What is wilderness? Landscapes of change (2020)

Sarah Pohlschneider, University of the Highlands and Islands

Project summary

Over the last decade, Scottish landscapes have been increasingly exposed to extreme weather events, exacerbating the risk of catastrophic disturbances e.g. wildfires and flooding. Rapid environmental change affects human and non-human communities and requires urgent responses informed by and under consideration of a wide range of stakeholders. ‘What is Wilderness? Landscapes of change’, aims to surface different stakeholder evidence and identify mechanisms that can help navigate local tensions and intergenerational differences in perspectives relating to historical, socio-ecological and cultural landscapes.

The community based creative and participatory research will be undertaken in the landscapes of an estate in the Cairngorms in conjunction with the Centre for Remote and Rural Communities (CRRC). It contributes towards just and sustainable relationships between people and landscape in that it addresses historically embedded injustice related to landownership among the Scottish population. By providing local stakeholders with a platform to voice and discuss their perceptions of landscape and the ways in which it is used, mechanisms to negotiate and address historically embedded power imbalances can be discovered and developed. The Highlands of Scotland are particularly suitable as a research site since the region has one of the most concentrated landownership patterns across Europe and globally, in which landscape has been functionalised to the benefit of few and often absentee landowners.

Little is known about how different age groups perceive and negotiate the contrasting notions which frame the landscape they inhabit.  In this context, renegotiating responsible management from intergenerational perspectives could foster sustainable and just relationships between people and landscape. In particular, mobilising young people’s innovative thinking, and capitalising on novel ideas could contribute to a rejuvenation of traditional approaches and perspectives in a landscape of change

The funding from LRG will allow for the researcher to prepare and attend focus groups and workshops with young people in the area.