29 May 2008

Rare Earth

I've had this week in my diary for a few months now, blocked off as 'beach week'. This gives me a thrill of liberation - the sense of getting off the treadmill and lying in the sun. In reality I've spent two days in a windswept campervan and two days at home hiding from hyperactive emailers. But in my mind I'm on the beach - and that does count for something.

And what a beach! Why would anybody travel further afield when the beautiful, mystical county of Pembrokeshire lies so tantalisingly close. I was camped at the walker's equivalent of the edge of the M4 - right next to the coastal path where hardy walkers tramped through the worst of the gales.

Welsh nationalists claim their country as the first colony. I would beg to differ. In fact it was Pembrokeshire that was 'England''s experiment with expropriation and oppression, although at that time of course it was Norman not Saxon England. This explains the lower rate of Welsh speaking in Pembrokeshire.

The colonial mentality continues. Pembrokeshire is a place the wealthy English refer to as 'little England beyond Wales' and you have to endure their horse-faced complacency around the towns and villages. The nation's major oil refinery is placed on the wonderful coastline at Milford Haven, leading to oil spillages like that caused by the Sea Empress and allowing the countryside to be desecrated by a pipeline that rips through it to supply the economy with energy.

It is also a major site of 'defence' establishments - although quite what is being defended from whom remains unclear. A walk along the coast path is interupped by booms from the artillery range at Castlemartin. The navy's arms dump at Trecwn is just nearby, as is the air force's training establishment at Brawdy.

This incursion of 21st-century warfare and destructive capitalism into the peace and mystery of the land of Celtic saints and bronze-age monuments seems incongruous. But perhaps it is best that we are reminded of the consequences of our unbalanced and unjust economy even on holiday. The destruction of nature is a necessary consequence of our lust for energy, just as the need for armaments and warfare follows inevitably on our inability to share fairly.

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