Until comparatively recent times the Earth was regarded as providing mankind with a limitless resource. Coal, oil, gas, water, wood, minerals and countless of other materials could simply be consumed at will for mankind’s economic or personal well being. When one resource ran out it was simply a question of looking elsewhere to find a new supply. Turning up the central heating or travelling half way round the world to go on vacation couldn’t possibly be anything but beneficial. Well, if you can afford it why not have a thousand pair of shoes?
Slowly but surely it has begun to dawn on us all that Earth’s resources might actually be limited and that consumption does have a negative side. Furthermore, we are all beginning to realise just how small the Earth is. Indeed it is so small we can sail round it single handed in less than 100 days, in fact just 62 days with the right yacht and crew. Just 100 years ago prominent politicians in South Africa still though the world was flat! So it is hardly surprising that the infinite Earth concept is such a deeply routed one especially as it really does provide us with all we need to live, grow and reproduce.
The recently published results of the International Panel of Climate Change study makes it clear that global warming is happening and at a faster rate than expected. The consequences of this are already being felt in the UK with increasingly violent weather as in the recent flooding and record snow falls.
Concerns about the environment are no longer the domain of doom mongers, cranks and tree huggers. It is the concern of all. Large numbers of people even want to learn what they can do as individuals as well as collectively.
Against this background the UK has been hit with a succession of food scares. These have had the effect of turning public opinion against industrial farming methods which have resulted in a plentiful supply of food and comparatively low prices.
While many environmental groups have conservation as their primary aim, and attempt to keep people out of some areas of lands, we are concerned with the more complex and challenging problem of developing a creative symbiosis of human action and natural processes.
Our challenge is to develop on a small scale, in an impoverished landscape, a methodology whereby we can learn to recognise the needs of the earth itself, while at the same time providing for human needs in a sustainable manner. As a scientific basis of this work we have chosen to follow the pioneering work of the German poet and naturalist J.W. Goethe which offers an excellent basis for the understanding and thereby deriving solutions to the current and anticipated global environmental challenges and led us to develop the term “Environmental Therapy”.
Our project site is at Pishwanton near Gifford, some 25 miles south east of Edinburgh, Scotland. This is a 60 acre partially wooded site at an altitude of 300 m which we purchased in 1996.
Starting with a clean sheet and with the premise that whatever materials were used had to be found on the site wherever possible and had to be a renewable resource, we have experimented with everything. From barns to bridges, from flowers to fences, from trees to toilets, we have examined everything and building as we go in one large scale living experiment.
Of course some things simply haven’t worked while others have been breathtakingly successful. One of our successes has been involving handicapped and other disadvantaged people, including those recovering from mental health problems. These are perhaps the last people one would consider involving in a scientific experiment. Nonetheless, in a myriad of simple, practical ways these people have greatly enhanced the project and have gained much for themselves. This allowed us to widen the term “Environmental Therapy” to embrace the therapeutic benefits enjoyed by so many while working to enhance and heal the environment around them.
In stark contrast to other environmental projects, Pishwanton is very people intensive. While a typical modern farm in this part of Scotland would employ one family and a part of time tractor driver, Pishwanton employs a large number of people. These people, whether a core part of the project team, whether trustees, experts of volunteers, come with a huge range of skills, experience and energy and give it willingly.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of our project is how many people have come from far and wide to work with us or attend one of our courses. To date people have come from Australia, Brazil. Canada, United States, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, France, Norway and New Zealand.
To build on the success so far, we now need to undertake a capital building programme in order to accommodate scholars from around the world and to achieve our vision for Pishwanton as a major centre for Environmental Research, Education and Therapy. This requires an important investment for which there are major public relationship benefits for Corporate Sponsors.
Our aim at Pishwanton is to create a whole environment uniquely advantageous to both humans and nature, an environment richer that the sum of its constituent parts. In practice this involves the development and teaching of the Goethean scientific methodology for use in a wide variety of fields -from architecture to herbal medicine, from agriculture to forestry, all aimed at improving the environment and its interrelationship with human cultural development.
The record of mankind’s damage to nature is such that is has become widely assumed that all actions are harmful and that “development” and “untouched nature” should be separated. However, humanity is impoverished if separated from the rest of the nature, of which we are an indivisible part. The health and social consequences that follow such disconnection are already evident on a world-wide basis.
The Pishwanton Project seeks to redress this balance bringing harmony, diversity and ecological health as well as biodynamic food production, architecture and landscape planning, research and education into a demonstration of the creative symbiosis of human action and natural processes. It will demonstrate a method of “environmental therapy” which depends intimately on the caring human presence working on and with the land. Environmental therapy invites integration and not separation of humanity and nature.
There are fundamental principles which are in balance in healthy human beings and in healthy landscape ecology and it is the aim of The Life Science Trust to determine, explore and educate others in these principles in order to achieve a sustainable natural balance between environmental and human needs. Our whole environment from landscape to farm and garden to buildings, interior decor and the clothes we wear has to be considered, researched and transformed.
The Pishwanton Project involves the development of gardens, orchard, woodland and wetlands, demonstration houses and workplaces and small scale agriculture on a piece of previously semi-derelict land. It provides a demonstration in architecture, landscape design and land management which will serve as an example and training resource for people ho can carry out similar work elsewhere.
It is in the integration of different interests that both the appeal and challenge of Pishwanton lie. The project provides a pioneer experiment in the sustainable and therapeutic integration of a variety of activities that might normally be seen as mutually exclusive, for example, agriculture, horticulture, medicinal plant cultivation, ecological conservation and research, education, the arts, community living and business. From the melting pot of these mutually exclusive activities the aim is to arrive at practical solutions that can be rapidly adopted elsewhere, achieving value and sustainability form land unsuitable for conventional agriculture.
The Pishwanton Project is thus an innovative, land based project which provides a pioneer focus for sustainability in the 21st century.
The project is to provide an educational, research and demonstration centre that will create practical solutions to current environmental problems and challenges being faced both in Scotland and globally. Its farming and gardening, forestry and lifestyle, agriculture and technology on a 60 acre semi-woodland site at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills in S.E. Scotland.
Dr Margaret Colquhoun