This article originally appeared in UKELA's journal, e-law
Picture
Once again another successful weekend for UKELA’s Wild Law Special Interest group at Balmaha on the south-western shores of Loch Lomond,  just north of Glasgow. An enthusiastic group of participants assembled at the Bunkhouse, Balmaha, having travelled there from all directions of the compass.  The purpose of the weekend was to visit and learn about  Scotland's first national park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, the law surrounding it, issues of day to day management and problems faced by the dedicated National Park team. 
As always, the value and fun of a Wild Law weekend lies in getting on those boots, tramping over the ground, studying the lie of the land, the plants and animal life, and climbing the hills for stunning views of surrounding wild landscapes. Loch Lomond sits on the geological fault between the green and fertile lowlands of the south and the harsh and rugged highlands of the north. The loch is a single huge piece of water, but it has multiple ecosystems - shallow and warm in the south along with the marshlands formed by the mouth of the River Endrick, but deep and cold in the north. Round the sides  of the loch the landowners have been quietly consolidating and aligning their management to enhance the native species and ecological reconstruction of the  landscape.
Visits included the island, Inchcailloch, which was small but intensely green from its full tree cover. Inchcailloch once carried a significant human population and deep in the island woodlands we were taken to an ancient cemetery with grass-shrouded church remains. No one lives on the island nowadays and it is given over to wildlife, with many deer.  After that everyone climbed to the summit of Conic Hill (361m/1184ft) just behind. The reward was a stunning all-round view from the very stones of the Highland Fault Line that could be  seen stretching far to the southwest and to the island of Arran, proposed as the venue for next year's Wild Law weekend.
During the evening we heard from Helen McDade about the John Muir Trust, its aims and ambitions. Named after the Dunbar-born pioneer of  American wilderness protection, the JMT is a UK charity with over 10,000 members dedicated to the protection of wild land for both nature and people. It owns and manages large tracts of wild land in Scotland. Under Helen's guidance, there was a discussion of issues affecting wild land and wilderness, including the hot
topic of wind farms.
The next excursion was up Ben Venue  (727m/2386ft) in the nearby Trossachs involving a suitably wild-land-experience
hike to the summit, which provided fine wilderness views stretching far into the misty snow-dotted distances. The keen-eyed soon spotted the wind turbines in the east. 
The weekend ended with rain, but the memories were of blue and green, and the love of wildness and wilderness, and friendships, had been rekindled afresh.


 

 

 
 
Last Saturday (27 July) Christian Heitsch and I, from Wild Law UK, led an afternoon workshop at the Resurgence Summer Gathering.  The Gathering took place over a weekend at a small camp on Green and Away’s site in the countryside outside Malvern, Worcestershire. 
The camp’s amenities included organic food, wood-burning showers, crafts,  electricity from the sun and wind, and saunas.  Speakers included Satish Kumar (editor of Resurgence & Ecologist), Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and Mumta Ito (founder of the International Centre for Wholistic Law).  Evenings ended with music and
singing. 
The title of our workshop was “Unlimited Growth vs. Rights of Mother Earth: Implications of Wild Law for the Economic System”.   Our overall objective was to encourage discussion and reflection on how we might go about recognising and promoting the rights of Nature in our daily lives. The workshop’s ‘basis in law’ was the draft Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, first adopted in 2010 by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The Universal Declaration sets out both the rights of Mother Earth (Nature) and the obligations of human beings to her.  For example, the Declaration provides that Mother Earth has the right to maintain her identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being.  On the other hand, every human being is responsible for respecting and  living in harmony with Mother Earth.  Armed with a synopsis of the Declaration and a brief explanation of its provisions, a very lively discussion ensued amongst the workshop’s participants.
Firstly, the notion of rights was explored:  
  • Who or what had rights? And what were these rights? 
  • Is it possible to exercise what we perceive as our own (human) right to a life of quality (both physically and spiritually) without impinging on the rights of Nature or things in Nature? 

Examples such as agriculture and agricultural practices were contemplated.  Human intent and motivation were considered important factors in signalling respect for Nature’s rights.  Participants discussed the obligation to act compassionately and respectfully toward Nature.  It is important to consider alternatives to the ‘norm’ when engaging with nature while recognising that this is not always easy to do.  In practice compromises might need to be made.  Key principles outlined for guiding our  relationship with Nature in our daily lives include: the notion of holism (or  co-dependence), non-violence, mindfulness and inter-generational equity. 
When asked what obstacles one might encounter in the attempt to incorporate these principles and obligations into daily life, participants enumerated a number of impediments thrown up by society. It is not always possible to act as simply as we would like to. We live in a complex society that is highly interconnected increasing the risk that our actions will have unforeseen consequences.  Fear and lack of awareness were other obstacles discussed, but one participant reminded us of the following quote by Arthur Schopenhauer:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
self-evident.
 
We were encouraged to bear this in mind when confronting obstacles to complying with our obligations to Nature.  The workshop wound up with a discussion of what actions we might take to better respect and live in harmony with Nature. 
A number of ideas for action were volunteered by participants.  These ranged from the individual: walk the talk, be self-aware, act with loving kindness, hope actively, to the communal: sign the petition to support the rights of Nature, get involved in a European Citizens’ Initiative to give Nature rights, help join up like-minded groups and create chains of action.  Ultimately, there seemed to be agreement that the sharing of ideas and views at the individual level is a necessary starting point for encouraging a broader movement toward living in harmony with Nature.
Our job as workshop leaders was made easy by the willing contributions of participants, and I personally left the Gathering on Saturday with a renewed sense of inspiration to meet my responsibility to respect and live in harmony
with Nature.  Thanks to the Gathering for that!