wild flowers

“The trail of Homo Sapiens, serial killer of the biosphere, reaches to the farthest corners of the earth.” E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life.

I took E.O. Wilson with me to the West Coast but I didn’t read a page over the weekend. He is a fantastic writer, he makes science sing, but there is only so much I can read about our species’ malignant growth on the planet. And besides there was far too much life around me to read about death and destruction. While people across much of the UK were wading through floods we were walking through wild flower meadows crowded with orchids and exploring woodland full of ferns.


We had no telly and only a crackling radio in the kitchen to tell us that Harriet Harman seemed set to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. We talked politics a lot of the time (a house full of journalists and academics is like the cast for a Bremner Bird and Fortune sketch) but managed to hold off buying any newspapers. So it wasn’t till we were heading home, stopping for lunch at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar (where a cartoon on the wall celebrates the time Gordon Brown and John Prescott felt tectonic plates moving), that Peter picked up a stray Guardian to find news of the ‘real world’.

Floods, terrorism, and the continuing consequences of our folly in Iraq and Afghanistan. On every page I seemed to find some evidence for Wilson’s general opinion of the human species. When we are not chomping our way through the food chain we are trying to wipe each other out. In the last two weeks, of course, the news has got even more dramatic for west-centered views of the world. I sometimes wonder how it would look from a distant planet – imagine all these wars and terrorist attacks and how puny they must seem when the looming clouds of climate change will do so very much worse.

That weekend on the West Coast was a poignant reminder of how we really could live a more balanced life if we were not so hell bent on consumption. Around the house we stayed were the ruins of a more stable community: a hundred years ago they grew much of what they needed to eat, coppiced the woods for fire wood and fishing boats left plenty for the next season. There is still plenty of fish in the clear waters round Tayvallich but they need to keep out the trawlers that scrape the sea bed, smashing anything they don’t hoover up.

For all our gathering concern about climate change I wonder when any politician is going to be brave enough to tackle the reality: we are plundering our planet to death. Sooner or later someone is going to have to look at the problem of consumption. So far it doesn’t seem likely that it will be Gordon Brown.

But there’s no time for any more of this just now (and not because the end of the world is nigh). This Saturday two interesting events take place which combine my two obsessions. Live Earth concerts will try to do for Climate Change what Live 8 did for poverty (?) and the Glasgow Rally against Terrorism hopes to demonstrate that ordinary decent people of any faith and none really want to live in harmony together.

I would like to go to the rally but I won’t be here. We are heading west again, this time for Barra and South Uist. I wonder what the rest of the world will look like from there?