Should we be grateful?

Sometimes governments say they are going to do 20 daft things (they never put it quite like that) and then only do 10 daft things and they expect us all to be grateful.  There ought to be a word for it  – a Greek word – maybe there is – for a victory which you win with some effort but you would have won even if you had done nothing because the other side wasn’t in the fight.

Two things that may fall into that category, although the problem is that one rarely knows, are the non-merger of the EA and NE and the non-removal of a requirement to teach children to care for nature in the school curriculum.

Merging EA and NE would have been awful – the EA hardly has an environmental bone in its very large watery body and NE hardly has a bone in its environmental body these days.  A merger would have created a spineless, flaccid jellyfish of a body looking after freshwater and terrestrial things – and that could obviously never work.  Here’s good analysis from Martin Harper.

Let’s wait for the day when there is a merger of NE and bits of FC to create a Forest and Wildlife Service – if done properly that could be quite good.

And here is what government (England) is doing and not doing to the National Curriculum.  [Is the fact that I always have to check how to spell curriculum a sign that I had a poor education (otherwise I would know) or that I had a good one (because I actually care?)].  And here is another piece of good analysis – this time from Jules Howard.

Governments always want to be able to say that they did some things we liked and some things we didn’t like so that must be fair, whereas an art of really good government is doing lots of things that are right and then persuading people to put up with them.  I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that in the Labour days, Defra wanted to replace set-aside with something worth having but because it also wanted to say no to a badger cull it felt that it had to give the NFU something to shut it up.

It’s slightly shabby decisions like that one (for they are shabby – although, I say again, it’s only a suspicion on my part) that encourage the histrionics of the NFU and the CLA when they throw their toys out of their prams in outrage whenever government has a good idea.  If you act like a toddler in a tantrum all the time then some government departments are weak enough to give into you sometimes.  The NFU has been having temper tantrums in private and public for years and has never been given a firm talking to by any Secretary of State as far as I know (but how would I know?).





Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

11 Replies to “Should we be grateful?”

  1. Perhaps this is the sort of "firm talking to" you had in mind:

    Did you see Kendall's response? :


  2. "Should we be grateful?". Yes, but probably not to the Conservative bit of this government. I've read in a couple of places that the better-than-expected decisions to which you refer were concessions to the Liberal Democrats. Apparently Ed Davey pushed Michael Gove to retain climate change on the curriculum and the Lib Dema have always been opposed to the merger of Natural England and the Environment Agency. So they don't just make concessions to the likes of the NFU. Sometimes they are influenced by people a bit closer to home.

  3. "A merger would have created a spineless, flaccid jellyfish of a body looking after freshwater and terrestrial things"

    Mark are you sure you're not speaking about Wales' recently created "single environment body", the awfully named Natural Resources Wales?

    I feel for the staff - many good folk wanting to do the best for Wales' environment. But will their leaders and ministers allow them too? Or will they reduce them to a spineless sglefrod môr?

    Perhaps you could cast your critical eye over the Welsh environmental scene once and a while - apart from Iolo Williams' inspiring speech, many of us feel we've been abandoned by those that should be shouting about the state of nature in Wales but remain quiet unless it suits them.

  4. No, we definately should not be grateful. And whilst I still agree that the right combination of forests and wildlife would be great that certainly would not have been the case with the current proposals - I think everyone realises that a significant chunk of the Conservative Party would love to put forestry in a place where the sun doesn't shine in revenge for it (through the public) opposing its will. Once again it was only the ferocious opposition of an unlikely rainbow alliance spreading from community groups through environmental groups to the timber industry that put them off - and you may well have that alliance to thank for the dropping of the EA/NE merger. Experience shows (EN & CA) that regardless of fine promises the pattern of these mergers is ALWAYS the same - the weaker partner just quietly disappears - and with the huge political profile of flooding one can only fear that in Wales it will be nature conservation, forestry and public access which, arm in arm, gently sink below the waves.

  5. A spineless jellyfish - that would be the usual sort, but we know what you mean. The EA has always presented oddly imho - their (NRA-era) news bulletin always used to crow about prosecutions and the size of fines imposed as if this was a measure of success but never thought to point out that this was after an event representing a failure of their exhortations to prevent pollution. All behind an image of a leaping coho salmon ... what the!!??

    Outwardly odd or not there is little I could ever fault EA staff on (with one or two exceptions*) - like Defra and its other agencies it's the trickle-down effect the policies of the Gubmint of the day which have the greatest bearing on their corporate inertia. So don't tell them - tell THEM.

    * irrational, unreasonable or little-Hitlerish behaviour probably caused by piles

  6. So the outcome of the review is that things will be slightly less even worse than they could have been, which I suppose means breathing the tiniest possible sigh of relief. It's hardly a "new deal for wildlife" though is it?

    How do other countries organise their equivalent wildlife and natural environment services? Is there a generally agreed model of what works best?

  7. Should we be grateful? Apparently, yes. As chance would have it I received a response from Richard Benyon today to a letter that I wrote to my MP about declining moth populations. According to Mr Benyon's letter, prospects for nature in this country are pretty good - "One outcome [of the biodiversity strategy for England] is that we will see an overall improvement in the status of our wildlife by 2020", "almost 100,000 hectares of grassland types that are likely to support pollinators are already protected as Sites of Special Scientific Importance" and "Conservation of wild pollinators is also promoted through Environmental Stewardship...this encourages farmers and other land managers to manage their land to provide suitable habitats for a range of wildlife including pollinators".

    What is so depressing is the self-satisfied implication that what is being done is anywhere close to being enough to reverse the impoverishment of wildlife in this country.

    1. That's a relief. Perhaps if you write again, he'll add that the NHS is in better shape than ever, the economy is BOOMING and Santa Claus exists.

  8. My own view is that there should be a rejuggling of parts. I'd jam all the agencies into one doughy mass and then slice it up again, to give

    1) a terrestrial hydrology and ecology agency (Yes, definitely THE Agency) - combining landscape & floodplains with species & habitat management (including trees and forests)
    2) a marine management organisation
    3) a protection and control agency responsible for all relevant licences, permissions, monitoring, prosecutions etc (bat etc licences would probably be better handled within JNCC at UK level)

    There would be bits and pieces to argue over but this is +/- what I'd like to see in place before 2020. Next review is due in 2016.

    And, in case it had escaped your notice, NERC is undertaking a consultation of whether to allow various of its research institutes become part of the private sector: .

    One reason might be that the agencies are so cash strapped that they can't afford to pay for the Institutes' services. It's interesting to ponder how, in what will be its 50th year, the Biological Records Centre (part of CEH), which has done so much to support the efforts of the voluntary Recording Schemes and Societies, will be facing the future. And at a time when the State of Nature Report has demonstrated such a need for positive action and the information to guide such action too.

    Perhaps, however, CEH will be merged with the THE and good science will flow through the new agency (along with milk and honey and the sound of turtles).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.