If you’re still a bit hazy about this project, I hope this feature I’ve prepared makes it a bit clearer. (Incidentally, the picture below may or may not feature in the project but is an example anyway of how we want to use words to provide a context for the images.)
You may already have glanced at articles in various magazines about the 2020VISION project, perhaps heard colleagues mention it in passing, or seen images with its logo attached. With the current plethora of smartly presented environmental initiatives baying for our attention it would be easy to overlook 2020VISION without realising that this is, in fact, the big one: there may be only a small shoot above the surface at the moment, but it is drawing on a massive rootstock of support and expertise and with careful cultivation will realise its unique potential as a communication tool for the entire environmental community.
“Unique”, in this instance, is no hollow claim. 2020VISION, for the first time in the UK, pools the talents of many of the country’s top photographers, outdoor writers, sound recordists and other media professionals and gets them working with conservationists and scientists to communicate one of the most pressing issues of our time: the need to arrest and reverse the erosion of our stock of natural capital. Fresh air and water, pollination, the carbon storage performed by the seas, bogs and forests, productive soils and space for people’s imaginations – all things that a prosperous society relies on and which, thusfar, we have enjoyed for free. But many of these systems – and the “ecologicial services” they deliver – are in a state of crisis: the case for their restoration is therefore an overwhelmingly economic one and that affects everyone in society whether they profess an interest in the natural world or not. Who wants to start paying eco-taxes alongside VAT and income tax? For years, all the major NGOs have provided a diagnosis of what’s wrong with wild Britian: 2020VISION’s role is to make sure that everyone knows the cure through the stories told in its images, words and videos.
It’s an ambitious goal but one which Peter Cairns, a director of the project’s parent organisation, the Wild Media Foundation, believes is within reach.
“2020VISION is talking to people in simple language about the things that matter to them: security for their children, the sort of place they live in, prosperity. All these things ultimately rely on having vibrant ecosystems. In many ways it’s not a hard sell, just a matter of helping people to see the link between the two.
“The project is founded on the belief that the right combination of words and imagery can move people in ways that traditional “conservation messages” largely fail to. Too often in campaigns the images come as an after-thought when in fact they can play a pivotal role in their success or failure.”
2020VISION isn’t interested in “preaching to the choir” and recognises that for the vast majority of people, nature conservation is pretty low on their list of priorities. It knows that telling people about species and habitat loss makes little practical difference, that people tend to act on emotion rather than reason. Its audience is therefore a bit different from the ethically motivated one traditionally targeted by conservation organisations. Street exhibitions, social networking and on-line community building will be vital tools alongside print and broadcast.
The task of creating the materials needed to communicate the benefits to everyone of restoration and reconnection is now underway as a team of 20 of the UK’s top wildlife and landscape still photographers, often accompanied by a videographer, travels to destinations the length and breadth of the UK. The aim is to produce a body of work that supports the idea that wild places are good for us – economically, physically, spiritually. “You could say that we are the PR agents for bees, bogs and barn owls, “ comments John MacPherson, the project’s AV designer. And rather than simply producing beautiful stand-alone images, much of the work is being shot with av production and exhibition potential in mind. The potential for pictures to tell stories too, is vital.
Scotland will, inevitably perhaps, feature heavily in project’s outputs. Some locations, such as Assynt and Coigach and Glen Affric, have been chosen for the landscape restoration work taking place there, work that aims to improve the quality of people’s lives as much as to improve the natural environment. Assignments to the Bass Rock and the Inner Hebrides will highlight the local importance and potential of ecotourism while one focusing on the beavers of Knapdale will explore the potential of less interventionist models of landscape management. Sustainable ways of managing fisheries on Shetland may have lessons for other parts of the UK. Cities aren’t forgotten about either and efforts underway in Cumbernauld to reconnect habitats fragmented by urbanisation will be documented. Then there are the places special to Scotland that deserve celebration in their own right: the machir of the Outer Hebrides; astonishing marine biodiversity around St Abbs; our own temperate rainforest in the shape of Atlantic oak woods; and the “Great Bog of Sutherland” – the Flow Country.
2020VISION is all about collaboration and trying to achieve something that no individual or organisation can achieve alone: a breakthrough in public thinking about wild nature. And we can, as individuals as well as corporations, take action to enhance the wild places we love and need. This is within our grasp. With serious support from the organisations and companies that share its vision, 2020VISION will let many more people know that they too have a stake.