The 'environment' can mean different things to different people, but to the Highlander it is the natural environment that comes to mind. The surroundings he lives in, the air he breathes and the climate he enjoys are all part of our Highland environment; and what an environment!
An outstanding natural environment
Recognised for their stunning scenery, the Highlands and Islands are more than that. The clarity of the atmosphere, the purity of the waters, the quiet that lets one hear a dog bark miles up the hill, the variety and abundance of wildlife all draw visitors from far and wide. The beaches and machair of the Western Isles, the majestic grandeur of the Torridon Hills, the remnants of ancient Caledonian forests, the play of light on water and land are but a few of the region's natural attractions. The Highlands today are certainly one of Europe's last great wildernesses.
But a human environment too!
The Highlands and Islands - a 'natural environment' in the true sense? Well, not quite. The Highland landscape of today owes much to human activity. Open moorland expanded as forests were felled for farmland, pasture, timber and fuel. Regular muir burning for grouse, sheep and deer have produced the patterns seen on heather hillsides. Large plantations of non-native conifers cover the steep slopes of the glens. Big dams hold back reservoirs for hydro power and pylon lines straddle the countryside.
Looking after this environment
Oil tankers sailing through the Minch could threaten the marine environment. Wind farms could become an eyesore. Hillsides could be damaged by constant trampling and the wildlife disturbed by too many walkers and climbers. So easily could the pressures of human activity upset the balance.
Many interests are involved in looking after our Highland environment - e.g. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and the John Muir Trust. But local people have interests too; they live and work there. The Highlands need economic development just like everywhere else. It is essential then, for the good this great environment, that all seek the best way forward with conservation in mind.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
'The Highlands and the Roots of Green Consciousness, 1750-1900'
Proceedings of the British Academy, v. 76, c. 1991, pp 237-63
'West Highland and Hebridean Landscapes: Have They a History without Runrig'
Journal of Historical Geography, 19, 1993, pp 383-98
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