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Scottish thinkers - nature and ecology

Over the years Scotland has produced many writers and thinkers who have intuitively understood the importance of the natural environment, and human beings' connection with nature, to the quality of our lives. For example, Scotland has produced a number of literary figures like Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Edwin Muir, Violet Jacob or Neil Gunn who, in their different ways, wrote about the land and our spiritual connection to it.

More importantly, Scotland has produced thinkers of international significance on nature and its importance in our lives – John Muir, Patrick Geddes, Kenneth White and Robert Macfarlane.  The following is a brief outline of these figures with some links to sites where you can learn more.

John Muir (1838-1914)

Muir was born and raised in Dunbar. He is hailed as America’s most celebrated naturalist, responsible for setting up Yosemite natural park and writing of the importance of the wilderness to our experience of life.  For more information on Muir's work click here.

Patrick Geddes (1854-1932)

Geddes is the founder of town  planning and the first thinker to bridge biology and social science understanding that just like plants human beings require the right conditions to survive. Contact with the natural world is fundamental to this. Thus he wrote that ‘we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests.” Adding, ‘This is a green world … . By leaves we live.”  Click here for further information on Patrick Geddes.

Kenneth White (1936-present)

White born in the Gorbals and brought up in Fairlie in Ayrshire. He graduated with distinction from the University of Glasgow and then moved to France where he has lived since, latterly in Brittany. In France, White is a celebrated poet and famous for his work on what he terms ‘Geopoetics’. This is a movement based on a fundamental criticism of Western thinking and practices which have separated human beings from the world.  Instead it proposes ‘that the universe is a potentially integral whole, and that the various domains into which knowledge has been separated can be unified by a poetics which places the planet Earth at the centre of experience.’ For further information on White click here and for a link to The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics click here.

Robert Macfarlane (1976-present)

Macfarlane is the award-winning  author of Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places. He was born in Nottingham but his childhood holidays in Scotland inspired his interest in the wilderness and his belief that it is our contact with natural landscape of all kinds (mountains, beech woods, saltmarshes, river mouths) and our sense of connection with other living creatures which add immeasurably to the quality of our lives. Click here for an interview with Macfarlane which featured in The Guardian's book section.

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