Findhorn Foundation » Findhorn Foundation spiritual community, education centre, ecovillage Sat, 28 Feb 2015 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Risk! Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:31:06 +0000 read more...)]]>

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

T S Eliot, poet

Life is not defined by the number of breaths we take, but rather by those moments that take our breath away – and one of my most memorable was when I took a giant leap of faith and stepped over the cliff-edge alongside Maletsunyane Falls in the African kingdom of Lesotho.


On the world's highest single-drop commercial abseil you are just this tiny yellow dot alongside a thundering waterfall

None of the preparatory training or gut-wrenching middle-of-the-night moments of fear equipped me for the breathtaking reality of the next few seconds. First I spiralled alarmingly on the end of the rope, gradually stabilised and stopped spinning, then realised with a sense of wonder that all fear had evaporated, to be replaced by adrenaline-charged awe and gratitude.

The view was like no other I’d ever known, especially as I dropped lower and lower until I was engulfed in spray from the waterfall. This is one way of confronting a fear of heights, although the surprise was that it was magical beyond my wildest imaginings. This is living, I thought, picturing all those poor souls toiling indoors in offices far removed from the loving and exhilarating embrace of Mother Nature.

Maletsunyane Falls might lack the sheer thundering spectacle of Victoria Falls, where the mighty Zambezi River plunges over a series of gorges separating Zimbabwe and Zambia to earn its status as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Nor does it pull tourists with the power of Iguazu Falls between Brazil and Argentina, or Niagara on the US-Canadian border. But it is significantly higher than any two of this famous trio combined.


Note the phony smile as Geoff pretends that he's not scared

And better still, if you are an adrenaline junkie, it provides the setting for the world’s highest single-drop commercial abseil – the dizzying 204-metre descent guarantees it a place in the Guinness Book of Records!

I’d ostensibly signed up for the abseil to help my friend Inga Hendriks confront her terror of heights, while in truth I was meeting my own demons and learning about faith and trust. “What if the rope tangled or snapped? What if the mechanism jammed?” I’d tortured myself with all those questions before discovering the sheer joy of the experience.

Clad in a yellow waterproof jacket and protective helmet, I pondered the words of my host Jonathan Halse, who explained: “The abseil brings you down to earth. You are just a yellow dot hanging next to these giant cliffs that are millions of years old. It gives a sense of scale and a measure of your importance in the scheme of things.”

This adventure was back in 2008 and since then I’ve had many more opportunities to test my theories about the importance of sucking the juice out of life. When I’m 90 and sitting in my rocking chair, I don’t plan to look back on any regrets. Fears maybe, regrets no.


Mission accomplished ... Geoff (left) at the South African scientific and research base in Antarctica

At the beginning of 2011 I scared myself silly during an expedition in Antarctica where I became the first person to drive a conventional 4×4 from the edge of the ice shelf some 300km inland to the South African research and scientific base. Once, when in the grip of a terrible dread, I even wondered if I might die in this frozen and lonely place.

Instead I encountered indescribably beautiful landscapes and the magnificence of the human spirit. It is an impossibly harsh and dangerous world that seems to bring out the best in us, and has done so for more than a century of exploration.

Entertainer and writer Andrew Denton summed up my feelings when he said: “If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater: the only place on Earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it!”


Fears forgotten, Inga in party mode

A few months after my personal mini-exploration of the white smudge at the bottom of the world map, I went from Petrolhead to Pilgrim, turning my back on my former life of money, materialism and expensive cars. I chose instead to walk with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth. And while it should have been scary, it mostly wasn’t, a strong sense of purpose propelling me forward.

Now, at Findhorn, I continue to explore inner and outer landscapes with the challenge – and the gift – of meeting my true self along the way.

Probably my greatest fear is of living a life of mediocrity where I don’t fulfill my potentials. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said it nicely: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk … in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

I guess my daughter Bonnie understood that sentiment when she gave me a present of a coffee mug that features a quote by Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations with God trilogy. It says simply: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Thanks Bonnie.

]]> 0
Dorothy granted indefinite UK residency Tue, 10 Feb 2015 10:12:11 +0000 read more...)]]> Dorothy Maclean has been granted UK residency that could see her through to her 105th birthday and beyond.


Dorothy Maclean with her residence permit

More than a half century after co-founding the Findhorn-based spiritual community that continues to attract thousands of visitors and seekers to north-eastern Scotland, the 95-year-old author and spiritual teacher has received a letter from the Home Office awarding her residency until 2025.

And a comment on her plastic residency card, which is known as a biometric residence permit, adds: “Indefinite leave to remain.”

A delighted Dorothy, who is a Canadian citizen, joked that she was ‘legal’ for another 10 years and recalled the challenges a few days earlier when she had needed to have her thumb and fingerprints electronically recorded in Inverness.

Although each human fingerprint is unique, detailed and surprisingly durable, there was difficulty getting hers to register clearly and her long-time friend John Willoner helped by applying gentle pressure on her hand.

John is a schoolteacher who first came to the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park in 1967 to join founders Dorothy, Peter and Eileen Caddy and their three young boys at the nucleus of what became the Findhorn Foundation community. He is one of an enthusiastic team of carers who help in whatever way they can, some community members accompanying her on her daily walks around The Park.


Dorothy and long-time friend John Willoner

Regardless of the weather she can be seen walking, using the support of two sticks, and is quick to explain that wintry conditions hold no fears for her. “I’m a Canadian. I love the snow.”

Her presence is an inspiration to many of us, as is her enduring legacy of connection with the intelligence of nature.

“As I grow older, or more experienced shall we say, I realise the power of love. It can make anything happen. And it’s appropriate in any situation. When nothing else works, it works.

“Love? To me it’s the founding energy … and it’s like the white light that is split into all the colours. Only love is split into everything that is. Light and dark are polar opposites but love contains the dark – it contains everything, it embraces everything.”

Her wisdom and pioneering history of co-creation with nature find expression in a number of her books including her autobiography, Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic.

]]> 0
Black leopard reaching out to humans Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:17:05 +0000 read more...)]]> A magnificent black leopard named Spirit is reaching out to millions through a YouTube clip, taken from the full-length documentary The Animal Communicator.


Spirit, the black leopard

The formerly abused animal, that had known the worst of human behaviour while a captive in a European zoo, is now living in a more spacious predator sanctuary in South Africa and touching hearts and minds with his real and virtual presence.

A pilot version of the film previewed in Findhorn’s Universal Hall before the documentary’s public launch and during the past few months the video clip has gone viral and enjoyed more than two million viewings.

It showcases the inspiring work of South African interspecies communicator Anna Breytenbach who demonstrates that modern humans can talk to animals and have them talk back, just as their ancestors and all indigenous people did routinely.

“You have to have a quiet mind and an open heart,” she explains. “It is a conversation in unconditional love.


Anna camping out in South Africa's Knysna Forests

“Animals pick up our emotions which tend to be more authentic than thoughts – you can’t fake it with animals; you can’t lie to them.”

While she has been swamped with telephone calls, emails, messages and fan mail, the 13-minute YouTube video clip is adding enormous and welcome credibility to her role as a bridge between the species. “There’s a great awakening,” she says.

“The best thing about the response is that people are inspired to start communicating with their own animals right away. My advice is: ‘Definitely DO try this at home, folks!’

“The flipside personally is the gruelling travel/teaching schedule. There are organisers in 39 countries clamouring to host workshops, but we simply can’t get to most of them. In 2016 we’re taking a break from physical workshops to write, research and develop online learning materials that will serve more people globally with less impact on our precious planet’s resources.”


Anna with Geoff Dalglish at an elephant park

Later this year Anna returns to the Findhorn Foundation, which she regards as a pioneer of co-creation with nature, to co-host a six-day workshop on intuitive tracking and interspecies communication with legendary American master tracker Jon Young, who was her mentor.

As evidence of the huge upsurge in people’s desire to communicate with animals, the workshop, from 4-9 April, was fully subscribed within hours of being announced and the list of those hoping for a cancellation has also been closed.

“Jon and I are excited to be deepening the practicalities of intuitive sensing during this very holistic and experiential adventure. We’ve offered this journey in Germany, Botswana and the USA, so Findhorn is the first UK event.”

* You can watch the video of Spirit here, and a video of Anna giving a talk on interspecies communication in the Universal Hall in Findhorn here.

]]> 0
Dorothy Maclean – 95 years young Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:42:12 +0000 read more...)]]> Community co-founder Dorothy Maclean celebrates her 95th birthday today.

Her presence as she walks through The Park each day, taking her exercise and stopping frequently to enjoy the surroundings, is still an inspiration to many of us, as is her enduring legacy of connection with the intelligence of nature.

DorothyMacAlanWF2015-01-01It was during the early pioneering days that Dorothy communicated with the overlighting intelligence of the Nature kingdom, a practice which has become enshrined in the Findhorn Foundation’s three core principles of inner listening, service as love in action, and co-creation with the intelligence of nature.

While no longer active in the hubbub of daily Foundation life, she remains dedicated to following a path of love and service, her common mantra being “I just do what God wants me to do.”

Dorothy lives in the community and is seen attending many community gatherings and activities. She helped celebrate this year’s Polar Bear Swim arranged by long-standing Findhorn Community member Alan Watson-Featherstone, where the photo alongside was snapped just a few days ago.

Happy birthday Dorothy! With lots of love and blessings.

]]> 0
The traditional still holds Fri, 02 Jan 2015 15:04:59 +0000 read more...)]]> PolarBearSwim2015-1It’s a long-standing Findhorn tradition to arrange a New Year’s Day swim on Findhorn beach – the Polar Bear Swim. Regardless of the weather, each year a bunch of intrepid dippers brave the elements and take a quick plunge in the North Sea. This year, as with last year, we were blessed with weather mild by Scottish mid-winter standards – no snow or ice but an overcast day still crisply cold with the temperature not far above zero.

For some, like our guests who are here on one of our programmes, this is a memorable first time experience; for others who live here, this is a time-honoured way to see in the coming year and a ritual which they have carried out for many years.

PolarBearSwim2015-2For Alan Watson-Featherstone, a long-standing Findhorn Community member and Trees For Life founder and Executive Director, it is his 37th! He bused a group of hardy souls to Findhorn beach where they upheld this tradition, greeting the freezing temperatures with whoops of delight. It was low tide this year with the waves hardly rippling up the beach – a long run to reach the water’s edge.

It was then off to the hot tub to complete the ritual and warm up the fingers and toes. Until we do it all again in 365 days time.

]]> 0
Celebrating Moya! Wed, 31 Dec 2014 10:40:06 +0000 read more...)]]> 25 years generating over 2,000,000 Kwh (units) of Green Energy

It’s time to celebrate a community elder!​ Our first wind turbine Moya ​recently ​reached 25 years of age​. Over these many years she has watched the community grow along with our use of electricity at The Park.


Moya being installed in 1989

When John Talbot oversaw her arrival and installation in 1989, Moya stood on her own, capable of delivering up to 75kW of electricity to the community. There were times when this was enough to generate a small export, but by the mid-2000s Moya’s output could no longer satisfy the needs of the growing community in The Park and she was joined in 2006 by her three big (though younger) sisters.

Together, the four wind turbines are able to generate up to 750kW – ten times Moya’s capacity – when the winds are strong enough. In the 12 months to the end of October 2014 our wind turbines produced 15% more electricity than The Park consumed, making us a net exporter over this period.


Moya's three big sisters

At 25 years of age, Moya has been part of our community for longer than many of us living here. Twenty five years is a ripe old age for a wind turbine, and as with an ageing car, costly repairs are becoming more frequent. Findhorn Wind Park Ltd (FWP), who manage the wind turbines, had hoped to be able to replace Moya with a new turbine of larger capacity but this is not commercially viable at present. The result is that FWP are uncertain just how long Moya will remain with us.

So while she is still with us, let’s appreciate the presence of this elder in our community. Give thanks for her and the visionaries in New Findhorn Directions that worked to bring her here over 25 years ago.

]]> 0
Rewilding the Soul Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:44:03 +0000 read more...)]]>

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Frederick Buechner, writer and theologian

What would possess you to go alone into the wilderness without food or formal shelter, to do so at the scorching height of summer, and to pay perfectly good money for the dubious privilege?

GeoffPilgrimage299I’ve been asked that question more than once, enjoying the incredulity that invariably greets the idea of voluntarily going without food for four days and four nights, and invariably sleeping only fitfully between a rock and a hard place.

But the essence of a modern-day vision quest, or wilderness fast, is to leave the trappings of so-called civilised life behind and become totally immersed in the womb of nature while seeking a new way of being in the world. It’s a death and rebirth. And for a while it’s goodbye to watches, smart phones, computers, TV, jobs, deadlines and comforts we take for granted like hot water and flush toilets.

Instead it is an opportunity to discover that alone can become ‘all-one’ when we rediscover our identity within the natural world and experience the interconnectedness of all life. It’s a place of magic and mystery where time slows down, life is simple and, if we are lucky, we meet our true selves.

GeoffPilgrimage300Author and poet JRR Tolkien famously observed that not all those who wander are lost, with solo wanderings into the wild heart of nature often providing our most profound insights and visions. And of course the concept isn’t new, time apart from the everyday ignited the spark of inspiration for the leaders of the major religions. Jesus found his true calling after 40 days in the wilderness, Muhammed in a cave outside Mecca, Moses on Mount Sinai and Buddha beneath a bodhi tree.

This is my fourth quest in six years so I’m excited and well prepared for my re-entry into wild nature where I’m most at home and at peace. The trio of earlier wilderness fasts revealed clues to my soul purpose and propelled me towards Findhorn, where I knew that I’d find more answers and perhaps begin to ask better questions. Why are we here, what’s my part in it, why is Spaceship Earth in the mess that it is, and how do I find true happiness?

This time around I’m more at peace, but want confirmation that I’m on target with my plans to immerse myself in Findhorn Foundation co-worker development opportunities during 2015, also participating in a pilgrimage in California to raise global awareness around issues of the sanctity and preciousness of water. It’s called Walking Water, and in the company of Native American elders and other role players, a small group of us will walk from the source of the water in the parched Owens Valley to the thirsty county of Los Angeles, that is home to 10 million souls.

My guides on this latest journey to the core of my being are Capetonians Judy Bekker and Valerie Morris, who trained with the American School of Lost Borders, and in more than two decades have not lost a quester to terminal injury or illness, a lethal snake bite or deadly scorpion sting.

So what’s it all about?


Home was a rock overhang visited by bats

Author Bill Plotkin, a veteran wilderness guide, writes in his book Soulcraft: “The soul is like an acorn. Just as the acorn gives instructions to the oak about how to grow and what to become, the human soul – a type of spiritual blueprint – carries an image or vision that shows us how to grow, what gift we carry for others, the nature of our true life.”

He argues that at least once in our lives we are likely to experience emptiness and a sense that something important is missing and that our lives don’t make sense, having somehow disconnected from our soul purpose. It can be terrifying and disorientating.

For some a vision quest is a way to meet and understand our true selves.

“There’s so much more to who you are than you know right now. You are, indeed, something mysterious and someone magnificent,” he writes. “You hold within you – secreted for safekeeping in your heart – a great gift for this world.

“Although you might sometimes feel like a cog in a huge machine, and that you don’t really matter in the great scheme of things, the truth is that you are fully eligible for a meaningful life, a mystical life, a life of the greatest fulfilment and service.


The view from my 'cave' in the wilds

“To enter that life, you do not need to join a tribal culture or renounce your religious values. You do not necessarily need to quit your job, sell or give away your home, or learn to only eat vegetables. You do, however, need to undertake a journey as joyous and gratifying as it is long and difficult.”

He adds: “The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift – your true self – is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs.”

Sitting in a circle after our solo time, the faces are tanned, hair tousled and eyes clear-eyed, each of us radiating gratitude for nature’s gifts and harbouring a fresh resolve to forge ahead for a date with our individual destinies. We’re not the same people we were only days before, each having undertaken an inner and outer journey and seen some of the inspiring qualities of nature reflected within ourselves.


Enjoying a natural shower

I’ve shared a rock overhang with bats and largely banished my claustrophobia around confined spaces, also better understanding the gift of rain as a heavy downpour fills dry streams and creates waterfalls, transforming the landscape into a celebration of wondrous new life and possibility.

I stand naked and exhilarated on a rock as the water sluices over my body, feeling deliciously and gratefully alive. I’ve let go of many things that no longer serve me and am ready for whatever comes next. Yay!

]]> 0
Buried Alive! Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:30:35 +0000 read more...)]]>

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

In a great gift to myself during holiday time away from the Findhorn Foundation community, I signed up for a vision quest with two major objectives: to reconfirm my vows to Mother Earth and to confront my demons, facing my darkest fears.

Why, I wondered, had I recently suffered some severe asthma attacks, one of which scared me enough to visit a local Scottish hospital where I was put on a ventilator machine to assist my shallow, laboured breathing.

Rather than medicating the symptoms, I decided I needed to explore the underlying causes for my breathing challenges and a claustrophobia that had always made it uncomfortable to be in any confined space – even my snug-fitting sleeping bag!

Fish Hoek Beach

Fish Hoek Beach

I expected to examine these secret fears during the four days and nights of solo time in the wilderness that are at the heart of most modern 11-day vision quests. Instead, in what seemed like a flash of inspiration to me, it was suggested that before our departure from Cape Town for the mountains, I bury myself in the sand on the neighbouring Fish Hoek beach adjoining the home of facilitators Judy Bekker and Valerie Morris.

Other questers were invited to engage in individual tasks ranging from finding the fun again by playing games on the beach, creating an artwork from driftwood, shells or even litter, or perhaps climbing a tree in the local park to gain a different perspective on life.

Instead of a bit of childlike playfulness, my assignment triggered considerable anxiety and the clear realisation that I couldn't do this alone. I invited Simone Dale, a charismatic 34-year-old facilitator-in-training and leadership development coach, to help bury me and then hopefully assist in exhuming me from the Earth.

Digging my grave

Digging my grave

I felt rising panic as she packed the sand tightly around me, compressing it firmly enough to totally restrict movement of my limbs, while still allowing me space to take shallow breaths. Only my head projected from the sand and it was buffeted by a fresh wind that sent sand flying, clogging my ears and nostrils and getting into my mouth. Calling on my meditative experiences, I invited calm and the help of Mother Earth and the natural world to provide insights and possible solutions.

Simone was also reassuring: "I'll be nearby, if you need me." I'd shown her how my asthma pump worked and closed my eyes, handing over to a trust and faith that had deepened during my time at Findhorn.

Gradually a great peace spread over me, like a comforting blanket, and four significant childhood memories flooded my awareness.

My first asthma attacks had coincided with my time at nursery school in Durban when I was punished for being too talkative, the teacher taping my mouth over each morning and forcing me to sit still and watch while the other children played. It was cruel and excruciating.

geoffselfiewebThen there were three potentially life-threatening incidents in water. In one, my delight at grabbing at an octopus in the shallows turned to fear when it wrapped tentacles tightly around my arm and retreated deeper into a rocky lair. Moments after calling out to my Dad that I'd caught an octopus, I realised to my horror that the reverse was true and I couldn't prise myself free.

Perhaps more scary was the time I stepped onto a slick, muddy surface, not realising that a river flowed beneath it. I immediately sank and was sucked relentlessly towards and through a pipe that channelled the flow beneath a road bridge. Powerless to resist, I found myself being suctioned through a dark world devoid of any airspace.

But more was to come. On another occasion I was in the surf and was pulled relentlessly down and out to sea by a treacherous current. I kicked and clawed desperately for the surface, but to no avail, until a great peace began to overtake me. The transition from panic to peace was a totally beautiful otherworldly experience. I was drowning but why had I imagined this would be something terrifying?

Once again my Dad the Hero came to the rescue and strong hands lifted me from the ocean, coughing and spluttering while lamenting my departure from that magnificent place of love and peace. I'd liked it there!

With Simone and ready to be set free

With Simone and ready to be set free

Fast-forward to Cape Town a few days ago and I became aware that I was indeed one with the Earth and all life, feeling calm and connected while noticing a pulsing and a series of contractions through my body. It reminded me of a loving massage and I decided the slow, steady rhythm was the heartbeat of Mother Earth herself. What a blessing!

All fears around my predicament had evaporated and I decided that if ever I was in a place of terror and confinement again, or perhaps facing the ultimate transition from this life to the next, I had only to remember that near-drowning experience and the wonderful peace that had enveloped me then.

Nature had worked her magic – I felt refreshingly light and bright as a smile tugged at my lips and I cheerfully called out to Simone: "I'm done! Can you please help me out of here."


]]> 0
Rewilding Scotland and Welcoming Predators Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:37:38 +0000 read more...)]]>

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another

Mahatma Gandhi

A rewilded Scotland — from restored forests to the return of predators such as the lynx and wolf — is the vision of acclaimed writer George Monbiot and award-winning conservationist Alan Watson Featherstone of Trees for Life.

Their shared dream was presented recently at the University of Edinburgh as part of a Rewilding the World event, which echoes the theme of WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress held in Spain last year.


The wolf is the most demonised of creatures but has a vital role to play

With enthusiasm for the large-scale restoration of damaged natural ecosystems spreading quickly in the UK, the event highlighted the significant benefits that this could bring to Scotland, together with a discussion on its global and ethical implications.

George Monbiot said: "Rewilding offers us a big chance to reverse destruction of the natural world. Letting trees return to bare and barren uplands, allowing the seabed to recover from trawling, and bringing back missing species would help hundreds of species that might otherwise struggle to survive — while rekindling wonder and enchantment that often seems missing in modern-day Britain."

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life's Executive Director, said: "Rewilding offers an exciting vision of hope, through the positive and practical work of renewing and revitalising ecosystems. In the Highlands we have the opportunity to reverse environmental degradation and create a spectacular, world-class wilderness region — offering a lifeline to wildlife including beavers, capercaillie, wood ants and pine martens, and restoring natural forests and wild spaces for our children and grandchildren to enjoy."

The latest thinking on rewilding — including recent and remarkable scientific discoveries — has been captured in George Monbiot's acclaimed book, Feral, that lays out a positive environmental approach in which Nature is allowed to find its own way.

Peter Cairns' remarkable photograph captures the majesty of the sea eagle

Peter Cairns’ remarkable photograph captures the majesty of the sea eagle

Today few areas of the world are truly wild and Scotland is no exception. Long-term deforestation and overgrazing by too many deer and sheep has left the land depleted and barren, with much wildlife in retreat or missing altogether. The Caledonian Forest — Scotland's equivalent of a rainforest — is now one of the UK's most endangered habitats, with many of its rare species in danger of extinction.

Yet action across Scotland in recent years has offered signs of what could be achieved by restoring natural processes and protecting wilderness areas, and by reducing human interference in ecosystems.

In the Highlands considerable efforts to restore and expand native forests have led to the establishment of a new generation of trees — and their associated plants, insects and other wildlife — at many sites. High-profile successes include the re-establishment of healthy populations of birds of prey such as the sea eagle, osprey and red kite, and the trial reintroduction of European beavers at Knapdale in Argyll.

Rewilding is seeing the return of the beaver to Britain Photograph Laurie Campbell

Rewilding is seeing the return of the beaver to Britain Photograph Laurie Campbell

George Monbiot and Alan Watson Featherstone argue that far more needs to be done and outline how a more ambitious approach could bring wide-ranging benefits to wildlife and people, while putting Scotland on the map as a wildlife tourism global hotspot.

Scotland is also ideally placed to be a world leader in an international drive to slow, halt and reverse global forest loss. In a major announcement at the UN Climate Summit in September, world leaders, companies and campaigners pledged in the New York Declaration of Forests to restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forests by 2020 and end deforestation by 2030.

Future rewilding could involve the reinstatement of missing species, including apex predators such as the Eurasian lynx and even the wolf, both of which play a crucial top-down regulatory role in ecosystems.

While the reintroduction of predators is often proposed as a means of reducing excessive numbers of red deer in the Highlands, its main impact would likely be in disturbing deer populations, causing these animals to move more frequently so that their grazing is less concentrated in specific areas.

The lynx — already reintroduced to areas of Europe such as the Alps and Jura mountains — offers little threat to sheep, with no record of the animals ever attacking humans. It is a specialist predator of roe deer, a species which has multiplied in Britain in recent years and which holds back the natural regeneration of trees through intensive browsing.

The reintroduction of the lynx would help bring ecosystems into balance Photograph Peter Cairns

The reintroduction of the lynx would help bring ecosystems into balance Photograph Peter Cairns

While there would be many benefits resulting from reintroduction of the wolf, realistically this is a longer-term project because of its fierce reputation and the social and economic issues it poses. The reality is that it is a shy, intelligent and elusive creature that avoids contact with humans.

Leading volunteering conservation charity Trees for Life is restoring Scotland's ancient Caledonian Forest, and has pledged to establish one million more trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2018. To mark its 25th anniversary this year, it is offering expanded opportunities for volunteers to support its work and gain conservation experience.

George Monbiot — well known author and columnist for The Guardian who has praised the pioneering rewilding role of Trees for Life – is currently setting up an organisation to catalyse the rewilding of land and sea across Britain.

]]> 0
Wild! Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:50:52 +0000 read more...)]]>

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, poet

Wild … it is arguably my favourite word and it is both a delicious state of being and an enticing place.

GeoffPilgrimage297I love the way it rolls off the tongue, almost like a caress … or reverberates when I shout it, echoing off the walls of canyons or competing with the roar of the surf. It is a word and concept I thought about a lot as I walked thousands of kilometres with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth.

According to my dictionary, wild can mean uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable; primitive or not civilised; lacking discipline or restraint; or it can imply a state of excitement and enthusiasm. It draws me, like a moth to a flame, and friends joke that I’m in danger of going completely feral and heading into the wild, perhaps never to return to so-called civilisation. What a happy thought!

The word also increasingly finds itself in the titles of books, movies and organisations that inspire me. Into the Wild is a book and film that haunts me as it retraces the steps of Christopher McCandless, an idealistic young man who went in search of himself, braving the Alaskan wilderness on his own and eventually dying an excruciatingly painful death. But not before living his dream and being gifted with many valuable insights.

“If you want something in life, reach out and grab it,” he recommended. And he certainly did that, displaying a curiosity and fearlessness I admire.

Oscar Wilde famously declared: “Any map without Utopia on it isn’t worth looking at.” I guess Christopher McCandless had found his Utopia, although he might have figured a way out of his predicament and survived had he not thrown his maps away.

GeoffPilgrimage296Two years ago I had a similarly strong urge to walk into my own wild, something that I did on California’s Lost Coast when I defied repeated warnings about the danger of bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and even murderous cannabis farmers. Instead I enjoyed the loving embrace of wildness and wilderness, finding peace and solace away from humans. I celebrated aloneness without experiencing loneliness.

Last year was another wild feast as I walked as an ambassador for WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress, my 124-day, 1,500 mile pilgrimage serving as both a marketing tool and a spiritual quest. Sometimes I felt that I was a wolf – hunted, persecuted, demonised and revered by some – as I attempted to follow in their tracks, marvelling at their resilience and resourcefulness. Against all odds, they’re staging a remarkable comeback in parts of Europe. As farmers and rural villagers migrate to the cities, wildlife is returning to make the world a wilder place again.

While I’ve sometimes struggled to find a balance between nature connection and connecting to the virtual world, in my wanderings I’ve come to appreciate that there is space enough for both. I need technology to spread messages about the magnificence of Pachamama, our Earth Mother and source of all sustenance. After walking for a year without books, because of their punishing weight, I invested in a Kindle and now carry a library of treasured electronic books, among them Shadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, a Woman and the Wild, by Renee Askins. She famously helped reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

“Something mysterious happens when we look into the eyes of an animal, whether it be a panther or a poodle,” she writes. “We see something familiar looking back. Ourselves? Yes, but we also see an ‘other’. We see something that is in us and yet without us, something we recognise and yet is unfamiliar, something we fear but for which we long. We see the wild.”

GeoffPilgrimage295At a time when our relationship with nature is sadly diminished, we still turn to animals as a conduit to healing, she says. “And through our animals – those of our childhood, those in our homes, and those in the wild – we can begin to find our way back to being whole.”

This week I escaped into the pages of Wild, an autobiographical story of courage and redemption, as 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed walks the gruelling Pacific Crest Trail along the mountain spine of California and Oregon, ultimately meeting herself along the way. I identified with every painful step and recognised the kinship we develop with our backpack – even a punishingly overweight one nicknamed Monster.

Wild is due for release at the end of the year as a movie starring Reese Witherspoon (refreshingly sans makeup) and promises to be a hit if it is half as entertaining as the book.

After months of being based in one place, much of it parked in front of a computer screen, my longing for wildness is again stirring strongly, even though I begin every morning with a generous helping of nature on my solo sunrise walks through the nearby woods to the beach. My bare footprints are invariably the first in the freshly washed sand; my soul washed clean by the walk.

We all need wilderness and wildness in our lives, especially as so many of us are suffering what author Richard Louv has termed Nature Deficit Disorder. He wrote Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, another favourite on my Kindle that has deepened my understanding of the healing powers of nature.

Soon I’ll again be in the wild, camping with close friends among the legendary black-maned lions of the Kalahari within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park that straddles a remote corner of South Africa and Botswana.

GeoffPilgrimage298It promises to be a pilgrimage into the wilderness of my own soul and a place where I can again look deep into the eyes of one of Africa’s most feared and admired predators, perhaps waking with a hammering heart to a roar outside my tent.

And to make the wild feast complete, I plan to follow up with an 11-day Vision Quest that will include solo wild time without food or formal shelter, where I can reconfirm my vows to the Earth and all its beings.

From a very young age I believed it was my role to serve the natural world, although I no longer arrogantly believe that it is my duty to save it, sharing the inspiring sentiments of South African author, poet, psychiatrist and wilderness guide Ian McCallum, who I finally met last year during the World Wilderness Congress in Spain.

He insists: “We have to stop speaking about the Earth being in need of healing. The Earth does not need healing. We do. Our task is to rediscover ourselves in nature. It is an individual choice. And how or where do we begin? We begin exactly where we are right now, when we look at the world as a mirror, when we discover that our sense of freedom and authenticity is linked to the well-being and authenticity of others – and that includes the animals, the trees and the land.”

]]> 0