Burgar Hill, Orkney; Alistair Peebles, 2011
In view of the concerns currently being expressed over the siting of wind turbines in the West Mainland and more generally in Orkney, may I propose the following? That the various archaeological rings, tombs, dykes, ditches, monoliths and dwellings – all of them long-abandoned – should be uprooted and moved elsewhere.
This would not only have the effect of ridding the landscape of intrusive leftovers from a bygone age, clearing the way for the development of new technologies, it would make them easier to preserve and more convenient to visit and study.
With well-chosen new sites nearer modern centres – the entry points of cruise liners and other essential amenities – their extravagant carbon footprint would also be brought into line. Many other benefits would doubtless arise: the possibility of prestigious housing developments in historic locations, for example.
Even more far-sighted, given that these relics are apparently so incompatible with turbines wherever they might appear (“Heard YE that whistle?”), is the suggestion that they should be relocated far across the Pentland Firth. This regularly happens with ancient material of all kinds, taken into care by the museums in Edinburgh.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet proposed erecting turbines in the national capital itself. Our humble rocks and native bumps could be set up within the city, therefore, and live on untainted for years, with just the sort of skyline their ancient makers would have moved mountains to achieve.
Finally, many will refer to a supposed connection between these crumbling structures and their “home” landscape. This link is something that can surely be preserved and recreated digitally (a showcase project for our own, more sustainable contemporary local technologies, perhaps?). It can then be celebrated online for the people of the world to see and enjoy as though they were actually here.
Indeed that might well encourage visitors actually to come and witness first hand how we managed it. Windfarms are in any case famously attractive: is the Causeymire in Caithness not now experiencing a tourism renaissance?
And there will always be other ruins to provide inspiration and wonder for those who view them. As GMB noted in An Orkney Tapestry: “Facing Scapa Flow is Lyness, like a Yukon shanty town abandoned after a gold rush.” Rather out of date as a description, no doubt, but still, for the turbine-oriented visitor, a winning combination.
Stone age people have had their chance, and their unsustainable culture is now utterly discredited: dead and gone. Endless opportunities await the ingenuity of our modern engineers and marketers. Let’s shift the wreckage and let them have their day.
Letter to the Orcadian newspaper
Alistair Peebles: Brae projects | blog