This annual event, now in its fifth year, took place on May bank holiday on the magical island of Arran on the Scottish west coast. Easily accessible by train and ferry from Glasgow, it feels a million miles away from the pressure and pollution of city life.
A diverse group of lawyers gathered together to learn more about Wild Law. We came from varied backgrounds such as private practice, regulators, legal consultants, academics, the bar and even an eminent QC. Despite a wide range of ages from 20s to 60s we all came together as equals with no hierarchy – instead a recognition that we all have something to offer and learn from each other, regardless of age.
UKELA members and organisers Simon Boyle and Ian Cowan put together a fascinating programme of activities including visiting a marine reserve created by dedicated activists working in partnership with local community plus bee keeping and tree planting projects. As well as amazing scenery, Arran is blessed with ancient standing stones which are more than 4000 years old. I took my boots and socks off and revelled in soaking up the amazing energy of this place through the bare soles of my feet.
A highlight was a wonderful presentation from activist lawyer and academic Tom Appleby of COAST about how he has used a combination of the law, community organising and the media to create a marine reservation off the coast of Arran, in the face of massive opposition from powerful vested interests and the bureaucratic obstacles of a legal framework of marine law which does not protect the marine environment effectively. He proved that it is possible to use the law creatively to bring about change and to have fun in the process too!
We also heard presentations on the fundamental principles of Wild Law, and updates from around the world at the global, European and UK levels.
The group included a mix of regulars to this field and new joiners who are disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of what is called "environmental law" but too often becomes “development law”, solely concerned with how far can we can push the system without breaking it. They came looking for something different which feels in harmony with what we know deep down - that our legal system needs to be fundamentally redesigned to be aligned with the rhythms and cycles of nature, rather than seeking to subjugate the natural world to economic growth.
I've been organising and taking part in Wild Law weekends and retreats for 10 years. What I consistently get out of them is a wonderful feeling of cameraderie and community. We start the weekend as strangers and quickly recognise each other as fellow members of our "tribe" - seeing in each other a refusal to accept the status quo and a searching for something better. We are like the imaginal cells which form in the chrysalis as it is transforming from caterpillar to butterfly. The imaginal cells hold the DNA of the transformation which is to come, and grow in strength by connecting with each other in the face of attacks from the immune system of the dissolving old form of the caterpillar. The connection which we form on these weekends endures and contributes to a field of possibility for transformation.
If you feel the call, please join us. Come and find your tribe.