Fight austerity by reconnecting with nature, says Scottish environmental writer

A NATURE and a revolutionary writer has called on Scots to fight UK government austerity by reconnecting with nature.

Callander-based Patrick Phillips has also urged the Scottish government to include a “right to farm” in land reform after a five-year battle failed to secure allotments for the people of Killin. Although the village is in the middle of open countryside, most of the land is in private hands and unavailable for community use.

Phillips’ new book, Mountain Love, is meant to be a survival guide for Scots feeling downcast by unending austerity.

He told the Sunday National he hoped it would help people find their connection to nature and in doing so improve their mental and physical health and quality of life.

Phillips said he had known the “deep pain” austerity can cause and found that nature had helped him “transcend” such reality.

“Nature is important in order to be able to survive the level of austerity we have experienced over the last decade and the kind of psychological damage it is causing to millions of people – it is a form of profound human oppression. ‘State,’ he said.

“It robs us of everything we need to live in the world, but nature keeps me intact. It keeps me from fragmenting and allows me, against all odds, to keep something of my being under control.

As he writes about his own relationship with the mountains near his home, he says people don’t have to climb hills to connect with nature.

“If you have a garden or park nearby, just being in that environment can start to improve your quality of life immediately, as you connect with what you’re essentially made of,” Phillips said. “A basic potted plant can contribute to your quality of life. Even a small flower on its own can still be very powerful.

He added: “The majority of us are exploited for a low wage economy and perhaps the only way to survive this level of profit is to interact with nature. Whether you’re growing plants or going to see a mountain, as long as you can see nature and be there, you have a chance to move forward.

“By taking a stand with nature against austerity, you are fighting back because you are prioritizing something of yourself rather than continuing exploitation and doing nothing. Putting nature first begins to turn things around and empower people.

Phillips pointed out that the Scots are in a privileged position because nature is never far away, even in cities.

A supporter of independence, he added that Scotland had the potential to be “one of the best feel-good countries in the world”.

Land reform is essential for that to happen, Phillips believes, and it could start now with a “right to farm.”

“Private land ownership in Scotland is such a big problem – it’s the cause of so much misery,” he said. “For example, there is the alienation of plantations in communities that still don’t have housing estates and estates with far more land than they actually need.

“Having spent almost six years now in the Highlands, I see more and more good land being lost. Land that could not only create strong and sustainable livelihoods, but also help to tackle the climate crisis and to the housing crisis, as well as to produce organic food which could contribute to Scotland’s national economy.

Phillips said Scots must do all they can to fight austerity and today’s “global profiteering elite”. A start could be made by prioritizing nature.

“If you are really determined to fight and survive, you have to do everything you can to take care of your sanity and not put up with this level of austerity that puts vulnerable people in even more vulnerable situations,” Phillips said.

“And even if austerity ends, we must ensure that the levels of austerity we have seen over the past decade do not happen again.”

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Phillips has written for The Stage, Elsewhere Journal, CommonSpace, Scottish Left Review, Freedom Press, Scottish Farmer and The National. In the summer of 2021, he publishes his first book of essays, Eternal Mountain: Essays From Afar. Mountain Love is her third non-fiction book. He is currently working on his latest project, The Modern Giant: How To Be A Giant In An Age of Neo Ontology.

An ebook version of Mountain Love is available here.

A paperback version will be available from major booksellers from August 1. Published by Expressive Press ISBN-13: 978-1838424770