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.