Rethink our relationship with nature to avoid worst of climate change and pandemics

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03 January 2022, UK: Society needs to re-think its relationship with the natural world if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and pandemics, the James Hutton Institute has urged in the 2022 episode of BBC Scotland’s Resolutions programme.

In the broadcast, filmed at the Institute’s Glensaugh Research Farm and at IGS Limited in Invergowrie, Hutton Chief Executive Prof Colin Campbell and Deputy Chief Executive Prof Deb Roberts look back at the past two years and the lessons we have learned.

Both climate change and COVID are symptoms of over-consumption and a world system that is broken, they said, reflecting on the role of science in developing new vaccines and medicines to tackle the COVID pandemic.

“One of the good things about the last two years and the changes to the way we’ve been living brought about by COVID is a greater awareness of nature as we’ve walked, and run, and cycled in all seasons and in all weathers,” they added.

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The programme also looked at Hutton research on the relationship between society, climate, nature and the land.

“At Glensaugh we can study how land management supports wildlife, provides clean water, prevents floods and stores carbon in our soils, our vegetation, our trees and peatland, as well as providing food. 

“Farms can harvest energy from the wind and from water, and we have shown here that it is feasible to use renewable energy to create hydrogen fuel for our tractors and for the homes in the farm. It’s a virtuous cycle, from water back to water again,” Prof Campbell said.

A key message arising from the programme is how new thinking and believing in our own ingenuity can get us through many crises. 

“Science is now clear that we, too, need to re-think our relationship with the natural world, if we’re going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and avoid pandemics.

“We also need new ways of growing food that puts no more pressure on the land and spares land for nature. At IGS Limited in Invergowrie, we have a very different farm, a vertical farm that uses less space and can grow different things in different ways in different places.

“These new ways provide us with the means of growing a more diverse range of foods locally, avoiding imports, and also providing a fresh and nutritious source of food all year round.

“We are lucky at the Hutton to be in a position to do research that makes a real difference”, Profs Campbell and Roberts said.

The programme is available to watch below and it can be also watched on iPlaye

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