The Western Daily Press leads today with a story about an open letter from wildlife groups in Wessex and Cornwall “incredulous” about the Coalition’s “stunning disregard” for the natural environment, citing the Chancellor’s recent description of it as a “ridiculous” barrier to economic growth.
Tony Richardson of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) responded robustly that “We are keenly aware that more than any other region we trade on the quality of this environment. Far from being a barrier, it is difficult to see how economic recovery can be achieved here without safeguarding the very thing that makes the region attractive to visitors and a good place to do business.” Then he spoilt it all, by continuing, “We are not anti-development but we have to proceed with wisdom – with careful planning, under the requirements of the regulations, development can work for both wildlife and the economy.”
What’s wrong with that? Where do we begin!
First of all, we have NO sympathy for green groups that treat Westminster politicians with any respect whatsoever. We appeal to them to join the Party and work for the eradication of the whole top-down Westminster system that allows Osborne and his kind any say in the first place. Stop the fawning, and start the resistance!
Secondly, why, oh why, do seemingly intelligent folk insist on making their continuing ritual obeisance to Mammon? ‘Of course, we’re not against growth, as such, just…’ No? Well, we certainly are. Living within environmental limits is either meaningless waffle while our planet burns or it implies a cap on development. Now.
A third point is illustrated by another story from the WDP today: a vision from a group of “influential business leaders” calling themselves The Initiative. (Or is it The Matrix? Something like that.) Their blueprint for Bristol in 2050 calls for a population increase of 500,000 and vast urban sprawl that would swallow up Bath and much of the Green Belt. The RSPB simply have no idea of what they’re up against. Folk like The Initiative care about nothing but the destruction of the environment to advance their own private wealth. There are a lot of them about and they aren’t the least bit interested in what the RSPB think.
From the same WDP page comes news that new powers could be devolved to cities like Bristol – but only if they vote for an elected mayor first. Bribery used to be the word for that and we used to have laws against it. We live in an increasingly closed, post-democratic world where “business leaders” are treated like gods, where local democracy is restructured to give them exclusive control of the common wealth and where national democracy, such as it is, lives or dies at the whim of rating agencies whose own competence is pitiful.
One of the silliest questions that can be asked about our policies is, ‘Are you pro-business, or not?’ The answer all depends on what sort of business it is. It’s very important to distinguish between good businesses and the rest. There are businesses playing their part in the transition to a sustainable society, businesses finding new ways to reduce resource use in a world where all that has sustained us in the past will be shrinking. The best businesses are those seeking to make themselves smaller, by doing more with less and expanding leisure time. You could call it economic anti-growth. But ranged against them there’s also the dark side: the businesses who don’t realise that ‘business as usual’ is over. Until they learn that it is, they’ll go on making millions miserable by their contempt for the environment and our quality of life. They may not be criminals as the law stands. But those who make morally crooked choices do not deserve to be excused justice in an appropriate form. We’ll be fighting every inch of the way to ensure they get it.