Sometimes, living in Britain, we forget the sheer size of some of the wildernesses that still exist in the world. Coming from a relatively small island where, in large part, you can always bump into another humanbeing, being confronted with genuine, wide-open wilderness can be an awe-inspiring experience.
We worry endlessly about the erosion of these spaces, but it’s far easier to understand the mentality of other peoples – particularly climate change sceptics in the USA – when you visit a place that is bereft of human footfall. And the USA, of course, still has thousands of acres of genuine wilderness. For many people the planet is there to be exploited, and if you see acres of virgin forest around you, you probably feel it does no harm to usesome of that acreage.
Such an attitude can be felt in Guatemala where largeparts of the highly precious forest are being abused and destroyed by crimegangs, and currently there is no one to stop them doing it. Our story this week about huge secret airports and vast cattle ranches being constructed in theGuatemalan forests and barely anyone being aware of them, brings home the reality of living in places with extant wilderness and how they are viewed by some of the locals.
The challenge, as every conservationist will tell you, is to find a way to preserve what is effectively someone else’s wilderness. We destroyed our own wilderness in Europe and yet we’re prepared to tell other, less-developed nations, that they must not follow suit. It’s a hard ask and I for one am glad I don’t have to make that case.
But when you hear of whole – illegal – airports being constructed in pristine wilderness, you know the case has to be made. Let’s hope we can make the right argument, in the most diplomatic of ways, because, rightly or wrongly, their wilderness has now become our wilderness – and these are the last ones we will ever have.
Hasta la vista...