In the late 90s MFML teacher Dan Peppiatt studied Human Environmental Science. Dan reflects on what he studied then and how he believes change depends on us.
Imagine every concerned person, from my five year old nephew to my 95 year old nan took action to create change. Imagine each of them picked up an acorn or a chestnut or hazelnut or hawthorn berry or an apple pip and planted it in a yoghurt pot at home. Millions of tiny saplings would grow on windowsills, all over the country: in the towns and cities and countryside. Imagine the potential of what that could mean.
The need to take immediate action
As most people are aware we need to limit future and further releases of greenhouse gases. The half life of ‘surplus’ carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is estimated at 40 years. That means that the CO2 from your first car, 20 years ago will still be having a knock on environmental effect at least 20 years from now. This doesn’t even take potent greenhouse gases such as methane which is now releasing as permafrost melts, but at least that does have a relatively short half life in comparison. Gulp!
An energy dependant world
Whether you really believe that our government, let alone some of the less concerned governments of the world will take adequate action is debatable. I personally don’t. Even if they miraculously did, becoming carbon neutral in the next 5 years would require an insane amount of fuel and resources.
Then what happens to all of the old technology obsolete products? Recycle them? That is a massively energy intensive process in itself. Bury them? Cue decomposition and release of more gases down the line.
At the end of the day we have created a massively energy dependant world. I know next to nobody, including myself, who is willing to give up their car or their central heating. Everyone enjoys their freedom, their comfort, certainly in the western world.
Action to create change
Pressure on governments is invaluable. I spent much of my late teens involved in road protests and direct action, but yet it still relies on others to make a change on our behalf and that can actually feel disempowering, you are placing your hopes in the lap of other, often disinterested parties with alternate interests.
Inspiration to take action to create change
This autumn I was driving across the hills near us, as far as the eye could see there were a patchwork of fields with nothing but a few hedgerows and scattered tiny copses. I drove for over ten miles and in that time saw thousands of hectares of grass and around a dozen bored looking cows.
We quite rightly worry about the deforestation and fires raging in the amazon. Did you know, however, by percentage forest cover we are one of the least forested countries in the world. This isn’t even a recent thing and may have begun as early as the Bronze age. We deforested our green and pleasant land long before amazonian loggers even thought about supplying western countries with timber.
Why creating forests is a transformative action
After the oceans; trees and vegetation provide one of the greatest sinks for atmospheric CO2. They bind it back up as they grow, it becomes the leaves, branches and trunks. I’m not naive, I know one day they too will die and release that CO2 again but we can establish a continuing cycle of planting and reforestation. On top of this, our agricultural monoculture system sees us with scant habitats for insects and wildlife.
Modern agriculture: blessing or curse?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming agriculture or farmers at all. Modern agriculture works amazingly well to feed an ever growing population. The supply and distribution network is pretty incredible considering the number of mouths that need to be fed. But there are vast swathes of agricultural land that are set aside unused. Add this to unused land such as people’s gardens. There is potential there to re-wild the land, not by planting massive lines of spruce or fir trees but by encouraging a mix of layers from tree to shrub, all supporting their own ecosystems. There is even the potential to move to forest garden type systems where they actually produce useful food at the same time.
Potential to take action and create change
Many countries are embarking on mass tree planting projects, groups such as Friends of the Earth are pushing for our government to do the same. In my opinion, there’s been little in the way of action from politicians aside from fine words. There are some government schemes available but they are treacherously slow and can take years. Once again we rely on others at our own peril.
Doing it for yourself
Agricultural land, without planning permission for residential use is actually quite cheap, especially if you group together and buy huge amounts of it. Equally there are probably landowners who would gladly entrust their land to groups that wanted to re-wild the land for all of the reasons I have discussed.
Think of all the people who aren’t involved in anything but want to do something. Imagine they all got together in local groups and bought loads of this land – real power back in the hands of the people. A real legacy we can leave for future generations: mixed environments sinking CO2, creating habitats for wildlife, providing amenity space – quiet, wild spaces that our minds and bodies need in an over-complex modern society.
Imagine every person from my 5 year old nephew to my 95 year old nan, picked up off the ground an acorn, or a chestnut, hazelnut or hawthorn berry and planted it in a yoghurt pot at home, millions of tiny saplings growing on window sills, all over the country, in the towns and cities and countryside. Imagine that they either grew in ever bigger pots or they were planted out in the garden, or taken to land that groups had purchased and planted back in the wild….
Massive grants of up to 75% are available from groups such as the woodland trust, to help purchase seedlings and they also advise and help plan planting strategies for diverse environment creation. It’s not just about planting masses of forest but the diversity within the forest matters too.
Take Action, create change, be the solution
Go out for a walk, find an acorn and plant it in a pot, or a tetrapak, or start a local group, find, beg, borrow, ask for, purchase some land, get good advice from the woodland trust of someone similar, create your own solutions. And remember not only are you growing a legacy, you are helping the soil.
About Dan Peppiatt:
Dan Peppiatt is unique. He explores natural movement patterns drawing from his other passions including surfing, paddle-boarding, martial arts and climbing. He encourages his students to experiment widely too. Dan draws his inspiration from nature. If you’ve been inspired to plant a seedling, you can share the result in Dan’s open Seedling Selfies group.