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floods in the monsoon season for decades to come. The issue is not about saving the planet, but about saving people who are living in poverty, particularly children and old people. Relatively speaking, those in the comfort of the industrialised north are going to be fine – we can, at least for a while, buy our way out of trouble. And in all probability the planet is going to be fine. But generations of poor Africans and Asians are not going to be fine. And that is where it is true that anything at Arienas is irrelevant. Much harder choices have to be made, and those choices will impinge on the way we live now.

This is not about saving the planet. What you and I feel anxious about – subliminally or not – is hanging on to our hugely enjoyable, vanity-satisfying, consuming, burning, luxury way of life. As well as attending to buildings and land, we have to stop burning oil. Those wonderful Arienas woods are surrounded to the south and west by huge plantations of Sitka spruce created by the Forestry Commission in the 1930s. Those plantations now produce 50,000 tonnes of softwood a year. Between 5,000 and 10,000 tonnes of wood is left as waste on the ground. The timber is currently selling at about £45 a tonne. But the energy in that tonne is equivalent to at least £100-worth of oil. We neglect it because the financial incentives to use it are not there. It is for the state to provide those incentives, as the market cannot. The core principle in mitigating climate change is simple enough – and revels in its simplicity: attach cheques to good ideas. A climate breakdown mitigation fund, both within countries and globally, is the necessary next step. We are caught in something of an irony trap. We are insulated by the way we live from many root realities of the climate crisis, but the thing that is insulating us is the very thing that is threatening global wellbeing. We are living in a kind of comfort bubble whose outer, unfelt edges are eating away at the world beyond our knowing. It’s as if the consuming north were one of those walled and gated holiday resorts on the Indian Ocean. Outside: poverty, degradation, disease and early death. Inside: riches, comfort, ignorance and an occasional flutter of concern.

But surely we should be interested in imagining and investing in our own future. That is what the blessed trees on the shores of Loch Arienas are doing, slowly drawing from their surroundings the materials for their future persistence, laying down the structures that will guarantee their own health and allow their seeds to develop and disperse. As each generation reaches its term, the organisms of rot ensure that its successors will have nutrients on which to thrive. It is not a place of dreamlike sweetness. Like every ecosystem, it contains competition, exploitation and denial; it is an unforgiving theatre of struggle and destruction, its beauty at least partly in that fitness, that necessary vigour and resilience. But it is not self-consuming or myopic to the point of idiocy. It is, in fact, a model of what we might be.

This is an edited extract from Notes from Morvern, by Adam Nicolson, published by the Andrew Raven Trust.

Issue 317

“In nature’s economy … the currency is not money, it is life.”

– Vandana Shiva Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability and Peace

Resurgence & Ecologist


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