Thursday, November 17, 2005

Defra wonders about the value of the environment

Defra is currently asking for public views on why we should value the environment.

What an odd question!

We value the environment because without it we would not be here. For two million years we lived as an inseparable part of it, and our DNA - or human nature - is formed by this experience. The notion of the environment as something out there is created by the fact that our technology and lifestyle has alienated us from it.

Turn the question round and ask - why should the environment value us? Since humans began, we have destroyed so much of it!

The Low Carbon Kid would like to see more emphasis on educating people about the value of the environment, and re-integrating every day lives with it. For example letting children grow their own food in school gardens, or work on the land is a great way to reconnect with it.

Also, if there is a dilemma on how to prioritise people, business or the environment how will it be decided?

I think the coming EC Water Directive is a great example of how legislation will force thru radical changes in the monitoring and care of the natural environment on a local basis, but that the river basin groups need more local membership, and more pro-active publicity for efffective action.

People will care for their environment if it important and economic to do so. For example here in Wales, 50 years ago, the forests were man aged using horses to clear individual trees. With large area clear-felling this became un-necessary. A whole infrastructure supporting the horses disappeared. Now the Forestry Commission is supposedly planting mixed forest, this type of land management, which evidence from Canada recently has shown is more sustainable, should return.

There is a great deal of added value it is possible to get out of proper woodland management. But at present it is uneconomic to do so. This conflict needs properly addressing.

Another example is community-owned renewable energy projects.

For example our village, Corris, in the Dyfi Valley, wants a district heating system fired by forestry waste, but there are not sufficient grants and support to permit this. It would make so much sense for many reasons, including fighting polution, alleviating fuel poverty, soucing fuel locally, tackling climate change, and creating local employment.

Our area needs more jobs and more people in order to help protect the environment, which, though rural and sparsely populated, is largely non-biodiverse monoculture - sheep, conifers.

There is evidence that when a fairly high population lives and works locally on the land, organically, using it to support itself more than at present, the environment actually is more healthy and diverse.

But as long as it is cheaper to fly in vegetables from far way, no one will grow them.

What should Defra do? Get the Treasury on board. Make Blair realise there are votes in the environment. Let him have the courage to be as bold on this as he was on going to war with Iraq, and people might just start to believe in him again.

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