A New EIA for Natural Scotland:

Environment, Imagination and Aesthetics

The Scottish landscape is inescapably changing in response to climate change.  We intend to investigate the effects of human attempts to mitigate climate change by working creatively with the narrow but powerful lens of the planning process, the very mechanism of change.  By reimagining current land-use planning processes to include considerations of perceptions of beauty, wilderness, naturalness and impact on place, memory and community, we intend to use wind-farm deleopments as a context in which to creatively develop a new Environmental Impact Assessment. In doing so we attempt to understand how representations of natural Scotland have affected perceptions of and responses to the challenges that natural Scotland is facing. Further, we aim to gain new insights into how we as a society assign values to the interface between landscape and community when making decisions about developments to the Scottish landscape.

Through techniques that we use as research based artists such as intensive cultural mapping, creative investigation and performance we will create a new model of conducting analysis and consultation in conflicted land-use situations. This could ultimately lead to new methodologies being adopted in cases of environmental conflict, which would include a much deeper understanding of place than can currently be expressed.

We have called this project ‘A New EIA for Natural Scotland: Environment, Imagination and Aesthetics’.  What we intend is for this to be an exploration of a new creative way of assessing and encompassing impact.  We take as the starting point the environment, but leave the definition and conceptualisation of what that environment is and what it means to the local people with whom we are working; we will be asking them to imagine and creatively articulate their perceptions, ideas, and values about what that environment should look like and how it should be protected; and we will be focusing on the role of critical but often overlooked concepts such as aesthetics, place and community. These are ideas which are not included in a traditional EIA – but they are fundamentally important, and form the basis of this project.

This project is centred on public engagement – it is intrinsic to the very nature of the work itself.  We propose that the work is created in collaboration with local people through examining perceptions of natural Scotland. We will explore with them the layers of their relationship to the landscape and impacts of landscape change on community. As the work tours (mirroring the process of a public consultation exercise) local people will again have the opportunity to comment, reflect and engage with it.

The work creatively responds to the changing nature of the Scottish landscape by reimagining current land-use planning processes to include considerations of perceptions of beauty, wilderness, naturalness and impact on place and community. The work will be developed in collaboration with a rural community and will raise awareness of the decision making processes that shape the environment. We are keen to explore the conflict and (at times) contradiction between local and global environmental priorities and impacts, through a consideration of the appropriateness of renewable energy, and community responses both to wind-farms themselves, and the development processes more broadly.

 

The project team:

Jo Hodges / Robbie Coleman – Artists

Dr Claire Haggett – Lecturer in the Sociology of Sustainability, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Community participants in Dumfries and Galloway