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Letters / Farewell to spoilt Shetland

After the Corona years my wife and I had holidays in Shetland and Orkney again this summer.

We visit Shetland almost every year, but we decided this was the last time.

Original reasons to go to Shetland were to find family (my roots are Scottish – Dalziel or Deyell), our love for islands in general, and the book Bobby Tulloch’s Shetland, which I got as a birthday present.

On our first holidays around 1990, Bobby Tulloch took us around Yell on a private boat trip. Another person took us for a private tour to Scalloway and proudly showed us experimental tanks for hatching fish (there were no fish farms yet).

Shetlanders were and still are very friendly and hospitable. We met pianist John ‘Bogey’ Dalziel in The Lounge, I was allowed to play on a fiddle with him, Peerie Willie Johnson and others, and we became Dutch ‘members’ of the Dalziel family.

Shetland felt like an almost unspoilt corner of Europe. We loved and still love your islands and the people.

You all know what happened.

First we heard about the Viking Energy plans to produce energy for export to the UK, not for local self sufficiency. We think green energy can be better than oil (Bobby Tulloch: “We can only hope and pray that oil spillage will never happen”) but huge wind turbines and the required infrastructure spoil unspoilt landscapes and are made for money making.

We became members of Sustainable Shetland. There were local meetings in Shetland, with about 75 percent of people attending against Viking Energy.

Governments and companies don’t like democracy much and overruled with the message: “We need green energy, money and jobs, otherwise we will be poor again like before the oil.”

We went to Foula and Fetlar this summer. Foula was lovely but even from there you can see Viking Energy. You know that the turbines dominate the landscape wherever you are on the islands. We assume the red lights are visible during the dark nights.

Maybe you don’t mind that because they make money and are necessary for the ‘green’ revolution.

And Shetland is still advertising itself as unspoilt.

But this is no longer a reality. The reality now is compulsory and never ending economic growth, mass tourism with huge cruise ships, more and more traffic and fish farms, people are busy and Unst has the ambition to become a kind of Cape Canaveral.

The governments, both local and national, try to make people believe that growth is necessary for Shetland and that it combines well with ‘unspoilt’. Many people believe the alternative is to go back to poverty. People fear poverty and that is very understandable.

We think it is possible to develop a bottom-up alternative. A good life without poverty and without growth.

Start discussions about Degrowth, regional self-sufficiency (for food and energy, and maybe more), Home Rule and financial-economic transitions. Stop sacrificing nature, landscape and communities, think about sacrificing some luxury instead.

After our painful last visit to your lovely islands and people, we divorce from Shetland, but don’t know yet where to go for holidays, because everywhere in the world compulsory growth and mass tourism spoils people and places.

If you like to contact us, you are welcome:

Louis de Jel
Roos Fokkema
Molenstraat 12
4064 EG Varik
The Netherlands
dalziel@casema.nl

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