1Frame4Nature | Amplifying the Big Picture

What YOU Can Do: 

  • Learn about your local habitats and wildlife and speak passionately to friends, family and colleagues—enthusiasm is infectious.
  • Identify ways in which wildlife could do better and do your best to make it happen. Here in the UK for example, many local councils have a policy of strimming roadside verges. Write to your local representative explaining that these verges are natural corridors for plants, insects, birds and mammals. Rewilding starts with connectivity.

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye is most people’s idea of what Scotland should look like but ecologically, it’s been stripped bare. Photo by Peter Cairns

iLCP Senior Fellow Peter Cairns‘s 1Frame4Nature: Amplifying the Big Picture

Over the years I hope I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that travelling the globe on short-lived smash and grab photographic raids is great fun but makes little difference to conservation. I’ve learned that conserving wildlife and wild places has very little to do with wildlife and wild places and everything to do with people and their value systems. Combining these two lessons led me to an obvious question a few years back: Where can I work most effectively? Clearly the answer lay close to home. Telling compelling visual stories is much easier when you know the lie of the land—ecologically, culturally and politically—and can access its photographic potential 24/7.

Tax incentives in the seventies led to much of Scotland’s carbon-storing peatland being over-planted with exotic conifers. Photo by Peter Cairns

For the last two years I’ve been working as part of a small team of media professionals—photographers, filmmakers, writers and designers—articulating and amplifying the case for a wilder Scotland. Despite the idealised “wild” Scotland portrayed in tourist brochures, it is in fact one of the most ecologically depleted nations on Earth. All of its large carnivores are gone, along with most of its large herbivores. Only 2% of Scotland is under native woodland, with most of its peatlands drained and its uplands over-grazed and biologically impoverished. And significantly, many of its more remote communities are struggling to survive.

The return of ospreys in 1954 after being persecuted to extinction was a symbolic turning point in Scotland’s relationship with the natural world. Photo by Peter Cairns

Rewilding is defined as the mass restoration of ecosystems and if ever there was a country ripe for rewilding, it has to be Scotland. Given the stark reality of its ecological bank balance, change is both desirable and inevitable. Or so you would think.

Today, rewilding efforts are gathering momentum across the country like here in Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms. Photo by Peter Cairns

Whilst the ecological case for rewilding is largely beyond debate, resistance comes from the threat of change. People don’t like change; especially when it is perceived to be forced upon them. The strong Highland traditions of deer stalking, grouse shooting and crofting have created a landscape that is largely bereft of the biotic communities that, given a chance, could once again flourish. Many traditionalists however, argue that this bare landscape should not only be conserved but celebrated; that the Highlands aren’t broken so why try fixing them?

After a 400-year absence, beavers have finally been reintroduced into the Scottish highlands. Photo by Peter Cairns

It is then cultural differences that lie at the heart of a more fundamental question: What should Scotland look like? For now, the answer to that depends on who you’re asking and what motivates their personal values. As photographers, as visual communicators, we need to understand and respect those varied values but at the same time seek out common ground with which to start the journey of informing, inspiring and influencing change.

The role of natural processes such as predator-prey interactions and nutrient cycling is now being more widely understood. Photo by Peter Cairns

That doesn’t happen quickly or easily but using visual imagery tied to a narrative that doesn’t tell people what to think but simply asks them to look, can help unlock the door to people’s values and ultimately motivate that change.

One of Scotland’s first major forest restoration initiatives started in Glen Affric 25 years ago. Photo by Peter Cairns

Learn more about SCOTLAND: The Big Picture here: www.scotlandbigpicture.com