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Nature worries in Highlands are tip of the iceberg – but unlike the Titanic, we can avoid it

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Making Space for Nature by Imogen Furlong

Youngsters get involved in creating space for a wildflower meadow in Wick.
Youngsters get involved in creating space for a wildflower meadow in Wick.

“I thought our planet was unsinkable, just like the Titanic.”

The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, is often recalled as a monumental tragedy, a reminder of nature's unyielding might against human hubris.

My journey with the High Life Highland countryside ranger service has led me to a stark realisation – our planet, much like the Titanic, is not unsinkable. The current state of global biodiversity loss, a crisis, echoes the warnings unheeded by that ill-fated vessel.

Living in the quiet, majestic Highlands, where nature seems timeless, the signs of biodiversity loss are easy to miss, but they are there; subtle yet deeply alarming. Like the Titanic's infamous iceberg, these signs are often unnoticed until the damage becomes palpable.

The dwindling insect populations, the gradual disappearance of natural habitats, the reduced numbers of birds gracing our skies – these are the tip of an iceberg we're steadily cruising towards.

The Titanic's demise was hastened by disbelief in its vulnerability and our human global response to biodiversity loss is marred by a similar complacency.

For years, scientists have sounded this alarm, yet we've all been slow to react. This inaction, this belief in our planet's invincibility, mirrors the Titanic's fateful journey. Species vanish, ecosystems fray, yet the collective urgency to act remains muted.

“Is there time to turn the ship around?” – this is the question I grapple with daily. Yes, the situation is dire. The rate of species loss and ecosystem degradation is alarming. But, unlike the Titanic, our course can still be altered.

We possess the knowledge and tools to avert this crisis. Scaling up conservation efforts, fortifying protective measures, adopting sustainable practices – these are our lifeboats.

This is where our work at the High Life Highland countryside ranger service gains significance. As rangers, the team stand on the front lines of this battle: safeguarding habitats, monitoring wildlife, and nurturing environmental stewardship within Highland communities.

Our role is a vital piece of the global jigsaw, needed to change the course of history, steering away from this impending disaster.

2023 marked a pivotal year for us in scaling up our work. Working with 290 community volunteers, young and old across 44 sites, from Caithness to Lochaber, our team of rangers and volunteers have worked exceptionally hard at times, to create a vibrant mosaic of mini wildflower meadows.

These meadows are more than just a bit of scenic beauty; they are crucial habitats that support a mission to increase the number of pollinators that are integral to our ecosystem's health.

The Titanic's story is a sombre reminder of the cost of ignoring warnings and delaying action. We, as a community in the Highlands, must unite in our efforts to protect our diverse habitats.

Each small action collectively contributes to a global change.

Let's heed these warnings and ensure our planet's rich biodiversity endures for future generations. Make your new year resolution to be the change and make space for nature.

Imogen Furlong, HLH countryside ranger manager.
Imogen Furlong, HLH countryside ranger manager.
  • Making Space for Nature is a monthly wildlife column with tips about how we can act to help wildlife in our communities. This month’s wildlife columnist is Imogen Furlong, the High Life Highland countryside rangers manager. Imogen has a background in sociology and outdoor recreation management from Sheffield University, and over two decades in community, recreation, and regeneration work. Imogen joined High Life Highland as the countryside ranger service manager in 2017.
  • Sign up to receive the High Life Highland ‘Nature Unveiled’ updates from the countryside rangers: https://highlifehighlandranger.substack.com

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