I HAVE a friend who is rather upset about the imminent closure of a city centre Marks & Spencer. We have had lengthy conversations about the demise of the high street.

It is a sad and grim prospect. The fear is that our changing shopping habits will see once-bustling thoroughfares eventually resemble post-apocalyptic wastelands with only tumbleweed and empty Buckfast bottles rattling along the deserted pavements.

But equally sad and grim is what our changing shopping habits might be doing to Scotland's countryside and wild landscapes. This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately.

Here's an example. Most folks who regularly traverse the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh will be familiar with Eurocentral, the sprawling industrial estate in Lanarkshire (or at least have noticed the "Big Heids", artist David Mach's distinctive sculpture at its northern edge).

In living memory, this vast site was once farmland. Where the gargantuan office blocks, warehouses, distribution hubs and call centres now stand was formerly a patchwork of fields filled with crops and grazing beasts.

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If you look at an aerial view of Eurocentral today, only a few undeveloped pockets remain. One of the last available plots, in its south-west corner, has recently been snapped up by Ocado with plans afoot to build a "customer fulfilment centre" across 24 acres.

For fans of fancy food, this is good news. A few years back, Marks & Spencer agreed a £750 million joint venture with Ocado to bring its online home delivery grocery service to Scotland for the first time.

The Eurocentral plot I mention isn't much to look at. It is a mixture of ugly scrubland and boggy marsh, but, as any local will tell you, the area is teeming with wildlife: foxes, deer, rabbits and soaring buzzards. In the summer months, it comes alive with colourful flora, bees and butterflies.

Which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this tale. We are abandoning city and town centre shopping, yet, at the same time, tearing up natural habitats and green space to meet the ravenous demands of online shopping. Then wondering why our world feels out of kilter.

Now, as much as I enjoy culinary delights delivered to my door, there is a big part of me scratching my head in disbelief and trying to fathom how we humans managed to get ourselves into this predicament.

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The Ocado base will bring much-needed jobs and boost the wider economy. Though, at what cost? I worry that across Scotland we are sleepwalking into a seismic ecological disaster. Hopefully, eventually, a thunderclap realisation will rouse us from our slumber.

But, by then, it will likely be too late. Imagine 40 or 50 years from now, the central belt as one big, long concrete corridor stretching from the bottom of Leith Walk in Edinburgh to the farthest reaches of Glasgow's west end.

Every possible inch of green space gobbled up by online retail warehouses the size of small towns, jostling cheek-by-jowl with mammoth shopping malls and swanky housing estates, most of which have eschewed existing brownfield sites for pristine virgin land.

I don't have any easy answers, but it does feel like we are standing at a critical juncture. How did it get to this?

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