Hello, welcome to another issue of the Voice for Arran, and a happy first day of spring! I am certainly feeling the promise of March which is now more than just a glimmer in my mind as it has been these long last months. And I have sensed a feeling of optimism in many of the pieces that have come together in this issue too. With some interesting online events taking place on Arran and across Scotland we are invited to share our experiences of a year of lockdown and imagine our way into brighter times ahead.

To start the month Eco Savvy and Arran’s Food Journey are running Arran’s first online Farmers Market, a joint venture showcasing many of the wonderful local food producers. The Eco Savvy film club is screening The Troublemaker, a documentary about Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, and there is also an Arran Natural History Society talk which will bring us close up to nature through the work of Scotland’s rangers. Our usual routines may have been put on hold, but wildlife has been carrying on as normal, and a beautiful video on tracking by a ranger in the Highlands (which is included in the piece on the ANHS talk) brings us a sense of the immediacy of their work as well the life ongoing all around us.

Immersion in nature is also a theme of the article by Dougie Peedle from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who reports on the Dasgupta Review which was published last month. This Review, commissioned by the government in 2019 to investigate the economics of biodiversity, states that “our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: Nature” and Dasgupta calls for us all to be naturalists now. He recommends that a first step to a solution is to recognise that “our economies are embedded within Nature, not external to it”. As Peedle says, for many working in these areas or living in rural places, the findings of the review are not new but they remain imperative. If such a relationship with nature is where we are aiming, and have been for some time, what is it that is holding us back from moving more fully towards this? What are the factors stopping us from making the radical changes we need to in the climate and ecological emergencies? Is it the weight of the status quo or lack of far-reaching vision?

These are questions that Rob Hopkins, author and co-founder of the Transition network, asks and following on from his recent book on the power of imagination he has set up a new podcast that introduces a series of ‘What If’ questions to help with the process of initiating more visionary thinking. Some of the questions that have come up in the podcasts already include – What if the sound of birdsong drowned out the traffic? What if indigenous wisdom could save the world? What if the majority of food eaten in cities was mostly grown in the land around them? Rob says this is the work of storytelling, of bringing to life for those who struggle to imagine anything other than the way things are today. Instead of defaulting into dystopian images he suggests we could try “allowing ourselves to believe that it could actually be amazing: more connected, happier, healthier, less stressed, less anxious, with cleaner air, better food, and cities full of vegetation and far fewer cars”.

Perhaps the Virtual Scottish Rural Parliament, a grassroots democratic assembly taking place in March, could be a place to start these imaginings. The organisers say, “We all have a personal story to tell about the events of 2020” and they invite people wherever we may be to join the meetings and share these stories. Each day includes interactive sessions on different topics, from local democracy to digital communications and climate change, enabling participants to explore current thinking and to identify actions which ensure our communities are thriving, and our natural environment is safeguarded.

In the meantime, Rob Hopkins leaves us with a challenge: “What If, over the next few weeks, in any conversation you have about the state of the world, you were to weave into it your own storytelling about how the world could be, if we were to do everything we could possibly do?” He believes we can realise such a future, “But only if we create the best conditions possible for the future to enter into us”.

Wishing you luck with the What If’s this month, we would love to hear about any that have inspired you, and enjoy the early spring days! Elsa