Living in Harmony with the Natural World

Despite not being a huge movie buff, there are a few films which have helped to shape the way in which I live my life. Since childhood ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ has reminded me of the sheer joy in being alive and appreciating my lot, even during the darkest days. In recent years ‘The Bucket List’ and ‘Julie and Julia’ have inspired various adventures and, indeed, my blog. Since moving to the Highlands, I’ve found less and less time to go to the cinema, to the extent that I’ve only set foot inside the Inverness multiplex once during the last three years. My winter evenings have been filled with Gaelic classes, concerts and various photography talks and workshops. Somehow, I just keep forgetting that the cinema is an option. I haven’t been to see ‘The Revenant‘ yet and, on account of its gory content, I will probably have to give it a miss. That said, one thing that hasn’t passed me by is Leonardo DiCaprio’s acceptance speech for his Oscar for his performance in this movie. Here’s what he had to say:

“Making ‘The Revenant’ was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history… Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed… Let us not take this planet for granted.” – Leonardo DiCaprio

Craig Castle
Scottish Natural Heritage warns that climate change will lead to alterations in the landscape, including “effects on soils and vegetation, farming and forestry, rivers and coast, hills and lowlands and even buildings.” All of these elements are seen here at Craig Castle on the Black Isle.

Climate change is a divisive topic. Many people are adamant that global warming is a myth. Some are perhaps too scared by the prospect of climate change to face up to the reality of it. Others, like me, are convinced that the current warming of our planet has been caused by humankind and action is required to combat what has become the biggest threat facing our species, and indeed, most species on Earth. I could be accused of nostalgia but, when I think back to growing up in the 1990s, I can recall more distinct seasons, warm sunny summers, cold snowy winters and fewer extreme weather events, compared with nowadays. In one of my recent posts, ‘Ice in the Sun: Navigating through a Highland Winter‘, I reflected on the bizarre weather we had in 2015, with some parts of the country experiencing warmer temperatures on the winter solstice than on the summer solstice. We no longer have to look to the polar latitudes for proof that global warming is a reality; the evidence is right under our noses.

Research at Kew Gardens has revealed a shift in the average flowering date of the common snowdrop over the decades. Snowdrops typically opened in late February in the 1950s but have been opening in January since the 1990s.

We all have a responsibility when it comes to our environmental legacy. I try to do my bit. I recycle as much as I can; I buy organic veg grown locally and follow a vegetarian diet; I drafted this blog whilst travelling by train when I had the option of taking the car; and I only set foot on an aeroplane once in a blue moon. I want to do more but am frustrated by the spartan bus service on the north side of the Black Isle; the absence of Park and Ride facilities in the Inverness area; the eye-watering price tags attached to hybrid and electric cars; and the current UK Government’s anti-renewable energy, pro-fossil fuel agenda. Nevertheless, we have much to be proud of. Scotland is a world leader in the fight against climate change. We’re on track to meet the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by the year 2020 and to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42%, relative to 1990 levels, in the same time frame. However, it’s not a battle we can fight alone. A truly international effort is needed if we are to turn the tide against the waves of change lapping at our shores.

Puffins, Lady's Bed, Isle of May
In 2015, Puffins were added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of species ‘at risk’ of global extinction. Puffins are particularly susceptible to rising sea temperatures which is affecting their prey of sand eels and other small fish. Numbers have declined dramatically in the North Atlantic and Scottish colonies have been affected, including those on St Kilda and Fair Isle.

Last week I witnessed a rare event. The dark skies above Scotland were momentarily lit up by a bright flash as a meteor burned up in the atmosphere. In the last seven days I’ve also been fortunate enough to witness a stunning display of the aurora borealis from the back door of my house. These astronomical events serve as a gentle reminder of the bigger picture. We are an incredibly evolved species inhabiting a beautiful and remarkable planet brimming with life in a galaxy filled with hostile worlds. We need to break down the political boundaries that divide us and work in harmony to leave an environmental legacy that our children will be proud to inherit. My views on climate change are already firmly established but I hope that Leonardo DiCaprio’s high profile speech and performance in ‘The Revenant’ will strike at the heart of movie goers around the world.

Dolphin, Sound of Sleat
Whale and Dolphin Conservation warns that the rate of climate change may result in some populations of these marine mammals being unable to adapt: “Changes in sea temperature, freshening of seawater, acidification, sea level rise, loss of icy polar habitats and the decline of food sources are just some of the many threats posed by climate change.”

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29 thoughts

  1. A very well written and passionate article. I hope a lot of people read it, take note and follow your example of taking public transport and recycling, etc. Nice photos too !

    1. Thanks Mike. It’s crazy to think back to my childhood (only 20 years ago!) when it was the norm for everything to get chucked in the bin except for glass. A lot of positive changes have been made in a relatively short space of time but there’s still a long way to go.

    1. Thanks Tess. The WordPress photographic challenge is certainly a great way to get you thinking about different themes and finding photographs to match! This is one topic that is very close to my heart 🙂

  2. I saw your picture of puffins and was ready to say “yay puffins they’re my favourite seabird”… then I read the article, and the caption. I am horrified to think that puffins are endangered now. It’s frightening how quickly it’s all happening and how nobody seems to be paying attention or noticing any of it. The thing that makes me most astounded? The amount of stupid parents sitting in any given school car park (primary or secondary) at the end of the day, for up to forty-five minutes, with the engine running so they can listen to the radio. When I’m doing supply teaching I want to tap on their smug overpriced windows and say “Earth called, it wants its O-zone layer back.” But it’s not sensationalist enough for people any more so everyone’s ignoring the problem, and the average person can’t do an awful lot to change the world, the policymakers need to legislate factories and recycling (my recycling gets collected every 2 weeks, and they only take 4 types of thing, it’s ludicrous) and subsidize rail and other non-petrol-based public transport, and we need more non-fossil-fuel power plants instead of idiots protesting about the (now very very safe – I’m a qualified science teacher so I know this) nuclear power plants and wind farms scheduled to be built. I get so mad at people protesting wind farms – do they not seem to have worked out that if the farmer’s willing to put up a wind farm, then if he doesn’t, then 5 years down the line he’s likely going to sell his land for housing developments??? I’d rather have a view of fields and windmills, than someone else’s house, personally. Sorry this was long – this topic never gets talked about by anyone and your discussion really got me thinking!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Puffins are my favourite seabird too and, like you, I was horrified to find out a few months ago that they’re now red listed. There’s been lots of progress at local, national and international levels over the years but still more action is needed. It’s hugely frustrating to see the Tories pushing fracking and cutting incentives for onshore wind (especially when the latter has more support amongst the British public). I’m glad this post got you thinking and it makes me want to address more environmental issues in my blog in future.

      1. I would love to adopt some puffins if it would save them, but there’s no chance I could provide them with what they need when the environment cannot. I think this whole fracking thing stinks of a get rich quick scheme, they don’t care who they hurt, and why did the last government cut solar power discounts for homeowners in favour of that awful Green Deal? Oh I just wish the EU would do something about it all!

    1. That’s a shocking statistic. I hadn’t previously heard about this so have looked it up and I see that slavery and environmental destruction is the theme of Kevin Bales’ new book ‘Blood and Earth’.

  3. Wow! Brilliant one Karen. .and ‘The Revenant‘ Do try to see it… 🙂 keep clicking and smiling Karen


  4. Love the photos! And I really love puffins, they are so gorgeous.
    We should really take care of the planet I agree.
    I was taught at a young age not to throw trash anywhere but a trashcan. I am still that way.
    Plus, I also have some native american indian in me too. That probably surfaces too. 🙂
    I like leaving no footprints where ever I might go.

    1. Thank you! I could quite happily watch Puffins all day and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the islands again this year. I like the maxim “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”. 🙂

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