RE James Fenton’s excellent letter (September 3) on woodland: the pressing
need to reduce carbon emissions requires informed strategies. Policies
formulated on ill-informed opinions, or incomplete knowledge are just as
great a risk to our future as carbon emissions.
Everything we humans do has an impact that, through ignorance, can have
unforeseen negative results. Encouraging forestry plantations in the Flow
Country is an example, which retrospectively, we now know was extremely
ill-advised government policy. We have not learnt any lessons from this.
A current example of this muddled thinking is giving planning consents to
building wind farms on wild uplands in the Highlands of Scotland and the
lack of legislation to control the proliferation of hill tracks, whether
for sporting estates or small-scale hydro schemes. The resulting damage to
the deep peat cover will, over time, release huge amounts of carbon. There
is irony in this too; we express our concern at deforestation of the Amazon
and at the same time condone activities which destroy our peatlands. Peat
is different; it locks up carbon permanently. Trees, whether in the Amazon
or in Scotland, only recycle carbon. Understanding this difference is crucial.
The Scottish Government could be accused of hypocrisy if they condemn
deforestation in Brazil while permitting destruction of peatland in Scotland.
Encouraging the regeneration of native woodland in areas where it existed
previous to human intervention is entirely appropriate. Natural woodland
occurs on well-drained land where peat is not a significant feature.
Norman McNab, Killearn.