Good things and bad things

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.

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5 Replies to “Good things and bad things”

  1. I refuse to believe Vlad the Impaler was the third most evil man in history. I can get ten worse just from our current government, and obviously the top five were filled with the usual names of the mid-end twentieth century just in one go. And that is before we get onto the English Royal family of the OG Norman line, started with a Bastard and only got worse. Then there is the Orange One, and the Americans, Vlad doesn’t even crack the top fifty.

    Anyway, the upshot of all this will be there is only bad policies being enacted, and any “good” announcements will be just that: Announcements. This govt is good at announcing things to win the news cycle, and then forgetting them once the ink is dry on the headlines. Just assume the worst from this the most corrupt government in British history-worse even than the Georgians, and you’ll still not even have cracked the worse of it.

  2. I am afraid I do not trust or believe Defra, George Eustice and the person currently in Downing Street, one tiny inch or millimetre. They are com men and all they might say will end up being bad for wildlife and biodiversity and only serve Tory versted interests. I am sure one of the main reasons, if not the main reason most of the Tories campaigned to leave the EU is to be able to bash and do away with nature and the laws protecting them and this they will try to do.
    I have just spent three days in the North Yorkshire Moors mostly looking at the flora of lime stone pavements but also keeping a sharp eye open for the birds. I saw not a single raptor but plenty of corvids.
    Thankfully as I understand it any detrimental and damaging changes the Tories make to the environment and wildlife regulations / laws will not be applicable in Scotland and Wales. Thank goodness for mostly deceit governments there.

  3. Environment Bill – New Clause 25 – Duty to prepare a Tree Strategy for England (26 May 2021)
    Division #15; result was 218 aye, 352 no

    Environment Bill – Clause 95 – General duty to conserve and enhance biodiversity (26 May 2021)
    Division #16; result was 210 aye, 360 no

    Environment Bill – New Clause 12 – Well consents for hydraulic fracturing: cessation of issue and termination (26 May 2021)
    Division #17; result was 216 aye, 357 no

    Environment Bill – New Clause 24 – Prohibition on burning of peat in upland areas (26 May 2021)
    Division #18; result was 208 aye, 360 no

  4. Tuwit’s comment demonstrates rather starkly just how supportive the (conservative) majority in the HoC is of the environment – a pretty poor augury for the real outcomes of the Environment Bill. Whilst some measures might impact their supporters to even throw out something as innocuous as a tree strategy just shows how negative they are ! As far as targets are concerned, this Government doesn’t seem faintly bothered by missing them.

    The conservation lobby is working hard but hasn’t had much impact in an admittedly very difficult environment.

    Two things strike me as worthwhile tactics:

    Firstly, the last Labour Government left a baseline as its legacy which in many cases was a significant improvement on where it started – and which I suspect have been severely eroded subsequently – lets hear about it please.

    Second, the conservation sector must develop and present a compelling vision of the future – of the sort initiated in the Chris Packham led manifesto, which has rather fizzled. Rather than letting the Government define ‘30% for wildlife’ get in there first. The Government has no monopoly on ideas, in fact it is pretty badly equipped even if it wanted to do the right thing. Waiting for the worst then trying to ameliorate it always leaves you further back than you started.

    1. “Rather than letting the Government define ‘30% for wildlife’ get in there first”.

      Excellent point Roderick. If the government frames its binding targets and how performance towards them is measured in the ‘right’ (from its point of view) way then their eventual achievement might well end up meaning little for the status of actual plants and animals out there in the countryside.

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