38 degrees, conservatism and forestry

38 Degrees has made quite a big impact in its short life.  Its praises have been sung by people leaving comments on this site several times and I have suggested that readers of this blog should sign up to some of its campaigns.

Let’s do it again now – how about signing up to its Save our countryside campaign and its Rethink the badger cull campaign?

But amidst all the plaudits, and its current trendiness, it is really no more than a way to shout out ‘No’ now and again.  It can be portayed as radical and may appear so to those, a bit like myself, who are over the age of 50 and have a hazy grasp of the so-called social media but it is, so far, basically a way of putting across a deeply conservative argument – leave things alone!  If you don’t like the government then you can say ‘No’ to everything it does very easily.

The commitment needed to sign up to a 38 Degrees campaign is not great – you sign up (it’s so very easy!), it costs you a few moments of time, no money and no personal involvement as your anonymity is maintained.  It’s perfect for the armchair protester – people like me on some issues and, no doubt, people like you too.  You no longer have to take to the streets you can now protest from your keyboard.

38 Degrees’s greatest triumph in my world was the mobilisation of protest against the forest sell-off.  But, let’s be clear, the outpouring of protest was partly a protest against something that wasn’t actually ever going to happen and we are now in a position where the prospects of change in the way forestry is done in England is probably further away than ever. And that’s not a happy position if you are radical and believe that English forestry, as practised now, is far from perfect.

So the role of 38 Degrees in helping prevent some bad things from happening over forestry has to be balanced against its role in preventing, delaying or endangering some good changes too.  I can still see no great harm coming from a selling off of commercial forestry to the private sector – it is a deeply conservative position to say that what suited the world of 1918 still suits us now!  And I fear that we are no closer to seeing a change in remit of the Forestry Commission to take a much more rounded and environmental view of forests and woodlands for the future.

The motto of ‘Save our forests’ can easily be seen as ‘Keep everything in forestry the same as it is now’ and there is a real danger for wildlife if that view prevails.

I know that Natural England and the Environment Agency will soon be embarking on a triennial review – this is the next chance for Francis ‘b****cks’ Maude to have a go at killing off Natural England or smothering it in the much larger EA.  And why is the Forestry Commission not being reviewed in the same way by Defra as part of its look at its agencies etc?




7 Replies to “38 degrees, conservatism and forestry”

  1. I was talking to a farmers meeting last night and I brought up the forestry thing. As good conservative voters the farmers felt that the forestry should be in private hands with comments like ‘its better run by the private sector’. My argument was ‘labour’ . Not the party but the need to use unemployment to get people back to work and manage all forests better. I used to have 24 lads working for me under such a scheme. Lads that had been in prison with no future in the work place due to society. They loved been out of doors and having some thing to do and achieved a great deal in the time they were with me. They even learned about wildlife and how to enjoy it! [May be none joined the RSPB but it was a start] With 4.5 million out of work, 20% under 25, we are wasting their lives. Yes, WE. I have written to my MP until I am ‘Blue’ [not conservative!] in the face. I have written to the new chairwomen of the forestry commission who has transformed a town in Yorkshire giving people hope. But still we get negative vibes from a government who only cares about the next few years until the next election.
    I will not give up.

  2. The forest debacle was a typical example of negative confrontational politics with the victorious side ‘saving’ something that the losers wanted to ‘destroy’ and once the devil had been vanquished people move on to the next titanic struggle against the forces of evil.

  3. 38Degrees hit the jackpot with its ‘forests fiasco’ cavalry charge.
    Saying ‘no’ is usually the headline behind which most campaigns have more nuanced positions and proposals.
    Along with most environment groups already working on the forests issue 38Degrees sought to halt the proposed sale and to gain certainty about public access and protection of wildlife.
    Environment NGOs – accused by poorly informed commentators of sitting on their hands, or worse – were telling our, then, new ministers either to abandon the sale or to proceed only when credible certainties about extending (not just protecting) nature and public access were in place.
    Few environment groups took the absolutist ‘public ownership good, private bad’ position on the proposed sale.
    But at the start of the current period of public concern about the effect of spending cuts the strong suspicion was that in balancing the books ministers were conveniently cloaking dogma.
    When the required guarantees failed to materialise to support ministerial rhetoric saying ‘no’ to the sale became the obvious rallying point around which more nuanced positions could be found, including 38Degrees’ demands.
    Ministers were forced to admit “we got it wrong” and a year later we await their next move.
    Viewed positively, ministers have gained from the patient advice of civil society which, if charged for by consultants, they would regard as an extravagant cost.
    But in their arrogance ministers have consumed the time, effort and money of communities and organisations large and small – resources which could have been better used.
    Was this an object lesson for ministers in how not to work with civil society?
    The recent ministerial attacks on environment groups during the Government’s public consultation on its planning ‘reforms’ – more dogma, arrogance, cock up – suggests ministers have not learnt.
    For this alone ministers deserve a deluge of emails and more; some will hit the jackpot again, others will not – that’s campaigning.

  4. The trouble is that the more campaigns that 38 degree have, the less the impact on the general public,. Better to have only one campaign running at a time. I wish to say to John miles and mark Avery that the part solution to this, is for them both to become MPs . What our society is lacking is a government with environmentalists with passion.

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