Posts Tagged ‘the guardian’

Environmental politics: a rise in ‘green blobs’ needed to keep on badgering?

October 12, 2014

I wonder how many of you subscribe to environmental campaigning newsletters or conservation blogs from the likes of Mark Avery or Miles King, George Monbiot or Naomi Klien?  Hen Harriers and badgers appear to be the top of the list in terms of species ‘popularity’ at the moment, and quiet rightly so if you have been following the issues which has brought attention to their plight?  Miles King has recently written a very short but certainly eye opening post about spending cuts and the debt.  It questions the claims that the national debt is being paid off, yet by providing part of a letter from the UK Statistics Authority it is clear that under the ConDem Coalition the Public Sector Net Debt has increased by nearly 50% during this Parliament.  Rightly King questions the privatisation of the Royal Mail, large parts of the NHS and selling off of public land and askks what has this achieved, clearly not a reduction in the national debt.  Yet departments like Defra have had cuts of around £800m between 2010 and 2016.  Was it the banking bail out which began the drain on the public purse?

Owen Patterson, badger hater and master climate change denier should perhaps be given a copy of Klein’s latest book.  This Changes Everything Capitalism vs. The Climate is an expose, an explanation and perhaps even a call to arms to the environmental movement after its austerity derailment.  The Shock Doctrine ought to have been an influential and inspirational motivational book but maybe it was a lost as austerity hit?    Here in the UK we seem to have lost momentum, what happened to the promised aftermath of the State of Nature?  Various other reports have been published, including the recent Living Planet Report 2014 Species and spaces, people and places but where is the inspirational rally to create critical mass and effect a challenging conservation collaboration to achieve change?  Where are the party manifestos in which the natural environment features as a priority?  We hear that the badger cull is the fifth most written about issue to MPs, but how many people have written about the Hen Harriers and driven grouse shooting, how many have called for reform of agri-welfare payments and HLS to landowners who are unable to demonstrate public benefit?

It’ll soon be Christmas …. perhaps when Santa asks you what you’d like, This Changes Everything ought to be up there on that wish list?  Then you can begin to draft up your series of New Year Resolutions which collectively and collaboratively we can, as a critical mass, make those purporting to represent us do just that?   If they fail then we hold them accountable?  Listen to Klien’s resume of fracking and how our politicians are pandering to capitalist corporations at our expense.

The Guardian article in which is embedded an interview with Klien explains how UK Ministers’ rewriting of the law will allow fracking to happen beneath people’s homes without their permission flouts basic democratic rights.  Klien said that the UK government’s changes to trespass laws, to speed up the ability for shale gas companies to frack beneath landowners’ property, was energising resistance to fracking in Britain.

But, despite the mess that we the voting public permit politicians to create, just occasionally enjoy the fresh air (while we still can) and remember that there is beauty around us, and that we should strive to live with our natural neighbours ….

The image above shows two tunnels, that on the left the beginning of a chamber.

The image above shows two tunnels, that on the left the beginning of a chamber.

I spent the afternoon with a great bunch of passionate people determined to help poor beleagured brock, it was a healthy reminder of why we must keep badgering the politicians into doing the right thing, that is for people and not for profit.

In Klein’s words  …. “I think we need to be very clear about this – the only way you can win against forces with a huge amount to lose is to build a movement of people, many more people, with a huge amount to gain.”  The issue of Scottish independence, brought out around 85% of the electorate.  The two and a half party system will remain just that whilst apathy remains and the Westminster village refuses to reform?

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A Tale of Blue Bigots and Green Blobs, might persuade you to think about things that you might be able to do, be it for badger, hen harriers or the bigger political picture?  Small steps build momentum and collaborative endeavours build movements ….. be part of it?

 

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‘Moor’ action needed, particularly by politicians of all persuasions?

June 22, 2014

Reading the Regional broadsheet recently and an article by Ben Barnett (Agricultural Correspondent) “Woodlands still wait for action to secure future” reminded the reader that despite the Government convening a panel to assess the future of the publicly-owned woods there has been no progress since the sell off / give away was abandoned.  The panel’s report, puiblished two years ago, called for the public forest estate to remain in public ownership but one might be forgiven for wondering what part the epetitions and lobbying of Ministers and MPs played in that conclusion?

The recent Queen’s speech did not include measures on forests, prompting members of the panel led by its chairman the Rt Rev James Jones to write an open letter.  The Guardian heads the story Forestry panel attacks UK government.   The Independent Panel on Forestry Final Report was published in 2012.

It is laudable that the IPF urges the Government and all political parties to make manifesto committment to legislate as soon as possible after the General Election to ensure that the future of the public forests are assured. Their report said that the forests cost the taxpayer about £20m a year, around 90p per household in England!  Apparently, that same estate provides an estimated £400m in benefits to people, nature and the economy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other ‘estates’ provided that kind of value for public money …. some of the upland moors in receipt of HLS funding yet failing to safeguard Hen Harriers and other raptors perhaps?  See Avery’s commentary on Simon Barnes’s comments in the Times and just in case readers are still minded to provarication about “Ban driven grouse shooting” then read his message to “wishy-washy liberals”.   His epetition on the Government site currently stands at around 4,773 and his ambition is to achieve 5,000 by the ‘inglorious 12th’ (August) so anyone able and minded to twitter, please sing loudly ….

Someone reputed to know a bit about forestry, Roderick Leslie has written a book “Forest Vision” and if Mark Avery’s review is anything to go by it promises to be an interesting read?  Avery writes that “This is a book about the politics of forestry by someone who knows them better than just about anyone else in the UK.”  Sadly, whilst politics ought not to have a place in nature conservation it most certainly appears to infest and worse still it appears to be from top right down to even regional level?

Since his departure from the RSPB Avery might be regarded as having become more outspoken in defence of the natural world, perhaps Roderick Leslie is joining the ranks and who could forget Iolo Williams passionate appeal when he was part of the launch of the “State of Nature” report in May last year?  It’s worth a periodic revisit to hear him remind us all why we must keep trying …. for the sake of the next generation, who if we fail will not have the experiences we enjoyed as children.

 

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

 

It would be even better if political parties were to show an interest in the natural environment, its future and particularly its protection?  In one lifetime we have seen “A Muzzled Watch-dog” become a “toothless terrier” and more recently perhaps it is morphing to a “lapdog”?  We have seen suggestions that it is acceptable to replace an ancient tree with its saproxylic invertebrate assemblage and epiphytic bryophytes etc. with a 100 new saplings! No doubt that contract would probably be awarded to a hard pressed NGO trying to keep their staff in work, so effectively preventing opposition to yet more loss of species rich habitat?  Perhaps it’s time that we all started to contact our MPs and prospective MPs and ask what their party plans for the natural environment?

Thanks to Phil Lee for the stunning image of a Yorkshire Ophrys insectifera.

 

 

Is “gardening” for wildlife an alternative to nature conservation?

August 4, 2013

I wonder, is gardening for wildlife a better option that trying to conserve habitats and species?  Is the challenge to stem the decline too much and should we simply build biodiversity instead, on land that the developers and agri-industrialists don’t want (for now)?

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We’ve heard much about the State of Nature published following collaboration by some 25 organisations.  Some pretty horrendous statistics were revealed.  In all probability it seems that they are only the tip of the iceberg?

The report catalogues the continuing failure of Government and NGOs to even stem the decline of our wildlife.  It looked at some 3,148 species (but a minute fraction of the nation’s wildlife species, ones that data is held on such that meaningful analysis can be had), 60% of these have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.  One in ten RDB species are at risk of extinction, if that’s true then Thorne and Hatfield are in for some hefty losses.  Conversely I’m sure there are some who would step up and offer to introduce some iconic alternatives which would be better suited to climate change or a country park regime and badge it as a community outreach project.

So, given that speakers at the conference admitted that in 2010 they had missed the targets of halting biodiversity decline, what will they now do?  Some wondered where they had gone wrong, clearly they’d not really been listening to the likes of Iolo Williams.  They’d been drifting along chasing funds for projects, delivering projects designed for building biodiversity – hand outs from developers mitigation.  Why has the challenge been dummed down, why did Natural England back off from taking the Walshaw case through as a compalint from Europe, why did the RSPB have to pick up the gauntlet?

Natural England happily sign off authorisations for badger culls, but they will not enforce reparation of damage to SSSIs.  Similarly the Rural Payments Agency refuse to investigate reports of damage insisting it is Natural England’s role to enforce.  It’s political ping pong – inactivity which might be likened to Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt, or the ongoing decline of the UKs wildlife or SSSIs failing to reach favourable condition status.

Amongst the various responses of the ‘conservation agencies’ was the announcement of a(nother) meeting (sorry Iolo) – then the production in autumn of a challenge document and finally action will follow .  I’ve heard it all before and whilst I’m absolutely certain that those speaking mean well, perhaps if I may be forgiven for considering myself an unsung hero, but here in South Yorkshire I’m not prepared to hold my breath.  The 25 NGOs plan to repeat the event and reconvene in three years time, to talk maybe not about species recovery but what they’ve been doing about it – like Iolo I really hope they actually do DO something about the continuing decline which I see no sign of abating.

The Ghost Orchid Declaration produced in 2009 by Plantlife is an earlier call to arms, but it too like so many other variants from the spectacular array of special interest or focus groups pleads that agri-environment schemes are better targetted.

Apathy, avarice, competition between agri-industrialists and conservation play a significant part in the ongoing failure.  The Common Agricultural Policy and its subsidies to the fat cats of agri-industry (not farmers) who tell us they are the guardians of the countryside so should receive public money to deliver nature conservation.  Natural England appear to subscribe to that view because they continue to dole out extra support by way of HLS for otherwise unproductive corners of otherwise efficient businesses.  Defra programmes designed to encourage land owners to be green create improvement schemes for example where land owners are advised on how best to receive additional funds for short term involvement to create ‘corridors’ or pocket handkerchief ponds.  It might be suggested that the nations’ back gardens deliver better value for money but taxpayers are not recompensed, instead they appear to be expected to continue funding those who have played a significant role in the depletion of species.

Preventing a wasteful “double payment” for the same environmental activity from agri-environment schemes would at least be a start.  Monitoring for tangible outcomes through truly independent analysis might also begin to offer credibility.

As someone who used to be a member of approaching a score of organisations do I think they represent value for money?  If we read the future as suggested by Anna Bawden in the Guardian recently then its pretty bleak.  Mark Avery in his excellent blog is currently analysing NGO performance and there are some interesting comments made by his readers.

So, what of the future, what will be left for the next generation?  While you give thought to what you think should be done, I’ll offer a little grassroots activism news …. for those readers interested in invertebrates the Forum are shortly to present the findings of an invertebrate survey on a piece of peripheral lagg fen.  Thus far some 8,000 specimens of coleoptera alone have been deterined and amongst them some RDBs, some species are relocated classics as recorded by the old Victorian naturalists who made occasional visits to Thorne Moors (Hatfield Moors was less accessible).

 

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So, I hear you ask what does that prove (aside from quality habitat still exists at Thorne), well I offer that in the main the determination to get this project off the ground and then implemented was through the tenacity and committment of a handful of people – thank you to my colleagues and associates you know who you are.

It follows then (perhaps) that if we can deliver worthwhile projects then just think of the capacity of the NGOs and their statutory allies.  Better still bring on ‘moor’ local action?

Remember the words of Edmund Burke who said The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing and considered that Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Images: Martin Hammond & Helen Kirk.


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Mark Avery

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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