We all have value systems: the internal rules that govern our daily lives and ethical beliefs. My values have been shaped over five decades and are influenced by myriad factors including my upbringing, my friends and colleagues, my exposure to different belief systems around the world and in recent years, by a better understanding of our relationship with Nature.
For as long as I can remember I’ve despised cruelty. In my maturing years I’ve also developed a deep-seated aversion to injustice and greed. It shouldn’t come as a surprise therefore that I’ve gravitated towards ‘causes’ that endeavour to address some of these societal ills.
Injustice, greed and in many cases, cruelty, have all contributed to the demise of Scotland’s Caledonian Pinewood, a rich, ancient forest that once stretched across much of the Highlands, a forest that is now a shadow of its former self, fragmented and broken. It’s a place close to my heart and, putting aside various legislative obligations to protect and restore the Forest, home to capercaillie, pine marten, wildcat and golden eagle (sadly, a diminished portfolio of the species that once inhabited the Forest), there is in my view, a moral imperative to right the wrongs that characterised the destruction of so much of this life-affirming, life-supporting, wild place. In short, rebuilding the forest is about doing what’s right; it’s about decent values.
When I first heard of Trees for Life, a Scottish charity working towards restoring the Forest over a huge area with ambitions to see the full suite of native wildlife returned, I was intrigued but quite frankly put off by their apparent pre-occupation with hugging trees instead of planting or regenerating them. In 20 years however, Trees for Life has changed and so have I. The charity is now a powerhouse of ecological knowledge and experience and free of the bureaucratic shackles of larger conservation groups, is both dynamic and flexible. More than anything however, Trees for Life has vision beyond the chin-scratching doubters as to what is possible to achieve, given the will.
Northshots has been a corporate supporter of Trees for Life for many years but more recently I was honoured to be invited to serve on its Board of Directors. As a photographer I’ve often felt like a taker; I travel huge distances to take images from which I profit. Taking is all very well, but personally I feel increasingly compelled to give back to the very thing I profit from. In my view, ‘giving back’ should be central to what nature photographers stand for. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you do it.
So why am I telling you about Trees for Life? Firstly I would urge anyone reading this blog to check out their website. Their story, as well as their work, is inspirational and strikes at the very core of my value system. I hope that it may do the same with yours.
It goes without saying that money is an essential fuel for modern conservation and if you can spare a few quid to help restore Scotland’s Caledonian Pine Forest, you could do worse than one of the following:
Perhaps more importantly however, the story of Scotland’s Forest, its demise and more recently, the seeds of its recovery, is one that needs spreading and Trees for Life embody that story better than anyone. Read the story here then please, tell it to anyone who will listen.
Finally, and I apologise for banging on, but this is something I feel passionately about, you can learn more about Caledonia, Scotland’s Heart of Pine, in our ebook of the same name. I’m happy to send a free copy to anyone who mails me directly after reading this blog.