Wednesday 2 February 2011

Forests, its not about public access or sustainability....

Today at about 4pm MPs will debate the coalitions plans for our Forests. Earlier today David Cameron said that the plan (selling the remaining 18% of our woodlands that are still publicly owned) is better for public access and woodland management. It may well be, but that is not the reason they want to do it.

By campaigning on public access and sustaining woodlands, we are doing Caroline Spelman, David Cameron and all their cronies a massive favour, this is exactly what they want us to do. Why? Because it will give them room to make 'compromises' in the shape of grants to the new landowners that 'help' them to maintain the woodlands and improve public access. As Private Eye recently reported, the government will give back nearly all the money they make from sales in grants to the new landowners. The landowners will therefore make a very tidy profit, by essentially not having to pay anything to maintain and enhance their asset. This represents yet another gradual transfer of wealth from the tax payer to the rich elite.

A dangerous and hidden knock on effect of this policy is that to make up for these expenditures (either from the grants, or, if campaigners are successful in changing the policy over the selling of the forests) is that there will be even more job losses at Natural England and the Forestry Commission. The jobs of wardens, ecologists, scientists and so on are already under threat, losing the key employees will be devastating for the long term sustainability of all our wild places.

The £400m saving deriving from these cuts is a laughable drop in the ocean, its impact on the deficit is minuscule, yet the impact on our natural environment, inequality and environmental education will be very tangible and devastating.

Do visit 38 Degrees and ask your MP to vote for a re-think on DEFRA's plans. But, make sure they know what the true motivation for the plans are and that in the debate they highlight this.

Oh yeah, and it is also a sweet tax relief move for corporations and wealthy individuals!!

Please also see my post on Pam Warhurst, chair of the Forestry Commission

Heat Map

The 'heat map' below was published in the Economist in November 2010, around the time of the UNFCCC COP16 in Cancun. (You may need to click on it to see a bigger version)

What is so striking about this map is that those who seem to have the most power to act on Climate Change are those who will be least/most pleasantly affected by temperature rises (namely the wealthy, fossil fuel hungry American states and although temperatures will rise in the American South, they are quite willing to discount this to 'protect their liberty' now - see this weeks BBC Climate Sceptics Storyville) - so where is their motivation to act? Meanwhile, those who will suffer the most, are those least empowered to do something about it and those to poor to be able to cope with the consequences. According to the Science article from which this graphic is lifted, the biggest impact will be on Food Security and this is perhaps where the motivation will come from. It will become increasingly difficult to grow food in the tropics as today's extreme high temperatures become tomorrow's norm. Without Climate Change the growth in population in the less developed world already places a great strain on food production, by 2050 the population of the world could be as high as 10 billion. Much of the food (and flowers) we buy in our super-chilled supermarkets are flown in from the tropics. By 2050, we made need to start flying it the other way.

Alternatively what might happen is this, we will realise that we can't rely on the tropics to grow our food and the cost of transporting it will rise dramatically as Oil peaks. This will combine to motivate us to grow our food locally (transition town style). But, will we set up the infrastructure needed to transport surplus food to the less developed world where it will be so badly needed? Will we bollocks, we can't even do that now, we'll eat/waste it all ourselves, protect our liberty and further global inequality. The poorest countries will most probably be left to grow biofuels to run the cars and power plants of the rich elite, using the money earned (which will amount to pennies after the developed world owned biofuels companies have taken their profits) to buy in scraps of corn and grain to malnourish themselves with.

Thanks to Leo Hickman for posting this map on Twitter.