Woods and Wellbeing
The narrative of wilderness, rewilding and conservation sanctity promotes human exclusion from woodlands. Yet our woodlands have not been wild for millennia - all of them have been worked hard in the past where nothing was wasted. Before fossil fuels, and the industrial revolution, our woods were like giant ecologically-balanced factories sucking up carbon and pumping out oxygen and delivering a range of forest products to fuel our homes and industries across the Nation, plus producing timber for our ships and global trade.
Our woods have a history of being worked and often negatively, excluding certain species in preference of others, but in the last 120 years and since the advent of fossil fuels they have fallen silent, overgrown and unworked, unloved and shut up as dark retreats from modern society. Happily, that can change - if a sustainable woodland revolution is nurtured supporting pioneers to bend the rules and bring woods and people to life again.
Our own wood once housed five families working the woodland, albeit not in some form of surrealist utopia, for woods have always been wet, hard work and the workers often poor, surviving in difficult conditions. But I am not arguing for a return to a peasant-fuelled capitalist industrialisation but a bigger vision, one that encompasses getting people back into woods, restoring local fuel wood to local economies (and thus displacing the imported coal, oil and gas) and sucking up carbon whilst producing local timber and crafts from our communities, rather than exploiting forests far away.
We need to change the narrative
To do this, we must change the narrative and the frame and allow people to live and work in woodlands. Woodlands can provide sanctity and solace for people to refresh from the burden of our modern, fast-paced world. Indeed, there is a revival in forest schools, which is great, after all getting children back into woods where our DNA resides is only logical in this crazy world. But we need to go further; we need to break the mould and bring in everybody from the elderly, to the stressed, from those recovering from strokes and other illnesses to those feeling the head strain of the modern world.
People should be living, working, and thriving in woodlands, building on the principles of permaculture and agroforestry, practising sustainable off-grid living, with the full support of governments and policy. Checks and balances can be put into place to meet social, economic and conservation targets and it needs to be recognised, and shared, that working woodlands improves biodiversity numbers and diversity, as well as delivering a range of other co benefits. With the upcoming changes brought on by Brexit chaos, it’s time for conservation charities and the Government to review the isolationism of woodland management and seek a new dynamic vision that embraces people living in working woodlands.
Read the full article (and more about Kit Vaughan) here
This Idioticon entry is adapted from:
Woodlands and Wellbeing by Kit Vaughan and published by Lush
A batch of forthcoming titles from Triarchy address the pressing climate and ecological emergency that we face. They cover the pernicious money system that fuels the impossible drive for endless growth, forest gardening, practical approaches to climate crisis and build on Daniel Wahl's groundbreaking book Designing Regenerative Cultures.