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On the Ground: Ending the Hell of Scotland’s Conifer Plantations

By Patrick Phillips

When one encounters a plantation in Scotland one has not entered into an ethical space (nor holistic) they have entered into a kind of ontological hell. Hell, for every pre-existing and existing ecosystem that enabled life to flourish in the first place, and hell for our Scottish communities through persistent transient sensations. Plantations are critically therefore not natural forests, as one might assume at first glance but instead a form (therefore space) of ‘modern’ alienation.

Today they live far too close in social proximity within our rural communities (one of many contributing factors as to why Scotland has a high suicide rate living in the Highlands today), creating seriously poor mental health, where often there is no genuine mental health service infrastructure or mental health plan in place. Such a reality occurs because there is no ethical presence in what the ontology of nature can provide for our communities on a daily basis. This is one solid reason why the presence of nature must urgently be restored within our communities – now.

Plantations reveal the ongoing reality of Scotland’s socio-economic segregation – we need new community rights

In a plantation, every Conifer tree is planted into rows of narrow straight lines – becoming nothing more than – future profits-in-waiting. Critically, this is the tragic fate from the economic reality of high exploitation and devaluation placed upon these trees – in the reduction of plantation only. In these now miserable (and void) unnatural spaces across our natural landscapes, have also become the same fate for our wellbeing-seeking tourists and community members, having now walked away in experience. Plantations are therefore hazardous to the health of our communities, biodiversity, and tourists and yet we have companies in Scotland (and international companies) that promote Scotland’s plantations, therefore exploiting them as spaces for active ‘forest bathing’ when in reality they are simply not. They have no holistic quality within or about them. This is a further example of the exploitative quest of Scotland’s natural landscapes today – a complete disregard of the intrinsic ontology of our villages and towns where people live.

In the end, neither the tourist or community member found the resourceful nourishment they needed when out searching and exploring their village or the vast landscape of Scotland when visiting. This is important because such an act is not only an essential human act but equally an intrinsic one. Lying deeply within us at all times, every time – especially in a moment of crisis.

End the ‘full-on’ Financial Capitalization of Scotland’s natural landscapes and net-zero transition

In reality, plantations are nothing more than low-quality therefore low-value economic spaces across the Highlands (and the Lowlands) today, which have brought unprecedented damage to our natural landscapes and created a heavier burden for our fast-declining public services (from the exploitation of human mental health) and therefore human economy in addition to budget pressures. This is one example of why Scotland’s health economy is forever expanding in budget cost (not just for privatization purposes), but also because there is too much unsustainable exploitation of working and living within our ‘outdated’ socio-economic model today. What is therefore essential in all of what I am talking about here is human experience – which must always be of the highest quality. But what we have today in our endless plantations, is the complete opposite in our still transient lives. Urgently, therefore we have this present moment as an opportunity to transcend our natural landscapes, so why not?

Now the Scottish Government nowadays still see (or rather interprets our natural landscapes as existing and potential natural ‘capital’ only at a corporate government level) in what is again now an outdated and relentless quest for ‘essential’ corporate revenue to run the country – which must be a continuous and endless flow of money (often just to sustain high-salaries for a few and economic culture of human exploitation).

However, they blindly (in not seeing, or rather taking the ethical stance at Holyrood) have not realised the opposite potential for both biodiversity in abundance but equally potential for community wellbeing and nature-wilderness tourism in wellbeing too. This would represent, a solid form of holistic human ontological healing and for the planet’s biosphere at its finest and best quality. We have a serious and therefore unique opportunity in returning our local natural landscapes as best as possible to some form of an intrinsic state, which is a good thing, all round year round. Good for nature, good for Scotland – good for the planet. We must always remind ourselves that we live on a planet.

Scotland is not a multinational nor should she be ‘treated’ like one – not every natural space should be creating a capital ‘return’

There is more economic potential in rejuvenation of nature and human life today than in endless profit-making or profiteering alone for which there is no lasting ontology, or to be precise ontological quality – perhaps this is a message we should send to all CEOs today. Endless natural landscape exploitation (regardless of a climate crisis) can therefore never be a good policy for you, us or nature.

This is why there is a serious danger in the harmful risk of the financialization of nature restoration in Scotland, which we have already seen when NatureScot (‘a public body responsible for advising Scottish Ministers on all matters relating to the natural heritage’) announced a ‘£2 billion private finance pilot’ but in reality in ’30 years’ time those private companies will have the power (more than the landowner) to claw back on their private capital investment (if for example the Scottish Government can’t afford the capital or interest payments) and will then make even larger profits when they immediately decide to cut down these ‘high-quality’ woodlands in order to pay back both capital and interest repayments – once again Scotland being dragged back (on her knees) into the abyss of no solid natural and human progress.

Such private ‘pilots’ are nothing more than the exploitation of the climate crisis and therefore will leave Scotland’s communities and planet vulnerable in the absurd reversal of not only the climate crisis but again our rural communities with no jobs, living on the edge in permanent marginalisation. Scotland does not need to finance nor create ‘sustainable returns’ for private investors in the survival of our native natural woodlands when assisting in the climate crisis nor our communities when the land belongs to Scotland and only the people of Scotland – another injustice for Scotland today.

SNP-Green coalition will advocate (and protect) the endless growth of multinationals today but not the growth of businesses that exist outside them – this is another example of the quest for ideological perfection but in reality, a serious form of economic exclusion, especially for SMEs (that provide local jobs) but more absurdly only exacerbate Scotland’s existing economic inequality further, which was and still is created from the monopoly of the multinational. This is to deny the existence of rural and urban community poverty in Scotland today where there is no kind of wealth redistribution nor one of goods (like food) to mitigate the mass human exploitation of our deeply out-dated socio-economic model. A recent example of such policy exploitation, is the SNP-Green ‘Deposit Return Scheme’ policy, which is just a distraction of responsibility of the multinational, which is deeply wrong.

Time has come to establish a new relationship with multinationals

We can’t keep separating the multinational from the human economy (local and national) nor from the rest of the population – growth on top of ‘growth, growth, growth’ or ‘low-growth’ really means no ‘growth’ and permanent rural and urban poverty for those that are already economically marginalised are therefore only exploited further into permanent exclusion. Only way we can transcend the world today is by working closer with multinationals and establishing a new relationship rather than our present ‘all or nothing’ approach. Once Scotland has been transcended we can exemplify to the rest of the world and assist them on their journey and testify through the high-quality experience of visiting Scotland – through the establishment of human ethics.

Furthermore, our ontological crisis, now centuries in the making is not far from entering its final epoch and a new age of nature and human wellbeing is now upon us, such a reality should be embraced urgently now. Equally, therefore embracing the globe in placing Scotland as a destination for sanctuary, for there will need to be a serious period of holistic ontological healing, this will also contribute to the health of the planet’s biosphere – for the human mind and body is already in disrepair from tireless economic exploitation, human on human profiteering and tyranny over the centuries.

Humanity is on the trajectory for becoming a graveyard-in-waiting especially in our global reality of real-time austerity

In further critical note, such economic spaces in our natural spaces of Conifer plantations once cut down (and then baby Conifer’s re-planted) give the impression of endless graveyards. But this non-aesthetic appearance within natural appearances has a deeper meaning, that if we as a humanity carry on with the same ‘old’ socio-economic trajectory, we are like the Conifer trees across thousands of plantations a graveyard-in-waiting. Especially in our times of global real-time austerity: where alarmingly ‘trillions of dollars are used to support corporations, while the costs of adjustment are thrust upon populations.’ This is why we need to take austerity seriously (which is mass ‘psychological abuse’) and finally bring global austerity to an end – now.

Plantations exploit our Biosphere and are therefore harming the future of food production

Scottish Government must therefore urgently now create a new human strategy for survival with the creation of a National Food Security Strategy & New Land Infrastructure for Food Growth in preparation. Rather than the Scottish Government appeasing us with policies (exploiting government culture of ‘green-washing’) and see the fundamental opportunity of a healthier balanced natural landscape in the relationship between plantation, natural woodland, forests, livestock pasture farming and the global economic demand for paper for example with and the wellbeing needs of our Scottish communities and create more natural spaces for more ethical and therefore high-quality human experiences – end the exploit. Rather than again of the economic extremes of ‘international capital’ – which is another example of the extreme exploit of neoliberalism, or infinite growth (which in reality is endless profit-making made every single second however unethical in calculation).

Our food situation in the world is at a serious critical point (in time) and we should not take our situation (nor the illusion of supermarket food) for granted, for food scarcity is now a real threat. For where there are plantations in our local communities in Scotland, is also still no local organic food growing, leaving potentially our rural communities across Scotland in more vulnerable situations but therefore equally also at a national level – this is why the importance of a National Food Security Strategy & New Land Infrastructure for Food Growthis essential.

Holyrood again has the chance to transcend not only Scotland but the world. No plantation in Scotland should be allowed again to be in such close proximity of our communities or biosphere. Time has therefore come to end both the exploitation and modern alienation and create a new kind of human economy. One that finally recognises the complexity of modern life economics with sustaining both planet and human life. Because what is happening here will happening elsewhere around the globe – there is no time to waste.

About Patrick Phillips

Eternal revolutionary, writer, and artist Patrick Phillips was born in Truro in 1984. He lives and works in a mountain village in Scotland. He has written articles for The Stage, Elsewhere Journal, CommonSpace, Scottish Left Review, Freedom Press, Scottish Farmer and The National. In summer 2021, he published his first book of essays, Eternal Mountain: Essays from Afar. This is his third non-fiction book. He is now working on his latest project, The Modern Giant: How to Be A Giant In An Age of Neo Ontology. It will be published in 2023.


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