Chapter 30

…Climatic Changes in northern Continental Europe are real.

Scotland 1952-53

Vero and Janet Wynne-Edwards, Scotland

Vero and Janet Wynne-Edwards, Scotland

1952. Photograph by Cowan. Image Cowan_PP_328 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.
Ian and Garry McTaggart Cowan and M.F.M. Meiklejohn

Ian and Garry McTaggart Cowan and M.F.M. Meiklejohn

Scotland, 1953. Image Cowan_PP_142 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.

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Back on the cliffs of Fowlsheugh, conversations with Wynne-Edwards roamed to their shared interest in supporting naturalist clubs. Wynne-Edwards had revitalized the Scottish Ornithological Society (SOC), on par with Cowan’s involvement in the Vancouver Natural History Society. Cowan had given a public lecture on “Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies” to the SOC to raise funds for Wynne-Edwards’s causes. They also shared an interest in deer. Wynne-Edwards had been researching the current management of private deer estates, the same ones that had tried to exclude Cowan’s ancestor Balfour a century before. Overstocking of deer was continuing to destroy any hope of regenerating Scotland’s forests. The strategy that Wynne-Edwards adopted was to position himself on scientific committees to review and guide government policy, on everything from forests to whales. Tedious but effective. Cowan also attended his friend’s lecture on what in those days was called “climatic change”:

Wynne-Edwards paper was most informative and I have noted the following: Climatic Changes in northern Continental Europe are real.…91

Unfortunately, neither of the two scientists would be able to convince any political party of the true severity of the problems of climate change over the course of their equally long lives, despite raising the alarm as early as 1952. Wynne-Edwards died in 1997, decorated but largely ignored. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990 was the first world leader to champion climate science. Naturally, her enthusiasm waned as she began to see the economic impacts of policy that would curb appetites for North Sea oil.


91 Cowan, “Sabbatical Year in Scotland 1952,” October 18, 1952.

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