James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Guest Blog For Summit Clothing

A few weeks ago the folks at Summit Clothing asked for my opinion on a couple of interesting conservation and sustainability issues, for an upcoming blog on their new website.

I happily obliged, but was surprised by how difficult and controversial some of the issues are to discuss. This of course means that they are good questions!

It wasn’t just me they asked, famous mountaineer Alan Hinkes, Graham Uney from Wild Walks Wales and Paul Lewis from Peak Mountaineering contributed too.

The Questions:

1)     Scotland is considered by many to be the heart of the UK’s wild areas and none more so than the Cairngorms. With Scotland planning to be powered by 100% green power by 2050, the Cairngorm area (and ultimately its views) will be affected by the planned development of wind farms. How do you think the wild areas of the UK should go about taking responsibility for their fair share of the demand for green energy, and what are the consequences or benefits to your parts of the industry?

I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind still credibly doubts climate change, that’s an important thing to establish first. As such, everyone (I think/hope) would like to see Scotland solely powered by Green Energy. Of course, as with anything there are downsides, and I definitely agree that wind farms can be a blot on the landscape.

But it seems crazy to me that the outdoor community – who are certainly more in touch with the natural world than most – in places campaign so vigorously against wind farms. Energy problems and climate change will not simply go away.

So there must be a compromise, and I think that is what’s already happening (although many will probably disagree), with some areas being targeted and some spared. Where we criticize wind farms, we need to realistically think about possible alternatives.

I think there’s a lot of countries around the world looking to places like Scotland as an example, which they will follow. So lets welcome green energy, be proud that Scotland is daring to lead the way, be constructive about how they go about it and pat everyone on the back in 2050.

I know that probably sounds like an overly optimistic and naïve answer, but I’m only 23, so the optimism hasn’t been beaten out of me yet!

2)     12% of the UK’s wildlife is considered to be under threat of extinction. What has been your best experience of efforts to protect these species and what more do you think could be done to educate and inform people about the difference they can make?

I’ve worked quite a lot over the past few years with charities in Scotland aiming to restore large tracts of lost Caledonian Forest. I think a lot of people don’t realise just quite how forested the UK was just a few centuries ago, I certainly didn’t until I started researching it. So I think that’s a brilliant initiative.

I’m also particularly excited about the explosion of citizen science projects around these days. They make it wonderfully easy for people to dabble in fieldwork, recording what they see in their gardens and local areas and more! All this then gets fed back into national databases and makes a real difference, helping scientists to monitor long term trends.

We should remember though, that although we might think wildlife is under threat in the UK, its future looks an awful lot brighter than in many parts of the world.

Read More:

It’s fair to say that not everyone agrees with my perspective, and they make some very good points. You can read the full article on the Summit Clothing Blog.

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