New Scottish Spaceport May Destroy Flow Country Peatland

27th Feb 2020
New Scottish Spaceport May Destroy Flow Country Peatland

Flow Country Marshes, where a new Scottish Spaceport is to be built, are one of the largest peat deposits and a source of greenhouse gases, contributing to the environmental protection of our planet.

Environmentalists at Extinction Rebellion have called the idea of ​​building a spaceport at the Scottish Highlands, reckless. The protest followed an official application with a detailed plan for the construction of the Sutherland Space Center in Melness. The facility is to become the first Scottish training ground for the vertical launch of rockets taking satellites into orbit.

If the project is approved, up to 12 thousand commercial research satellites will be launched annually from the location when it is at its peak.

Extinction Rebellion: Flow Country Endangered!

Environmental group Extinction Rebellion said the site’s proximity to Flow Country, an extensive peatland that is in line to become a World Heritage Site, is unacceptable.

This region is the largest peat marsh territory in the whole world. It covers an area of ​​about 1,500 square miles and is capable of accumulating up to 400 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Extinction Rebellion calls the idea of ​​building a Scottish Spaceport in the area reckless and potentially devastating. In particular, activists believe that this “will endanger the fragile peat ecosystem due to the possible pollution or fire.”

According to the project, it will occupy 760 acres of land, and part of it will indeed be located on the peatland. However, the main infrastructure, including the launch platform, will occupy only 10.4 acres.

Kate Willis, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, emphasizes that the construction of the Scottish spaceport contradicts the Highland Council statement on its declaration of climate emergency issued last year.

“Investments should focus on developing a green economy and rebuilding, especially in regions like Flow Country,” Willis added.

A group of environmentalists joined forces with some locals. Together, they urged all those who care about environmental problems to write an objection against the construction of the spaceport.

The project planners already have a large number of objections from locals, living in the future spaceport area. The residents are concerned that this project will destroy their peaceful life and cause permanent damage to the local environment.

“This beautiful, secluded, and practically untouched place will be destroyed in the name of “progress and the creation of new jobs. But a dead planet doesn’t need jobs,” says Gordon McEwan — one of the locals, who lives just a mile from the Flow Country.

HIE, however, does not believe that the facility will have a negative impact on the ecology. They have emphasized that all peat that’s excavated during construction will be used to restore other areas of peatlands. But the group have not offered a proposal on how they would prevent a large fire in the cast of a failed launch.

HIE: Scottish spaceport will not affect the local ecology and will create new jobs

David Oxley, a business development executive at Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), emphasized that the organisation is doing everything to maintain a balance between economic growth and the environment. That is why this project takes into account environmental protection requirements — in particular, the ones applying to rural areas.

“We believe that the Scottish spaceport can bring not only economical but also environmental benefits,” comments Oxley. Over the past two years, leading environmentalists have analyzed how rocket launches affect the area around the take-off platform. With this in mind, we have taken measures that would protect the environment and restore the peatlands.”

The HIE states that their main goal is to minimize the spaceport impact on the environment, in particular, on the formation of carbon dioxide vapors. Besides, the research satellites that should be launched from the facility will play an important role in analyzing climate change and addressing its effects.

Now the fate of the Sutherland Spaceport is in the hands of the Highland Council.

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