Time to be in favour of something…

Swansea Bay panorama Photo: The Fourth Dimension via wikimedia commons

You can go through life being against things. There are plenty of things that I am against, eg cruelty, unfairness, putting sultanas in apple pies, racism and illegal raptor persecution.  You could spend a whole lifetime objecting to things but sometimes you have to be in favour of something.

When it comes to climate change, most people seem to be against it if it is going to cause us and other Earthly lifeforms lots of problems.  It’s when it comes down to being in favour of any of the solutions that we have the most problems. Windfarms – great idea, but not here thank you!  Nuclear power – too dangerous.  Not flying or driving anything like as much – that’s rather inconvenient and what about the Chinese anyway?

For the record, I am in favour of windfarms but it does matter where they go – which doesn’t mean that they have to go far from where I live.  One of my regular walks is through a relatively new windfarm site – I saw a Wheatear there yesterday, actually.  And I am in favour of nuclear energy – see page 184 of Fighting for Birds.   And I do fly and drive far less than I used to do – and less than many people do.

A Severn Barrage has been a case where many environmental NGOs have objected to a renewable energy scheme on the grounds that it will be too damaging, too expensive and that there are better alternatives (also mentioned in Fighting for Birds – page 99).  One of the potential alternatives has always been tidal lagoon power.  instead of building a wall with turbines in it right across the Severn Estuary the idea would be to create smaller, easier to build ( and cheaper and quicker), walled areas to do the same job.

Now, a consortium, Tidal Lagoon Power, is planning a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.  They are seeking planning permission and funding for a tidal lagoon that would have a roughly circular wall of 9km and would fill up with water (driving turbines) soon after high tide and empty of water (driving turbines again) towards low tide.  Location is everything and, in this case, Tidal Lagoon Power seem to have found a place that it would be difficult to criticise on wildlife grounds.  Nowhere is perfect, no development has absolutely no impact, and so it is a case of deciding whether the benefit is worth the damage – here, on what I know at the moment (but I’d be interested in the expert opinion of icthyologists), I think it is a scheme worth supporting.

And if I were still working in a wildlife NGO then I would certainly be keen to support it if I were convinced that there really would be little wildlife harm. We need renewable energy, the Severn Estuary is a good place to get it and a barrage is the wrong way to get it.  So if you are against a barrage it’s good to find something a bit similar but so much more wildlife-friendly.

And we probably need such a project to go ahead as a ‘proof of concept’ project – to show decision-makers, investors and the public that this type of approach can work.  Maybe it can’t – we should find out.

So I hope we see the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, WWT and others supporting this scheme, or pointing out what I have missed if they don’t support it.

I gather that there may be less cut and dried projects in the pipeline.  I can’t say that I would be at all keen on a tidal lagoon in Bridgwater Bay SPA, SSSI, Ramsar site and SAC – but that is a fight worth having a little further down the line – and a subject for a future blog.



11 Replies to “Time to be in favour of something…”

  1. One could argue that a tidal lagoon like this is simply a modern version of tidal mills like the one at Woodbridge in Suffolk which harnessed the power of the tide to grind corn, etc. I’ll go and review the plans to see what I make of them but I agree with you that it is better to be for something than against everything.

    I teach charity finance and bank a small drum about charities needing not to be ethical with their investments but to be socially responsible. In other words, don’t say what you won’t invest in but choose to invest in ways that help your charitable objectives and help society.

    An ex\ample some years ago was an Environmental NGO investing in Elf to alter tanker routes off the coast of Brittany. They raised it at several AGMs as shareholders until Elf agreed to change the route and to reduce the risk of pollution to seabirds. Once they had changed they sold their investment, job done!

  2. It’s a shame this ‘technology’ isn’t a little further advanced as it could have been incorporated into our new £85m sea defences which were begun last week. Could have provided some return on the investment in the form of electricity and other benefits eg tourism

    9km of rock armour (well 18 for both sides) has to come from somewhere though, one of those super-quarries perhaps?

  3. I don’t anything about the Swansea bay tidal lagoon so I can’t comment on that, but I wholeheartedly agree with the general thrust of this blog, thanks.
    Nigel Scott’s comment is worth repeating: “…it is better to be for something than against everything”.

  4. Fundamental opposition is the greatest obstacle (and highest cost) in planning, particularly land management – however the current UK system seems to be designed around this rather than exploring the traditional holistic, landscape, site specifics (delete as appropriate) approach. Policy making trying to find middle ground between uncompromising stances by both sides is bound to fail. The polarised camps are both right and wrong with regards generalised statements but that doesn’t mean the middle ground is a pick and mix from both camps – follow such a route and you end up with pure nonsense like Biodiversity Offsetting.

    I realise that in the overweight PR culture of the UK it will be virtually impossible to persuade all parties to tow a ‘well it all depends’ line – but at least we won’t have to listen to ridiculous commentary from many – who are now used to attacking everything and anything from those they simply assume to be their opposition in order to satisfy the media’s thirst for debate thus destroying reasoned argument and science based evidence before it even has a chance to kick in.

  5. Hi Mark, thanks for your posting here, I would like to raise the concern that this tidal lagoon would directly affect a major sand dune system, one of the more threatened habitats in the Europe and one of the last remaining unimproved grassland habitats in the area. I appreciate the need to find better solutions to the energy crises but this site may not be the best choice.
    I advocate we encourage society to use less energy and invest in developing technology to reduce energy consumption (e.g. increasing the energy efficiency of TVs, freezers etc). This is where real gains can be made.

    1. Dan – welcome and thank you for your comment. Interesting to hear about the potential impacts on the sand dune system.

      I am greatly in favour of us using less energy – but cutting UK carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 will require rather more than that. I think you are right to identify technology, backed up by strong regulations, as one of the essential routes but we’ll have to do a lot more than that.

    1. Diapensia – I am impressed by your ability to mine the metals etc and construct the computer which has allowed you to make that comment without buying anything from anyone. Well done indeed!

      1. Mark, your message is “time to be in favour of something.” Is there new legislation that states the public MUST be in favour of commerce? We need commerce but we do not have to be “in favour” of it, surely? Only those making lots of money from commerce have a reason to be in “favour?” I was merely saying if there is a choice between Conservation and Commerce I choose to be in favour of the former. I,m also in favour of clean drinking water without eight processes of “chemical treatment,” but I,m not against reservoirs. I,m in favour of healthy food that actually tastes of the product, does it have to travel from the other side of the world and arrive tasteless. I,m in favour of toothpaste but not in favour of the destruction of forests for palm oil, a toothpaste ingredient. I,m in favour of growing plants but not in favour of the destruction of rare peatlands for compost. I,m in favour of the freedom of speech but not in favour of a government who have passed legislation banning the freedom of speech. I,m in favour of pets, but not in favour of people who allow their dogs to bite people. I,m in favour of Mark Avery for allowing us the chance to comment on wildlife and habitats but I,m also in favour of being able to disagree sometimes. Going on the record of “disagree” with my comments at least one person is in favour of disagreeing with me (only one?). Thats a good record. 60 million agree?

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