Science

‘The ideal situation is what we should be aiming for’ – New Life for the Land #OISF

“We are on the Southern edge of the Arctic. We have a good climate for the North”

Derek Pretswell
Balmacaan Wood

‘New Life for the Land and Wildlife and People’ – the title of Derek Pretswell’s talk for the Orkney International Science Festival on Tuesday 6th of September, basically summarised his whole presentation.

This inspiring talk from top ecologist Derek Pretswell took us on a learning journey about the power of trees to transform our land and living environments.

The talk included many slides illustrating the places much farther north than Orkney and Scotland where trees thrive. The landscape we see which we think of as natural in our islands and across the Highlands has been made by us through how we have used it and the introduction of sheep.

Trees control the water table and recycle nutrients. As their leaves drop into lochs and fresh water areas they affect the aquatic system increasing the biodiversity of life. The action of their roots reduces soil erosion – an increasing problem as heavy downpours rush down mountain and hill sides.

Trees enhance our urban places, contributing shade, reducing the effect of human pollution and are bonnie things to look at – really important for all our wellbeing.

The 800 year old Wych Elm in Beauly, still beautiful and giving immense pleasure to those who see it

Derek Pretswell’s talk moved onto how we can change things because there is a mindset in our national institutions and amongst politicians which resists the need to change.

‘The ideal situation is what we should be aiming for’, explained Derek Pretswell. ‘Don’t focus on the problem – move towards the goal.

‘Why don’t we think generationally?’

Politicians think in blocks of 5 year plans – because that’s the usual run of a government. Organisations like the RSPB, Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage etc: are like slow moving juggernauts, bound by legislation and preserving a Past which is in actuality a very recent Past.

Derek Pretswell’s solution was to think holistically, describing what must be done as developing a web of actions and ideas. He stressed the importance of using local resources under local control within a national framework. An annual ground rent he said and a Universal Basic Income would allow firstly the funding of the local initiatives and give people the opportunities to participate.

We need to change how we view and manage Scotland’s land ‘so that it is functioning ecologically’, he added. And at the heart of all of this is quality of life – for us as humans but also for all life forms we share this planet with.

Click on this link: Orkney International Science Festival Talks are available to view on their YouTube Channel

And now some trees we have in Orkney

Fiona Grahame