In the Netherlands I studied Biology (MSc., specialised in ecology and environmental biology) and became a freelance photojournalist working on solo projects. In the big smelly cities where I lived people seemed to think it was normal to not touch living soil for days and days on end. When I moved to Scotland (Portree, on the Isle of Skye for two years, and since November 2010 in the tiny hamlet of Camas Luinie 14 miles from Skye, and since November 2011 in Ardvasar on Skye), a truly new life started. I touch living soil every day, every time I go outside, and touch it so much that a clean set of clothes is usually pretty “soiled” (in a good way, mind you!) after a few minutes.
I have learned more about the community of all life and the landbase (what is known as an ecosystem in biology, I suppose) than I ever did while studying at university. In fact, I find that I have to unlearn an awful lot that I learned at university. I will try to share quite a lot about that “journey” on this blog.
While still in the Netherlands, I was mostly interested in animals, and not much in plants at all. Since the move this has changed considerably. I’m now trying to spend as much time as possible learning about plants, and gathering them as wild food and as medicine. A whole new world has opened to me doing this! It has taught me, for one, that it is not the “dog-eat-dog-world” you’re sometimes made to believe in biology, where everything competes with everything else, but a world of beautiful cooperation between individuals and species and communities.
To become a valuable and contributing part of such a cooperating community is now my big goal. I don’t want to merely limit my destructive impact, which is what mainstream conservation initiatives seem to aspire to, but I want to make the community of life I am part of stronger by my presence. It’s quite a challenge, and you certainly, strangely enough, don’t learn how to do that while studying biology in university!
It’s all about learning how much you can take from your surroundings, how you can take it, and -at least as importantly, how to give back at least as much as what you have taken, and not in the form of toxic waste. It may take a lifetime to learn that, but that’s alright!