This article first appeared in the July 2021 edition of Birdwatching Magazine
The epidemic taught us that the wild world does best when we shut ourselves in and hardly travel. We also learnt that while nature is best left to its own devices we love nature, immersing ourselves in whatever bit of it we could find saved many of us from melt down. Nature really doesn’t need us, but, oh boy, do we need nature!
Politicians (generally) are not stupid, they see how much nature means to every voter which prompted all the parties to pledge to build back greener, to make more space for nature, and more space for us to enjoy it. They are not stupid, but they are, for the most part self-serving. Pledges are made to get votes, action often falls woefully short of the promises.
The promised land, meanwhile, suffers yet more depletion of ancient woodland as HS2 batters its way through our green and pleasant, despite Swampie’s last stand. Planning permission is first granted, then hastily withdrawn, when the public notices that a new coal mine is to be started despite government championing renewables. The whitewash spreads as electric cars are lauded publicly, but subsidies removed surreptitiously. Apparently, we will all have to buy electric by 2030, even although the vast majority of us do not have driveways where we can charge our cars and fast-charging bays are few and poorly maintained.
Government insists that every local authority has a plan to allow more house-building, knowing full well that the cheap choice is green field development. Their greatest whitewash is to shift blame. No-one seems to realise that the most developed nations like Japan, have falling population figures and abandoned houses. Government insists we need houses everywhere, regardless of available employment, suitable infrastructure, or even sufficient water. New housing becomes a magnet that draws people into areas that cannot give them jobs, education or basic services.
The commercial world is no better. Rather than pursue profit by following public wishes, they try to wrap up what they do in green clothing. A high street chain decides to concentrate thousands of beehives in small areas thus driving the local extinction of a variety of pollinators. Are we to believe this is ignorance or one of the many examples of greenwashing happening? Promoting one pollinator, even one bee species among the two hundred and fifty an area should have, is just another case of agribusiness following economics not public need, let alone wishes; just another sort of monoculture.
Another company continues to advertise a weedkiller that is pernicious, whilst selling newly packaged ‘natural’ fertilizer. Oil companies buy up sustainable power companies, partly fearful of losing sales, but also to ensure that they can keep selling us their gas and oil by bathing it in green lighting.
We the people are not as pure as we like to think either. We may call for greater respect for the natural world, but we also let our picnics litter the parks and our dogs chase birds on the beach. We become flexitarians to slow global warming, but can’t wait to holiday en masse anywhere we can persuade the government to allow us to fly to!
Building back better requires thought, planning and motivation beyond financial profits. Its easy to jump on a band wagon and re-brand rather the re-tool and produce what we can sustain.
We need to look at how we can better use the land we have already exiled nature from, not keep taking ever more for ourselves. Rich politicians continue to talk eye-wash while they try to greenwash their selfish policies.