Friday, January 4, 2013

Hogmany Hangover

Sterling Work:Spanish owned power plants in The Ochils above the historic town.

The last day of 2012-a year of highs and lows-I headed North to Scotland to spend the Hogmany celebrations in the North East; just a few miles from The Moray Firth. It had been about four years since I last went to Scotland, staying on the Tay and heading back and forth to the Edinburgh Festival. This time the journey North involved a 452 mile trip from North Wales to a tiny hamlet-Geddes near Cawdor which apparently has links with Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth aside,the most chilling part of the nine hour journey-I did stop for an hour in Penrith on the way-was seeing the huge wind farms which have taken root in Lanarkshire in particular.

I have to say,the aesthetic and emotional impact of these huge power plants torn across the uplands is jarring in the extreme! I've never understood it from an artist's perspective,when people say they find wind turbine's beautiful! We are not talking about Antony Gormley sculptures here.We are talking about 3/400' pale steel towers,each identical to every other wind turbine in the land. Apart from the savage ecological impact of siting power plants in fragile environments, the collective impact of a wind farm like Whitelee-the second largest in Europe with 140 power plants- is its sledgehammer effect on the senses. Driving along the motorway with these monstrosities enveloping me on either side, I felt physically sick as at one stage as a section of the huge wind farm appeared dead ahead. Their thrashing unsynchronized blades producing a similar effect as being in a rocking boat and feeling seasick.

Sadly,the global energy corporations who are profiting to the tune of billions of pounds from these heavily subsidized power plants,have the Scottish and UK governments firmly in their pocket. In fact, little wonder that it was revealed last week that over 40% of wind farm applications in Scotland that are rejected by local planning committees are passed on appeal by the Scottish government. If there are not palms being greased in the wind farm planning process then I'm Captain Ahab!

Anyway...on to spiritually more wholesome things. One of which being a visit to the epicentre of all things alternative on the Scottish east coast-The Findhorn Community. I had known about Findhorn for a long time but hadn't realized that the community which was founded in 1962 was originally Christian in it's ethos although now it's just claims to be 'spiritual' and embracive of all faiths. The Community practices an alternative,eco-friendly lifestyle which includes self sufficiency in food and energy production. Yes it does have wind turbines but only three and not on the industrial scale witnessed further south.  Despite being on the inhospitable east coast and subjected to biting easterly Siberian winds from time to time,the Findhorn Community has continually managed to baffle agricultural and horticultural experts by producing large healthy crops. Whether this is down to the power of prayer or horse shit is open to discussion? The centre hosts workshops and supports a thriving permanent community.

Findhorn Village

A number of other organisations have latched on to Findhorn's success and have moved into the area including Ekopia, Moray Steiner School, the Phoenix Community Store, Trees for Life (Scotland) and The Isle of Erraid. Collectively they now form an ecovillage which aims to demonstrate a positive model of a viable, sustainable human and planetary future. Findhorn Ecovillage has around 450 resident members, and its residents have the lowest recorded ecological footprint of any community in the industrialised or the developed world, and also half of the UK average.

Returning yesterday through the Cairngorms,it was striking how stripped of snow the mountains were. Just like here in North Wales, the weather is mild and wet. In fact,it was 50f when I left and with no sign of a freeze. So much for the annual predictions of the 'worst winter on record'. I'm not a gambling man but if I was, my money would be on more of the same. Mild and wet. Is it global warming or just a cycle we are in? I'm not convinced myself?

Beachcombing at Findhorn

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