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Gorm: Blue-Green

Diesel pump at the harbour in Lochinver
[58.14816910436958, -5.246101560600568]
Mandy Haggith

This ‘poemish’ piece results from a research project exploring the experiences of swimmers, surfers, kayakers, rowers and sailors in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. It combines the answers from 21 participants to the question ‘Do you choose to swim, paddle or sail because it has a low carbon footprint?’


It’s not for me 

to approach the water in that way. 

I’m afraid not.

I wouldn’t say when we started paddling

that was in our mind.

It’s a cheap way of getting onto the sea. 

Affordability is why I’m interested. 

We didn’t have to spend a lot of money on fuel. 

It was more economic than environmental, 

not an environmental consideration, 

not a conscious one. 

I wasn’t thinking I’m helping the environment

by not having a big motor. 

I wasn’t thinking that. 

It’s to do with silence. 

It’s what I have available to get that fix of fun. 

You need the cars. 

I don’t feel bad about using a bit of carbon. 


There’s a change of weather in terms of wind

and a change of species in the ocean.

The big one is the unpredictability of the climate. 

We’re getting a lot less long stable periods. 

We’re getting a lot of strong winds 

and inclement weather, 

milder, wetter spells in summer, 

drier stormier winters, 

greater change between heat and cold,

more severe storms coming through,

less predictable winds,

more intense periods of instability.

Changing temperature has an impact 

on lobster fishermen, creel boats.

More warming means increasing challenges. 

It’s not just something affecting other people

or other times

or the future. 

This is real, 

this is happening

and we’re experiencing it. 

Climate change is such a big thing.

We’re living through it. 

It’s happening now.

I wrestle with that problem. 

It’s not a nice topic. 

If people don’t experience these places

will they want to protect them?

The sport is carbon neutral

but getting to and fro certainly isn’t. 

It’s both low carbon and also not. 

We’ve got the carbon footprint 

of getting from A to B. 

I’ll put my boat on the roof of my car and drive. 

I say this with full knowledge of hypocrisy. 

I encourage tourists to travel. 

Is that a crazy unsustainable thing to do? 

I can’t get my head around it all.

I’m worried.

I had a real crisis of faith. 

It scares me because I don’t understand. 

One of the things that gives me hope is 

how much information we are gathering.

It is slowly being communicated. 

It’s not going fast enough

but it’s coming to the fore. 

We have greater public awareness. 

I think that does offer some hope.


My sailing buddies say ‘Just stick the engine on!’

and I say, ‘No, that’s not what we’re here for.’

I use renewable energy, solar and wind

for all the navigation electronics. 

My boat has never been plugged into the mains. 

I monitor how little fossil fuel we use. 

It’s nice that we don’t have to use an engine

to just go out and do exercise.

I would support anything happening ecologically. 

I recognise it’s very important. 

We have to be sensitive 

to both local community and environment. 

That’s something I’m passionate about. 

It’s a principle I hold dearly.


The sea, in a deep way, enables you to feel

part of a big blue planet,

that sense of what a tiny mite you are

on this big beautiful blue ball.