30th July 2015
By Duncan Bryden, CNPA Board Convener.
National Parks got a good shout out from Sir David Attenborough and Barack Obama during their recent TV interview. While the role of US President probably no longer enjoys the Leader of the Free World title and Obama is in the closing stages of his tenure, he none the less still has the influence to make plenty of people sit up and listen.
So I was highly delighted to hear both men emphasise the value of National Parks as places where people could go to spend time outdoors. In our National Park, this is just what our all-embracing Active Cairngorms programme is designed to do. Residents and visitors alike are being urged to get out into the Park, at least once, every day.
Apparently left behind 8000 years ago, we recently learned of remains discovered in the hills near Braemar that that told us something about the Cairngorms National Park’s very earliest hunter gatherer visitors. The discovery is not an excuse for us to leave our own debris around for future archaeologists to find; instead it is fascinating to think that people have been actively using our wild landscapes for a long long time. Meanwhile, 89 year old Sir David reminded us that, in his life time, the population of the world has tripled to nearly 7.2 billion and that we have to manage our remaining wild landscapes very carefully.
Today, even though four in every five people in Scotland now live in cities, more and more is asked of natural landscapes like the Cairngorms. Expectations are that our landscapes continue to be utilitarian food, fibre, water, power and mineral producers. They have to accommodate homes and workplaces and cater for our wellbeing through leisure, recreation and spiritual uplift, all the while conserving our rare, special and unusual wildlife. Most people care about the Cairngorms in their own way I think, but it is not an easy task – unless we all work together.
John Muir told us everything in nature was connected – the web of life. As climate change tightens its grip many people are now beginning to see these connections more clearly. Attenborough, perhaps our foremost communicator on nature, is equally passionate about ensuring people understood some of the complexities of our natural world, he said, “without that appreciation how can they be expected to value it and use it sensibly and responsibly”. Cairngorms Nature is another major programme for the National Park using stories, projects, events and digital communication to create both understanding and appreciation of what the National Park is there to do, amongst as many people as possible.
UK National Parks’ Week 2015 gets underway at the end of July, with event programmes in all 15 of Britain’s National Parks. This year’s theme is Landscapes of Plenty. Cairngorms landscapes should have plenty to give for years to come if we can avoid tunnel vision, respect the web and understand what most people really care about.