Taking Green for Granted


in Opinion

by Pip Howard

‘This green and pleasant land’ as celebrated at the opening ceremony of the Olympics is due to Britain’s very enviable climate which keeps it green. For how much longer though?

Asides from occasional complete mistranslations of scientific research the British media ignore climate change and indeed most things ‘green’. Most of those involved in, and certainly most of those who commentate on, land management have taken in the majority to one of 2 sides, both with a ‘godlike’ arrogance in their belief of how nature should exist in our landscape, which is doing nothing more than accelerating the loss of biodiversity – all flora and fauna in Britain http://markavery.info/2012/08/28/guest-blog-response-marka-magnus-linklater/ . The government is desperately trying to make real the profits promised in the fatuous burbling of think-tank’s who misunderstand the concepts of valuing nature  http://saveourwoods.co.uk/articles/opinion/the-arrogance-that-is-biodiversity-offsetting/ . And new tree pathogens are entering the UK on an almost regular basis due to human error and spreading rapidly – a lack of funding and a lack of care is to blame.

We are losing trees in our landscape at an unprecedented rate. And we abuse those that remain.

Asides from reduced budgets to tackle natural tree diseases, pests and invasive non native plants, our trees are under threat from a lack of sensible planning and maintenance. Identification labels and tree ties are left on, strangling the tree. Our domestic pets urinate on our trees unabated and we spread salt on them in massive quantities, because it is too much effort to recalibrate our gritters in winter. Our urban soils are amongst the most contaminated in the world and yet are expected to miraculously mitigate surface water run off as well as produce a consistent green display year on year – at no cost and with no management.

We are becoming so reliant on systemic pesticide and fertiliser usage that we are at the tipping point of killing off the soil organisms that we are only just starting to understand are so vital for a trees existence and which form the very foundation of the ecological pyramid we are taught about at school.

How can Britain, a country that invented many of the sciences that have enabled us to understand and therefore appreciate the natural world turn its back on its own? How can Britain, one of the pioneers and greatest donators of private money towards flora and fauna give up in their own garden? How can Britain that uses its greenery to symbolise itself continue to do so without hypocrisy?

“South of Toledo there was green country still – green trees against red-brick earth, trees so intense they seemed to throw green shade and turn the dust around them to grass”

Laurie Lee,  ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’

In Britain we have taken for granted the benefits of a tree, its life giving to the immediate landscape surrounding it. If a tree is in our way or blocks anything, including sunlight, we remove it. A tree’s usefulness to industry is limited to something to pin a notice to or hide rubbish and bad design. Despite the fact that valuing trees has been possible in the UK since 1967, those that destroy our trees face fines which are a tiny percentage of their actual value. Developers, who sell using greenery in their brochures, need not get up from behind their desks when officials arrive following accidental removal of trees “Do you want that in cash mate?”   

Britain’s boundaries are political not natural. Enclosure remains in our mindset and thus there is an inherent fragmentation with regards all land issues, which even our NGOs cannot break from. That is for that, this is for this – a thinking that allows for such nonsense as biodiversity offsetting. But the widespread threats see no boundaries and any pocket of greenery left because of postcode funding will not remain green for long no matter how many designations have been layered upon it.

Money is needed for research and as the large land owning ‘conservation’ NGOs have as much, if not more than, governmental research departments, universities and certainly practitioners and the people in their places (who are having to tackle the threats head on with no help and no funding), then surely less time & money should be spent on persistent publicity of tiny vestiges of success to bolster the best salaries in land management and instead their real, hard cash should be put into research, which is absolutely essential to maintain the confidence of their members and others.

The government should not have to spend taxpayer’s money judging a deliberately prolonged debate where the answer is already known – discussion (not just talking to but listening to also). The government should be spending its money on research as well as creating sensible legislation and realistic fines and punishment on those who destroy our trees illegally including control on imported pests and pathogens as well as illegal timber imports.


Read more articles by Pip : http://saveourwoods.co.uk/?s=pip+howard


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Pip Howard September 2, 2012 at 10:31

Today is the first of 2 ride for [tree] research events in Reading: Please go to http://fund4trees.org.uk/

Lesley Jones September 18, 2012 at 08:36

An awakening piece that rings true. The recent cabinet shuffle and other news hints towards even further pandering to lobbyists which will cost us dearly.

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