If you are subscribed to my free monthly newsletter then last week you would have received my thoughts on George Eustice’s environment speech – there were good bits and less good bits.
The most worrying looking bit was the announcement that DEFRA was going to fiddle about with the Habitats Regulations now that we are Brexitted. And this issue will be like a small microcosm of Brexit itself – some will tell you that it is going to make your life much better, others that you will suffer enormously, and at this stage either is possible. But which do you think is more likely? Wildlife and Countryside Link is clearly worried about the potential, I’d guess likelihood, that protection for wildlife will be reduced – see here. How many of you have already switched off because this sounds a bit dull? Well, OK, but when you find that your favourite wildlife sites are less protected from built development and other threats it might be too late to show an interest. This is what we have NGOs for – let’s hope they monitor things very carefully and then engage the public in fighting any retrograde proposals.
I’m tempted not to tell you anything about the good things in Eustice’s speech because when we hear there are good things and bad things I think our minds play this stupid trick on us, and tell us that there is good and bad and that therefore they cancel out – they rarely do! Vlad the Impaler (only, I read, the third most evil man in history) and Gautama Buddha (generally regarded, I feel , as a good person) were both, I am pretty sure, a mixture of good and bad but that doesn’t mean that the two aspects of their characters were of equal measure. So it is with government announcements – just because speech writers and political advisors have worked very hard to make it look as though there are good things and bad things it doesn’t mean that the measures announced in the speech are neutral overall – they never are, but it takes a while to discover the relative proportions.
But I will tell you that the announcement that the Environment Bill will have a binding target for recovery of biodiversity is a good thing. But for it to be the best thing and stand any chance at all of being a bigger good than the Habs Regs fiddling will be bad, there is an awful lot of work to be done – again, mostly by NGOs. But you can do your bit by continuing to promote the petition calling for that binding target to be enshrined in the bill. Yes, government has said it’ll do something along those lines but another 100,000 signatures on any petition increases its clout. The #stateofnature petition has moved on to 180,000+ signatures which is good. But 280,000 would be better. I expect you have signed already, but just in case, please sign – click here.