescales whilst on a long & very still walk through the English countryside... I saw a pixie!

It was in a young oak thicket, and a broken log suddenly looked like a face of a pixie... I did a double-take because I nearly missed it...

What flashed through my mind was that even at such a slow pace (the early morning and slow meditative walking had stilled me into a blissful state) I was still going too fast to notice most of these very still things...

Playfully I just thought "of course, there are pixies all around but they live in another time-scale. Time that passes much, much slower than ours, which is why we only very rarely notice them".  Then I got images of those speeded up films with traffic... and imagined the countryside around me changing a lot faster, but with the human bits like a blur. Moving very fast.

Had a lovely email from Jamie yesterday and saw his website, where I downloaded a great presentation... attached one of the pix that really caught my eye

So... seems to be a theme for me at the moment, all this is why I loved your article :)

26 January 2004

Hi Mark. We met briefly at the convergence in Leeds a wee while back - I've been reading Holmgren's new book too, haven't got to the end, but have also been thinking about his ideas about how we spend our time.

Anyway, I really just wanted to say, thank you for this, these little bit of inspiration carry me through the frustrations of daily life and this seemingly endless winter in bonny Scotland. All the best to you

Jamie (
27 January 2004

Stewart Brand seems pretty cool to me and the 10,000-year 'clock of the long now' formed a substantial backdrop of the MA in Foresight and Futures Studies, and in continued efforts to develop Permaculture and futurity in my mind and in conversations. The difference I think between an 'art/politics/science' of Permaculture and its much needed application by 'technicians' perhaps? (Ref: Dancing Wu Li Masters)

On the pixies issue - have you read Philip Pullman's His Dark Material's trilogy? Maybe resonance with 'daemons' and with the 'windows in the air'.

The 'tyranny of the present' often overloads our senses and the capacity for clear observation, critical thinking and sound ('future-proofed'?) interventions. The 'culture of immediacy' driven by acceptability and expediency does human civilization down, and serves as an injustice to future generations.



September 18, 2003

The Brazilian Kayapo people have managed their landscape so that most outside observers thought it "natural". Their knowledge of animal behaviour and associated plants and soil types, enabled them to create ecological "zones" within the forest and spread useful species between them - focussing on the edge between forest and savannah.

Sound familiar? It’s from A Resurgence article Nov 2000, "Beyond the big lips". A key feature was the creation of Forest islands or apete.

So European forest after the ice ages could well have been managed by early man.

20 September 2003

I think what is important in the debate about wild woods is not the fact that it was static or moving but that we will very soon have no woods at all, in this country or anywhere.

Man has been the biggest influence in our environment and the effects of his handiwork are to be seen throughout the world in loss of forests and woodland, thereby creating desertification, soil erosion, landslides etc. and a few examples are Iraq, Pakistan, Greece, Crete, South America and Southern Africa.

I have just read "Far From Paradise - The Story of Man's Impact on the Environment" - 1986 version. A little out of date now but I will suggest a new category of man to be added when it's updated...  that of Homo erectus. You know the sort, who has a 2-inch forehead, who typically work in call centres and speak Gumby. It's a potted history (sorry about the pun) of man's evolution and his interaction with the soil from the beginning of time when we were part of the natural world and took our place among the other living creatures.

It takes us back to the original hunter-gatherers and through time to early farmers and how early civilisations failed due to their over-exploitation of forests and woodland such as the peoples of Mesopotamia and the Minoans of Crete. These early peoples lived in a fertile land with many forests, which were all hacked down with no provision for regeneration. The poor hillside soils of Crete today are lightly clad in the sort of trees that grow in poor soil: olives, carobs, almonds, figs etc. and drought resistant shrubs. The sheep and goats are the scourge of all soils when left to their own devices and especially so in the Mediterranean lands.

Plato as long as 2400 years ago in his book "Critias" was concerned about loss of soils.."...And, just as happens in small islands, what now remains with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left...and it had much forest-land in its mountains.. many lofty trees. Moreover, it was enriched by the yearly rains from Zeus, which were not lost to it as now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea.."

It's not all doom and gloom. The authors point to peoples using terracing on hillsides and where manures are returned to the soil and rotations used, soil quality can improve. They also mention the Chagga peoples of Mount Kilimanjaro who do fell some large trees but under the open canopy plant banana trees and below this plant coffee bushes and at ground level a wide variety of vegetables to sustain their small communities. They do return manures to the soil and enjoy the benefits of living and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with nature and not at conflict with it.

Man was born into Paradise but is destroying it. "Who can deny that in the final analysis, humans are creatures of the soil? We are reminded of this with each meal we eat every day." (Unless we visit a McDonalds)

20 September 2003

I was interested to see your paper via Scottish Environment LINK.  It's great to have further support for these arguments. You're pushing at a door that a small number of us have been struggling to open for some time now, see for instance

Those seminars (rather like the recent Scottish LINK one and the useful collection of essays published last year by the Scottish Wild Land Group) if anything demonstrated a great diversity of definitions, valuations, and approaches to the conservation of wild land rather than any solid conceptual consensus.

I believe Paul Evans of BANC is working on a book on rewilding issues at the moment.  I'm also undertaking a review of wild land in Europe for SNH, but that majors on recreation and landscape values rather than on ecological ones.

However I would have to say (as you may have picked up from the SNH policy paper) that for us in Scotland at least, "wilderness" is a hazardous terminology which produces automatically negative reactions, particularly in Highland communities, and that the arguments you're advancing are regarded in some quarters as no more than a new manifestation of cultural genocide against fragile rural communities.  Current efforts to advocate even "wild land" values to resist hydro development in one of our finest wildest areas have generated extreme responses arguing against the imposition of elitist external perspectives over local interest.  We are not at all optimistic that the wild land argument will cut any ice with the Minister in the Scottish Executive when this case comes to him for decision.

So we have a long way to go to win even a modest degree of political and popular support for the value of wild land, and your prospectus for large-scale wilderness conservation with lots of reintroduced predators is just a wee bit over the furthest horizon - out there in Yellowstone in fact.

22 September 2003

I think you need to be careful about the human exclusion angle - what about the livelihoods that could be gained by a wide variety of people from crafts and different forms of visitor experiences in such places (inc Beaver watching!?)