The Amazon on our Doorsteps.
Earlier this year, some EF!ers went to see Alan Watson at Trees for Life in Scotland. He says: “Deforestation and loss of biological diversity are now global phenomena, and I believe it is vital for the world to have positive examples showing how the return of natural forests can help heal degraded lands... Trees for Life has been working since 1987 to restore the Caledonian forest in the Highlands of Scotland, one of the most biologically impoverished parts of the world, where only one percent of the original forest remains.”
Scotland is in the position now that the Amazon will be in in less than 100 years time (unless, EF! and others can make a difference). The industrial system that was born in the British Isles began by razing its own environment to the ground, then moved further afield, poisoning the Americas. Asia, Africa and so on. This is one of the beauties of the TfL project - it sets a global precedent for wilderness restoration and the rejection of civilisation, in the very place where industrialism originated.
Alan Watson has a strong commitment to the idea of wilderness. As an article in the ‘Independent’ newspaper stated: his scheme has “no room for ‘sustainable’ woodland, worked and marketed for timber. When he says he wants a natural wilderness he means exactly that. No exploitation, just woods.” This is just the kind of vision we need in the badly degraded and tamed British landscape, and with the return of the wildwood, the malignant, oppressive influence of modern-day society will progressively ebb away.
EF! in the U.S. has a slogan: “As wolves die, so does freedom” - the last waif on these islands was killed in 1743. We have forgotten the meaning of freedom - with projects, such s TfL, we have a chance to remember.
Watson's plan is truly vast in scale; he is targetting a 600 square mile area of largely bare, roadless hills in the North-Central highlands, which happens to contain three of the best surviving forest remnants. Using these remnants as a nucleus, his ultimate aim is to reafforest 150,000 hectares, and when possible, to reintroduce the large mammal species that previously inhabited the area.. This means that we could be seeing brother beaver, sister bear, wolf, lynx and bison return to these shores before long, thanks to the efforts of TfL and others. There is already talk of establishing a wolf pack on the Isle of Rhum, off the Western Coast of Scotland.
This is another important symbolic move - experts reckon that most of the large mammals with which we share the planet will have been rendered extinct shortly into the next century. To reintroduce species shows that this trend is not inevitable or irresistible.
TfL are keen on the idea of earth repair work. An apparently irreversibly damaged piece of land can be brought back from the brink. This shows that humanity can co-operate with nature instead of trying to dominate it, and that 'nature bats last'. No matter how hard the power junkies and business-beasts try, nature (meaning ordinary humans as well as other species) will ultimately overwhelm them and their tarmac.
EF! needs to widen what is at present a very narrow definition of direct action. One member of the TfL work party describes his experiences as follows - "my week in Glen Affric was wonderful because it made me realise that I, as an individual, could do something constructive to help heal our Earth. Not, only could I do something, but that it was only through the efforts of everyone that changes happen." He took these lessons and applied them to other areas of his life. As a graphic designer, when asked to design a report for a temperate forest-destroying pulp-mill in BC (see elsewhere in this issue), he at first refused, and later resigned his job. His experiences can be summed up in that buzzword, 'empowerment', a feeling familiar to many EF!ers. What TfL are doing is as much 'direct action' as blockading an ICI plant, or a bull-dozer at Twyford Down. We need to recognise that we can help to actively heal the earth, as well as carrying out the essential work of stopping business and governments from wounding it further.
WHAT CAN I DO?,
We were amazed at the scale of destruction in the areas we looked at. We are all used to the idea of far-away places being ravaged deserts, but here is something on our own doorsteps which needs to be done. No more buying newsletters about death and destruction, here's some people doing direct action right here, and they need help. There are a series of 9 work weeks in Glen Affric between March and June this year. Glen Affric is still a beautiful place to be, and if you can leave it better than you found it, then this could be a REAL example of that much abused non-word, 'eco-tourism'. The work involves planting native Scots pine and other related tasks. If you can't make the time for this, you could support them by becoming a member, finding out more (so you can tell other people) and perhaps doing some fundraising.
There are many similarities between EF!'s outlook and that of Trees for Life. We would thus urge all EF!ers to support them. You, as well as the Caledonian forest, will be the richer for it.
They can be contacted on 0309 691292, or: Trees for Life, The Park, Findhorn Bay, Forres. IV36 0TZ. We suggest you put a donation in to cover their costs in replying. If you would like to do something about the rest of this devastated isle, please contact SDEF!... Perhaps we can get something started.
- Noddy, MA.