counterpoint issue six
Post on 21-Jul-2016
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DESCRIPTIONOur sixth issue 'Wilderness' features the best original illustration, journalism and prose on the web.
issue sixblossom - heavy metal - wolves
Counterpoint is an online publication featuring thoughtful
journalism, photography and illustration.
Counterpoint is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The sixth issue ofCounterpoint is themed
This issue explores the wilderness in music festivals, city parks and the
4 Blossom, motherfucker
8 Iron giants
12 Images of Wilderness
16 Where the wild things were
Cover: Gabriele Gudaityte 3
Before they were hunted to extinction, wolves once roamed throughout the British Isles. Can a new alliance of conservationists bring them back from the dead?
Whats it like to see something that everyone else regards as normal, for the first time ever?
Music festivals used to be sanctuaries from the commercial side of rock music. Is that still the case?
Illustrators respond to this issues theme
An islander writes about the first time they encountered an event that mainlanders take for granted.
Words: Elyse JamiesonPictures: Bridget Collin
So youre from Shetland, eh? Ive heard it doesnt have trees. Does it have trees?
Well, yes. It does. I dont know much about the species (for that, I would refer you to this lovely article from The Island Review), but I know that they are few and not-very-far between. In my mind, I can pick out some in sheltered gardens in the central mainland that have one middling tree a piece, and there are two artifically created evergreen forests. I spent a weekend at one once: my resounding memories are midgies and hayfever.
All in all, a limited tree experience.
I arrived in Edinburgh in September 2010. Autumn. As well as a lack of trees, Shetland is fairly lacking in seasons: we fly straight from the heat of August and the first few days of September straight into October gales and the impending heart-hole of winter.
My dad always professed a love for autumn based on his brief years living in Edinburgh, light breezes and crisp leaves, and I immediately understood. Spending long evenings eating, drinking and playing with my new friends in the Meadows, the trees, like the city itself, were such a beautiful novelty.
As the months went by, I watched those same trees become bare, mourning the loss of their green fullness and trying not to slip in the leafy mush that congealed on the pavements.
The winter was long and extremely cold (Shetlander misconceptions #486: it doesnt snow in cities). When I returned after Easter break, I was excited to see the sun peeking through and the temperature slowly climbing. I left my halls to walk to lectures one morning and saw something unexpected.
They were pink.
In writing this article, I discussed this subject with my current flatmate, who laughed at my freshman naivet and asked if I had not seen blossom even on the TV. Considering this, I think I probably had - but I thought those were pink trees, somewhere in a mystical paradise of aesthetic and warmth. The concept of trees flowering was beyond me.
And so each day I opted to walk through the park, glancing up at the rose blush (leaves? petals?) when I thought no one was watching, trying to work out their secrets. I have never been a particularly outdoorsy person, but all of a sudden I was entranced.
Who are you?
7My new friends seemed unphased by these topiary developments. I was so desperate to seem city slick, toting around a Starbucks (tea) and jaywalking at my regular traffic lights, that I didnt feel I could ask anyone. Google informed me of something called cherry blossom, but I presumed once again that those were the distant, arty, perma-pink variety that I reblogged images of on Tumblr. Not the ones just around the corner.
After a couple of weeks, my at-that-time partner came to visit, an Edinburgh native. We went for a carefully planned walk round the Meadows, stopping on a bench behind the tennis courts under the guise of enjoying the sunshine - really, I wanted to seize the only opportunity I felt I had.
Hey, so, I have a question.
Why why are the trees pink?
This is my fifth spring in Edinburgh. I understand blossom now; I Instagram it with the best of them. My accent has morphed into a Scottish Standard English. I can give you reasonable directions to a reasonable pub, and while I may always be an islander, Ive laid some sort of roots here, established a city self.
Writing this article reminded me of a Twitter conversation I once witnessed, based a bastardisation of an Anas Nin quote from my friend Lee.
The original quote:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight as a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Music festivals like Download keep the spirit of metal alive - but at what cost?
Words: Stuart IversenPictures: Bethany Thompson
9A mud-filled field leads up to a huge stage on which four massive men rip their way through the kind of heavy metal that you
can feel in the pit of your stomach.
Stomping through the mud is the sort of man that mothers the country over are
terrified of their daughter bringing home.
Tattooed and bearded, he bangs his head to the music, clad in all leather. He raises his arms to the sky in a moment of
ecstasy, letting out a roar of
and all in the shadow of a giant board advertising Vodafone.
Something is not quite right in that image and yet its a common sight at music festivals all over the country.
Rock and roll doesnt come cheap and you cant make it to the top without selling a little bit of your soul to something much worse than the devil.
Every year, more and more festivals seem to spring up. Whether they are catering to a family market or the most grizzled of heavy metal fans, they all revel in a sense of freedom. The ability to go out to a field, drink far too much, watch a bunch of your favourite bands and have a whole load of fun.
Theyre the ultimate form of escapism, for rock fans; whilst petty things like showering and answering emails disappear into the background, all that matters is good times and good music.
Download Festival, which takes place at Donnington Park, has brought over everyone from Metallica to My Chemical Romance. Every year literally thousands of rock and metal fans descend on the place and anyone watching on would see the kind of hedonistic behaviour that would make even the most liberal parents gasp. Its rock and roll in its purest form.
Yet, take a stroll through Downloads festival village and you will find all the same commercial rubbish you would expect to see at the O2 Arena. Pepsi Max and Tuborg make sure that anyone craving a soft drink or beer from a different source, better bring their own. And even if you are happy to bow down before them, youll be lucky if you can find something for a price that wont make you groan.
Of course, all of this has to be tempered by the fact that these big companies play a part in funding the massive acts sitting at the top of the bill. Iron Maiden have been doing this since 1975 and its been a long time since you were able to get them to play for a few beers and
a train ticket to the venue. Without those big sponsorship deals, the bands we love wont get paid and wont make the journey.
Which, in many ways, points to the roots of the problem. Music festivals represent both the best and worst sides of rock and roll. Despite everything about them thats great, theyre still money-making exercises. Like the record label the traditional representatives of The Man they need to make a profit and that requires a bit of selling out. Rock and roll as a free concept doesnt exist anymore.
Despite that, the real question is whether it actually matters. Sure, the festival itself may be tamed; it has to kowtow to corporations, record labels and even some of the bigger bands.
But for the punter walking in through the front gates there is no need to bend the knee. You can take your own beer, food and listen to the bands you choose to listen to. If you want to spend the entire weekend not showering and brushing your teeth with whiskey, go ahead.
The festivals can be tamed, but the guy in the leather jacket screaming Slayer isnt going to stop being wild anytime soon.
Our illustrators respond to this issues theme.
Pictures: Abigail Woodhouse, Gabriele Gudaityte and Nick Taylor.
Counterpoint examines three principle figures a campaigner, a journalist and a landowner behind the rewilding movement.
Words: Sam BradleyPictures: Bea Shireen
The Scottsh Highlands represent the last wilderness in the British Isles. Lately, conservationists have been popularising a new concept: the mass restoration of ecosystems. Could rewilding return wolves to Scotland?
George Monbiot has emerged as the unofficial champion of rewilding in the UK. An award-winning science writer specialising in climate change, conservation and human rights issues, hes launching a charity, Rewilding Britain, later this year. In a 2013 TED talk, Monbiot illustrated the concept of rewilding with the story of how wolf reintroduction in the 1990s began to restore Yellowstone National Park to wilderness.
At first, the wolves began to kill off the deer. And the behaviour of the deer changed radically. They started avoiding certain parts of the park and immediately those places started to regenerate. The number of beavers started to increase, and the dams they built in the rivers provided habitats for otters and muskrats and ducks and fish and reptiles and amphibians.
He concluded that the reintroduction of just a few wolves had begun to restore the lost, natural complex food chains that once surrounded us. Monbiot has received criticism for some of his more outlandish ideas such as a proposal outlined in his book, Feral, to release lions into the British countryside. But Feral, published in 2013, has been reprinted in 30 different languages, and hes quickly become the most prominent
public figure to get behind this model of conservation. And, he says: I dont romanticize evolutionary time Im already beyond the lifespan of most hunter-gatherers. I just want a richer and rawer life than Ive been able to lead in Britain.
The reintroduction of wolves would also address an acute problem for rural farmers and landowners: the skyrocketing population of roe deer. Wolves, who are perfectly adapted to hunt deer, would act as a form of biological pest control, bringing the deer population down in a sustainable manner. In addition to the successes at Yellowstone, conservation efforts in Poland and Eastern Europe have proven that wolves could coexist with humans in Britain. Wolf populations there are not just stable theyre thriving and present in areas with far higher population density than the Scottish Highlands.
Until recently, the only notable rewilding efforts in the UK were campaigns such as Trees For Life, which has planted 1.5 million trees in Scotland the last two decades. But the movement is set to receive a boost this year when a decision on the future of a trial beaver colony in Knapdale, Argyll, is to be made by the Scottish government. The presence of beavers, like wolves, can have huge impact on an ecosystem theyre called keystone species, or as Monbiot puts it, ecological engineers.
When monitoring of the five-year trial ended in May 2014, researchers said that the results were ground-breaking; at one of the freshwater lochs included
Wolves havent been seen in Britain for centuries - but a new alliance of campaigners, journalists and landowners hope to change that.
in the trial, water levels grew five times larger due to a dam the beavers built. Roisin Campbell-Palmer, the field operations manager, told the BBC: We hope our findings will form a model for future reintroduction projects across the UK and beyond.
To get an activists perspective, Counterpoint spoke to Richard Morley, the director of charity Wolves And Humans. His organisation promotes reintroduction efforts, conservation research and educational outreach programmes in countries with extant wolf populations, such as Poland and Latvia. Morley is frank when he assesses the chances of reintroducing wolves, saying: The IUCN guidelines for reintroduction state that the factors that contributed to local extinction of a
species must be absent or significantly reduced before a reintroduction takes place arguably we are not ready for wolves yet. However, the emergence of figures like Monbiot gives reason to be optimistic. Morley says: George Monbiots patronage is good news - the first time a respected commentator has put forward a credible case for reintroduction.
Despite the work of Morley and Monbiot, there are currently no formal plans to reintroduce wolves, according to Scottish Natural Heritage but one charity, Lynx Trust UK, say that they have lodged an application to release several lynx into the wild. Whilst many campaigners see the lynx as an ideal reintroduction candidate, efforts to reintroduce them have served to
highlight a roadblock on the route to rewilding: unity.
Morley told Counterpoint that lack of communication and sharing ideas in a co-ordinated way is an issue that has long plagued species reintroduction in the UK, and that Lynx Trust are largely uncommunicative with the wider conservation community. The group did not return our request for a statement.
However, the biggest block to reintroduction would be public concern about the risk to livestock and human life. The ammunition for sensationalist headlines is already present, Morley says, in the figures of livestock killed by wild lynx in Norway. There, farmers graze their sheep in woodland, where they are vulnerable to attacks from lynx, which prefer to ambush their prey. It doesnt take much imagination to predict the reaction of the Daily Mail.
One man attempting to steer a course between public misconception and actual risk is Paul Lister the owner of the Alladale Estate, one of the largest tracts of private land in Scotland. His big vision at Alladale is to restore the Highland ecosystem to its pre-industrial state. Over the last decade hes planted 800,000 trees, restored degraded peatland and culled deer numbers on his estate to 600. Alladale has become a sanctuary for wild species; pine martens, golden eagles and wild boar. Now he wants wolves. Weve managed to put a man on the moon; I dont see why we cant get wolves back in Scotland, says Lister.
Many have welcomed Paul Listers contributions, not least because they negate the need for public money. Lister has also talked about the opportunity
that rewilding could present to the local tourism industry Alladale itself is marketed as a wilderness reserve. But a key part of Listers reintroduction proposals has come in for flak from local stakeholders: fencing off Alladale.
Dave Morris, the director of Ramblers Scotland, opposes the plans. He told the Observer: Its not a reintroduction, [its] a giant zoo. Regardless, Innes MacNeill, Alladales reserve manager, says that a fence would be the only way to stop famers shooting wolves.
Richard Morley welcomed the idea, telling Counterpoint that: Listers proposal for a large fenced enclosure, similar to private game reserves in southern Africa, represents a feasible way forward. Provided he allows access, it will provide invaluable data on the effects of large carnivores on the landscape and tourism.
Listers pitch highlights the other major source of opposition to reintroduction: land rights. Morley acknowledged this when evaluating the proposals, saying: Many people are apprehensive - they see it as the tip of an iceberg involving erosion of public rights over land use, change in long-standing landscapes and decline in support for agriculture.
Successes like the Knapdale beaver trial could help make the reintroduction of lynx and wolves a reality further down the line. Richard Morley told Counterpoint that he had his fingers crossed. He said: If [this reintroduction] is successful then I believe this will increase public enthusiasm for bringing back larger animals.
sam bradleybethany thompson
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