Brexit and the Attack on Nature

As a catastrophic storm surge from Hurrican Ian washed away homes across the Florida coast hoards of Republican politicians quickly recanted their climate denial. The shots of sharks in the suburbs gave the footage from the south coast of America a disaster movie vibe.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better and our leaders – who we didn’t elect – and the Brexit settlement we rejected – are a key part of what’s being called ‘the war on nature.’

Last week RSPB England issued a statement and a lengthy social media thread outlining their response to the plans of the UK Government for new “Investment Zones” which the body said amounted to an ‘Attack on Nature”.

They issued a statement saying: “We are angry. The UK Government has launched an unprecedented attack on nature. They are threatening to tear up the laws that protect our best wildlife sites, weakening protections for nature in the planning system and may be about to scrap vital proposals that would help farmers help nature. We will not stand by and let this happen. The first thing we need to do is make it abundantly clear to our MPs that people want to see nature protected. As they sit in their party conferences, we want them to clearly understand that nature is not a negotiable luxury. We want them to feel the strength of feeling. That nature matters, that it underpins our lives, our economy and our wellbeing.”

You might think this is a peripheral issue. But it is a sign of how far we have come and how extreme this Tory government is that it has effectively radicalised ornithology.

“Nature is not a negotiable luxury” they write.

But none of this is a mistake. None of this is an accident.

As George Monbiot writes: “The ecological destruction Liz Truss plans to unleash on this country is not collateral damage. It is not a byproduct of her economic programme. It’s a mark of true faith, a sign that she is following her ideology to the letter. For fundamental to this doctrine – neoliberalism – is the belief that everything on Earth can and should be turned into something else.”

This IS the ideology.

“It is within this frame that we should understand what Truss proposes. She wants to rip down our planning controls, creating “investment zones” in which corporations and oligarchs can build what they want.”

She is also rushing through a bill that will delete 570 environmental laws inherited from the EU. That couldn’t have happened without Brexit. And if the fightback has started from within England, it’s not confined there.

The Scottish Government were so provoked to release a statement (Environmental impact of mini-budget and Retained EU Law Bill: letter to UK Government) saying:

“We write with urgency regarding proposals announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday, about which the Scottish Government had very little prior notification.  These measures, alongside the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, represent an attack on nature (when we should be demonstrating global leadership in the lead up to the important CoP15 global summit), and on the devolved settlement itself. We therefore ask that you and your Government drop these damaging proposals, and instead work with us and the other devolved governments, to deliver high environmental standards that rise to the nature emergency and respect devolution.

Your government has given little clarity over how the measures included in the mini-budget will be taken forward, and what the implications of them will be for Scotland. Nor have you engaged with us in advance on these issues.  However, from the information that has been made available, we share the strong concerns highlighted by nature groups such as the RSPB and the Woodland Trust.  The proposals demonstrate a reckless attitude to legislation that has been developed over many decades and that enshrines vital protections for both nature and people.

Your proposed measures also threaten to undermine our programme of planning reform that is underway in Scotland.  National Planning Framework 4 will signal a turning point for planning in Scotland, and we have been clear that responding to both the global climate emergency and the nature crisis will be central to that.”

It’s everywhere. Greenpeace tell us the gas in the leaking #Nordstream pipelines could have the same climate-wrecking potential of 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s the same as the annual emissions 20 MILLION cars in the EU.

“The methane emissions will be equal to about 32% of Denmark’s annual greenhouse-gas discharges, Kristoffer Bottzauw, head of the Danish Energy Agency, said in a briefing on Wednesday in Copenhagen.”

But the Brexit-inspired attack on nature has a sharper edge than just a bonfire of years of carefully designed protection and regulation to protect land, habitat and dwindling fragile ecosystems. The new zealots have ideas that will rapidly accelerate destruction. Freeports and ‘enterprise zones’ are at the very heart of what RSPB England are on about.

Commenting on the disaster of Brexit and where Britain is right now, the American writer Umair Haque notes: “It didn’t work. And so society took the next fatal step backwards — let’s build a Dickensian society. That’s where Britain is now. The current government’s only real plan is something called “freeports.” They’re like putting little slices of China inside Britain — places where democracy and the rule of law literally don’t apply, and corporations effectively run everything, from housing to courts. Dystopian enough for you?”

As we race to the bottom this ideology must be opposed and rejected. It starts from the perspective that we are above and separate from nature rather than an integral part of it. Truss’s ideology is not just a war on society but a war on ecology too. This Conservative government is not the same as the others, it is quantifiably and horrendously worse in every respect.


Comments (12)

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  1. Dave Millar says:

    Ah, but Growth! /sarc

  2. CathyW says:

    Well done once again, Mike. Your article usefully makes a vital and fundamental point: this kind of destruction is NOT incidental, or something that can be tweaked or reformed around the edges of the system (Keir Starmer please note): it IS the system. Neoliberalism proceeds in this way – chasing the impossible myth of eternal and infinite growth, involving as you say the exploitation of everything – which is why we need systemic change.

  3. Robbie says:

    Well Mike if Charlie 111 dis fit he’s telt, far dis that leave the rest o us ,TIME TO LEAVE before it’s TO LATE.

    1. Alan C says:

      I notice in todays Guardian reports on the marches in Wales and NI. Nothing about Edinburgh, makes me puke.

      1. 221002 says:

        You should stop reading the Guardian.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Roger Lovegrove’s 2007 book Silent Fields: The long decline of a nation’s wildlife, is bubbling to the top of my to-read pile. I notice the author devotes a chapter to ‘Killing in Scotland’, such killing which I presume is largely dictated by royals and hereditary landowners given its opening. In England this has been going on since Tudor times; royals have been prime drivers of the War on Nature. The centuries-old trend was possibly only really reversed with UK entry into the European Union, which forced a clean-up of the ‘dirty man of Europe’.

  5. Carol (Mothership Empathy) says:

    Mike, in the (Small) way, you touch my heart deeply, with your words.
    (May I send much love to you and yours?)

    “# An attack On (Mother) Nature”.
    In truth, they are cannibalising her, biting her bits off!
    Natural creative capabilities given to the human species were there, to eventually wean us off, destructive planet resources. (That next stage in our development)
    That time is now, long overdue!
    Those that know only (Unnatural) “Greed” bleed her dry, looking for blood from stones.
    The red ochre of Mother Earth has and still is being poisoned, now with a Liz Truss red “Rust”.
    Blown forth, from an ever aging “Iron – Lady” (Thatcher) time.
    A political fallout from Tory crimes, powders our lands and suffocates the lives of the many!

    I will stop there, as emotional tears, from the many wrongs been done to people and planet (Gaia) –
    Mother Earth, blind (ME).
    But may I leave this, written awhile back, in response to another (kindred) bro, who like yourself
    leave words, warning of planetary, “Attacks”.

    (Reading) Pat Kane
    Entertaining – the thoughts that land from Pat Kane that give –
    Gaia (Mother Earth) connection.
    I quote,

    “*Care* – essentially, maternal and paternal protection and development of offspring, community members, or any other entities requiring nurturance and support – seems obviously useful. Environmental discourse is powerful when it invokes Mother Earth or Gaia; and the concept of the Anthropocene implies a story in which we are responsible for the fate of the blue planet. To care for an entity is not to be transactional with it, or to have one’s emotions subverted by individualism or ego”.

    The powers that be?
    (By Mothership Empathy) Scotland’s Earth Date 21/02/2022

    Mother Nature and ME
    “He sings to us mother, in more ways than one”.
    I tune in and listen to good being done
    She stirs from her sleep in that deep Winter bed
    And opens one eye to acknowledge what’s said.
    Stretching and yawning I smell Spring on her breath
    A gust of wind blows – new seeds from old death.

    Our life – giving planet, such a gift we can share,
    Is it business as usual or with Covid comes “care”?
    To that “conscience” connection to guide from a love
    That looks after *All* family – and gives that gentle shove.
    For a true “Spirit” level from energy given
    Then a cycle of life that feels more like “Heaven”!

    (ME) Carol, Mothership Empathy. X

  6. John Wood says:

    Well said. So good to see this. Some of us have been saying this for some time without feeling heard so it’s great to see it expressed.

    Planetary destruction is a product of an ideology that is finally consuming itself.

    From the 17th and 18th centuries the decline of Christianity saw this pseudo-ideology grow in its place. The idea that the universe is meaningless and the only purpose of all species is to compete and struggle for dominance was very useful to those who aimed to do just that – industrialists, colonists, imperialists, capitalists – who built power and wealth on the back of technology. They inherited the Judaeo-Christian idea that man was apart from nature, and destined to control and rule it.
    The idea of limitless growth (growth of what? The wealth of the richest, regardless of the consequences) developed alongside the opening up of the ‘New World’ and European empires (including the US).
    Bernard Mandeville in the 18th c started advocating the abandonment of ethics and his ideas have been picked up by modern economists including J M Keynes – ‘ foul is useful and fair is not’. Darwin’s proposal of the ‘survival of the fittest’ was conveniently interpreted to mean the survival of the nastiest and most ruthless. Freud insisted that humans were governed by a ruthless, selfish ‘id’ and that civilisation was just a veneer to be used as a weapon in that struggle. Marx divided humanity into socio-economic ‘classes’, perpetually at war with each other and seeking dictatorship. Nietsche divided us into ‘masters’ who did as they pleased and ‘slaves’ who resented them. And so on.

    Then we saw the photos of our small, lonely, beautiful planet from space. There is no more final frontier however much the super-rich pretend otherwise, with their astronaut games.

    What modern ecology has shown is that the planet does not work as a hierarchy with technocrat ‘masters’ replacing ‘God’ at the top, and treating everyone and everything else as a ‘resource’ to build personal power. It is of course really a vastly complex, distributed system, which we do not fully understand, vof which humans are just a part. For all our fancy technologies are just another species, that has evolved for the same reasons as all others – to build a sustainable, thriving overall living system. If we behave like cancer cells in a body, the system will need to find a way to remove us.

    As Peter Kropotkin pointed out over 100 years ago, human societies and nature actually grow and develop by cooperation and mutual aid rather than by competition. The fittest to survive are those that adapt, combine, and transform to benefit the ecosystem as a whole, balancing, checking the over-powerful, diversifying to fill niches and build a sustainable whole.

    The problem for the neoliberals is that the planet is simply not like a computer that can be ‘reset’, or reprogrammed to suit the wealthiest; and no technology will save them if the biological system is destroyed. The ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ is a lie. Biology will always ultimately beat technology. Artificial intelligence is not real intelligence at all.

    The planet is a living organism. It is billions of years old; humans have been on it for a very short time; and this destructive ideology of reckless greed is a mere flash in the pan. It is nonsense to say we can ‘save’ the planet from our own sick ideology. We need to save ourselves by listening to and learning from the planet.

    There is a new consciousness that recognises that people and planet are not separate. We are stardust, we are electrical charges and atoms, our bodies are composed of entire ecosystems of separate organisms. ‘Ownership’ and ‘control’ are just human concepts, and they no longer seem to be useful ones.

    I think the super-wealthy can see the end coming and have become completely psychopathic and reckless. It’s the dance of death. They are waking up to the fact that they cannot head off to Mars and start again. But they are possessed by their own ideology.
    I don’t think they really believe there’s a future for their children so they are starting an orgy of destruction. If they can’t possess, control, and exploit everything, nobody will. Destroy everything. It’s the only way they can think. And they will still cling to the false hope that somehow if they can have absolute control they can survive somehow. That maybe climate change isn’t real; that species can be resurrected using ‘gene editing’ or whatever.

    This nonsense has to stop before it destroys rich and poor alike along with our whole life support system. It could take the planet millions of years to evolve a replacement

  7. Robbie says:

    When you see Elon Musk,s new robot Optimus , ready in 3. To 5 years, it’s not only nature thats under attack, working class look out ,police, military,you name it ,redundancy beckons them all,seems as though they are carrying on with Hitlers ideas only its the whole human race as we know it That’s in danger. Maybe sounds a bit over the top but they,re crazy and greedy enough.

  8. David+B says:

    Isn’t the only way to stop the Tories destroying nature in England to stay in the UK and vote them out?

    1. William Grant McDermott says:

      Your not serious surely. Scottish voters don’t count in Brengland. Let’s call it a day for any attempt to influence the English electorate after Brexit.

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