I was chatting to a friend who also used to live in the Lakes who had recently visited some US national parks whilst on holiday to the States. “The thing that is impressive”, he reflected, “Is that when they do things, they don’t mess around, there are no compromises”. So National Parks in the States are huge, wilderness areas where previous residents have been actively removed. UK National Parks, however, are a different beast and a delicate balance is required between the needs of residents and visitors whilst protecting the natural heritage, wildlife and ecology as well as the cultural history and traditions.
Many respondents to the Lakes Futures research emphasised the possibilities for compromise referring to a, ‘mixed palette’, ‘win-win’ situations and perhaps most strikingly, ‘have our cake and eat it’. But is this compromise really possible? Some people suggested maybe not:
- “I was very torn between A and D. I would love it if things could remain unchanged, but would also love to see a strong ecologically improved situation. I suspect these are not compatible.”
- “Unfortunately there is no middle ground, you can’t do it in a half-hearted way… actually just doing what Europe offers at the moment and paying farmers to reduce their stocking level by say 20% achieves nothing”
- “Talk of ‘sweet spot in the middle’ between wild and farmed is nonsense… the middle between a cultural landscape and wild is neither one thing nor the other. It just trashes what it really is.”
- “we are getting a compromise which neither party particularly is happy with”
I am not suggesting that compromise be abandoned and we pursue some American style ideal of wilderness. However the cultural landscape of the park, its wildlife and ecology and the livelihoods of local residents are all under pressure from competing land uses – so perhaps we need to look honestly at where genuine conflicts exists. It is easy and politically expedient to talk of compromise, and of course seek them out where possible. At the same time, do we have to seek more innovative solutions such as zoning or simply accept that real success in one land use vision can only really come at the loss of another…
It is these questions which have kept me engaged throughout my research in the Lakes, I hope to be able to return to them throughout my future career and I hope the project and the posts on this blog had got some more people thinking about their answers…