Presence, Absence: Traces of Humanity

'In the west of Ireland are territories where a proportion is still preserved; nature has room for its ways and so does humanity. This sphere of interaction and qualified autonomies has its echoes and the echo hunters necessary to the awakening, its sheerest cliffs have names and histories, its placelore knows a gradation of familiarity from town centre to lonely upland. Without defining it more tightly, I’ll call it the Ecosphere; the word has been lying around in my mind for years awaiting an application. Descending to the local and personal scale of my time in the west of Ireland, which has coincided with a surge of economic growth, I am as aware of cultural loss, loss of history, loss of echo, as I am of ecological damage. I have come to resent the truth-telling of environmentalism; a sense of the Earth’s vulnerability and of the obligation to defend it hangs a veil of anxiety between me and the landscape. At every turn of my walks I expect to find some detail of the scene that I have lovingly and scrupulously noted in one of my maps or books, effaced by careless ‘improvements’: a JCB levelling a site for a house has needlessly scooped away an old limekiln; a road-widening scheme has heaped rubble onto a stone commemorating the death of a friar at the hands of priesthunters. Is it mere ignorance and indifference, or does some wordless animosity drive this destruction of the countryside and the little landmarks that make it meaningful?'

          My Time in Space, p. 176