NEMT continues to be an effective local campaigning organisation, which can point to a number of successes over the years. If we are to remain so, we will need to evolve and adapt as things change around us. What will the future bring? Nick Kempe has given you some ideas in his preceding article and you can form your own ideas.
Some things, we do know. Like many mountaineering and hillwalking organisations our membership is ageing. We need to attract new blood, younger members. Younger people enjoy the hills as much as we do but they are less likely to join a club. We need to reach them, maybe by getting better at using social media; an area where we are largely hidden at present. Can we find common ground with mountain bikers and work with them? Their forest trails do no harm at all and they would bring a useful different perspective.
We need to energise people. NEMT was founded on a wave of enthusiasm and shared motivation to act to save something important. This can be challenging when there isnít a big and immediate issue for people to get behind. We need to involve more people in our campaigns. One way to do this would be to increase our efforts at getting round to meet people in the member clubs. A healthy membership gives us more clout when campaigning with MSPs and local councillors.
The success of the lectures before the pandemic gives some clues as to how this could be done. Attendance has grown steadily over the last few years; many younger people are coming; people are staying on afterwards to have a drink and chat. We need to rebuild and extend this momentum that Covid has destroyed. We have talked about using Zoom for the lectures in the future and will be piloting this later in 2020, but we will need to be careful that we donít lose a good opportunity to get people on board.
Another success was the recent response to our request to email MSPs to get their support to the proposal to give mountain hares protected status. I was surprised at how many people responded. It shows that if we get the right subject, we can reach people. In the past, we have polled people on the issues that they think are important. There is clearly room to improve and extend our efforts in this area.
NEMT was founded to fight local issues and we have stayed a local group. We need to find a balance between these issues and campaigns such as stopping the proliferation of hill tracks on grouse moors and saving mountain hares, both of which started here and grew into national campaigns. LINK, as our conduit into national affairs, has an important role here. We have enjoyed a good relationship with LINK over the years and look forward to this continuing.
Another area where we will have to work at finding the right balance will be in fighting climate change. Most of us think that visiting the hills is very important, and yet fighting climate change requires travel to be curbed. Similarly, we prize Scotlandís upland landscapes and yet fighting climate change requires changes to our energy infrastructure such as wind farms, mini hydro schemes, upgraded power lines and pumped storage. Wherever we end up on these issues, we will need to be clear so that the membership knows where we stand.
The hills and wild places are our sanctuary and are more than ever needed in this fractured world. In the words of John Muir
ďThousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.Ē
If you enjoy the hills, fight for them.
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