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Letters / Life will never be the same again

Roll back 10+ years: Shetland Arts, in partnership with the Shetland Architectural Society and Shetland Islands Council, celebrated a year long series of events to mark Shetland’s Year of Architecture and Place 2010, as part of the Power of Place project.

Power of Place suggests that a place has the potential to influence behaviour, attitudes and beliefs and that the individual characteristics of a place are vital in determining quality of life, and land has an important part to play in an individual’s wellbeing.

This worthwhile project was reflective of a caring society in which communities mattered and felt valued.

Fast forward to the present: Communities and the environment are no longer valued and money is the new master, in the shape of multinational energy companies who have the ability to attract the greedy and convince the gullible of their so-called “honourable” intentions to save the planet.

Those in power have seen fit to industrialise our once pristine islands, noted for beauty and wildlife. Lochs and burns have been polluted and hills blasted and changed beyond recognition. Peat, and their valuable ecosystems, which have accumulated over thousands of years, destroyed along with the flora and fauna.

The once idyllic rural lives of the community have been shattered, with no respite for those living in close proximity, from the noise of construction traffic, rock breakers and blasting with the inevitable dust clouds polluting the surrounding areas.

The residents are witnessing the destruction and changes to the landscape that surrounds them, reminiscent of the clearances which took place in the same valley over a century ago. There is no hope, only an awareness that this is the beginning and the situation is going to get worse, with further health impacts likely, once the turbines start turning.

There is now further evidence that environmental change causes growing distress and a range of mental, emotional and spiritual health consequences, and this has given rise to a recognised condition called “solastalgia”, which is defined as “distress caused by the transformation and degradation of one’s home environment”.

Even so, there is no monitoring in place or concern shown by our council and health officials, for the health and wellbeing of those most affected and whose lives have been turned upside down.

Surprisingly, a Health Impact Assessment was not required for a development of this magnitude but to be seen as a responsible developer, Shetland Charitable Trust, who at the time was in partnership with Viking Energy, commissioned a report. The report raised concerns of possible health issues, and it was shelved and never made public.

We know that many of the quality of life environmental concerns have already come to pass, especially for those living closest and within the footprint of the development, but as stated previously, this is just the beginning.

Save Shetland decided to find what effect Viking Energy has had on the community so far. Below are some of the comments we have received;

  • “The desecration of so much wild land is like a bereavement.”
  • “The destruction of our environment is far too high a price to pay for a project whose main objective is to make money rather than saving the planet.”
  • “This greed driven project will do untold damage to Shetland’s landscape and wildlife.”
  • “There is the continuous noise of machinery every day. We are pawns in a scramble for glory and making fortunes for others, who will trample over the top of us to get their gains…. I just feel lost.”
  • “I feel like Shetland is being let down. Other areas are increasing their national parks for landscape retention and nature recovery while Shetland decapitates peat hilltops, destroying over a million cubic metres of peat and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. As a crofter, used to looking after the land, I feel we have lost our way.”
  • “I am finding it difficult to understand the lack of empathy and understanding of our very real feelings about the devastation being wrought on the landscape that we love and have chosen, or lived in since we were born. It is well recognised now, how important our wild areas are for mental health etc, and fear our younger generation in our adjacent villages will never know the advantage of a peaceful beautiful landscape.”
  • “I’m proud to be a Shetlander but not proud of what Shetland has become. You can’t put a price on peace.”
  • “I feel that the landscape is being ripped apart and I’ve watched in horror as the work progresses, like an occupying force, violating our land. Raping it. We have no trees, so can see the destruction clearly and I equate the pain caused by the wind farm with the nature of physical suffering, human pain. Our landscape is vulnerable to human intervention. Is it a battle? Will our precious landscape come back from this horrible violation to it? What revenge will it play out on us?
  • “The current and planned destruction of our precious islands and seas is overwhelming at times and I have difficulty sleeping, thinking about it.”

The above comments are a snapshot of a community in pain who are witnessing the permanent destruction of their islands that they have been unable to save.

The consequences are far reaching and lives and land will never be the same again.

Ernie Ramaker
Save Shetland