A forest

It’s reported in today’s Telegraph that the Government plans to sell off up to 50% of Britain’s Government-owned forests. A chilling vision of the future…

“The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies.

Why does everything, including the natural environment, have to be commercialised and commodified, bundled up and packaged and presented to us for our enjoyment? (Answer: because that’s the way money is made out of it).  What happened to adventure, to discovering the unknown? To that sense, as you fight your way through overgrown woods or struggle to the summit of a peak, that no-one else has set foot here before or that no-one else has seen it in quite the same way as you’re seeing it now? [You could say the same thing about the x-factorisation of music; see John Robb’s brilliant rant here].

The forest sell-off  echoes what’s happening in Bristol now, with the Council’s Green Spaces strategy. They plan to sell off Victory Park fields, with their ancient oak trees and hedgerows, their wild flowers and unkempt meadows, to developers and use the money to groom and primp and plasticise the Park itself to within an inch of its natural life, creating what’s described as ‘Formal Green Space’. The guidance says Victory Park needs a hard court for ball games, so it’s getting one… but the kids are losing the fields where they can run wild and climb trees and build dens and explore. There’s talk in the consultation document of creating nature trails with ‘hidden’ things to find, but that’s all artifice, it’s fake – why not leave the kids to their own devices and let them discover things – genuinely secret and hidden things – for themselves?

And as for golf courses… Fact: the most environmentally unfriendly sport (if you can call it a sport) is golf. A golf course is a ‘green space’ in no other sense than that the grass is green. Read this piece about the impact they’re having in China, or more generally about whether you can play golf and be green…

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Comments

  • matthewsdent  On October 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I agree. I don’t see why everything needs the stamp of human development on it. Nature is so much more impressive and beautiful when just left to its own devices. When people step in, they tend to just make an ugly mess of it.

    And I’m not an environmentalist, or a raving green, or anything. I’m just someone who appreciates nature. I’d much rather be given a wild forest, with maybe a dirt path through it at most, than a developed, artificial, “Center Parcs-style” imposition on the parts of this country which are still naturally beautiful.

  • woodsy  On October 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    To put things in an historical context, the enclosing/enlarging and privatisation of forests dates back to at least Tudor times and has been intensified ever since.

    Further reading: Peter Linebaugh: The Magna Carta Manifesto

  • danieloprey  On October 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Why does everything, including the natural environment, have to be commercialised and commodified, bundled up and packaged and presented to us for our enjoyment?

    Answer: Because that’s how people want it.

  • Invictus_88  On October 24, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    How on earth did the government come to own 1.85M ACRES of UK woodland!?

    That’s vast. Vast. It dwarfs the entire acreage (forest AND agricultural lands) of the Crown Estate.

    Where did it all come from?

    • Andrew  On October 28, 2010 at 9:06 pm

      Because at the end of WW2, government bought land and planted forests to provide a source of quick growing timber and to provide employment.

  • Stuart Bruce  On October 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    This is something I know a reasonable amount about as my dad spent 40 years as a manager in the Forestry Commission. He’s now retired but running his own small business managing woodlands. Ironically some of the woods he looks after are exactly the same ones he did when in the FC as some have already been sold off. It’s not as simple as it appears as FC forests are already intensively managed for commercial timber and woods used for other commercial purposes can actually be better for public recreational use. Given that it will be hard to stop the Condems from flogging the forests the campaign should be about having the appropriate restrictions in place to ensure proper management and public access. Privately owned woodlands can actually benefit from investment that benefits the public, but the owners sometimes need to be incentivised/forced into doing it.

    • kerrymccarthy  On October 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      That’s interesting Stuart… although incentives usually mean financial incentives and I can’t see how that would stack up. Not sure if this requires legislation – which would give us the chance to scrutinise and amend – or if it can just happen, in which case it will be very difficult to influence whether there are any safeguards in place.

      • Andrew  On October 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm

        All the Forestry Commission’s freehold estate was dedicated as open access land under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000. So if this were sold off, the public would retain a right of access. Not sure how much other woodland FC has though, which could potentially be sold off, which the public would not have have a right of access to (turnstiles at the entrances, maybe!?!

  • Mike  On October 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Excuse me but you are a Bristol MP who is endorsing the smashing up of nature on the Ashton Vale site. That development will cause huge damage and displace/destroy numerous wild birds, animals and a very important green corridor. You are also a member of a party (New Labou,r) as opposed to Labour, that put economic masochism over protection of our natural world and which still actively supports the barbaric snaring and shooting of our wildlife.

    • kerrymccarthy  On October 25, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      I probably – well, definitely – need to blog separately about the Ashton Vale stadium plans, and also about the Council’s Green Spaces Strategy. My only reason for not doing so is that I’m spending a considerable amount of time actually working on the issue, e.g. discussions with people, correspondence, asking questions, and by the time I come to blog I don’t feel particularly inspired to visit the topic again. I’ve met with the developers of Ashton Vale, and their submission is that there will be enhanced green space provision on the site – not too managed and manicured but a genuine natural resource for the local community, and a great improvement on what is currently there. You may disagree with that – in fact I’m sure you will. Incidentally I’ve had about 50 constituents contact me about the site, all of whom are in favour, and I think just one, a Green Party activist, who is against. And I think I’m right in saying all local MPs support the development – certainly Stephen Williams, Chris Skidmore. Charlotte Leslie and Dawn Primarolo do. As for snaring and shooting, I’m totally opposed to it, and I can only really speak for myself on that issue – but I would say that Labour did more on animal welfare issues since 1997 than any other administration in history. But could we and should we have gone further? Yes.

      • harryT  On October 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

        Kerry

        You made no attempt to find oput the other side of the story. you have accepted a club propoganda line straight. Of course only your BCFC fan constituents have contacted you. The site is not in your constituency.

        Of the 42 acres of the site, 30 acres is already SNCI wetlands. The stadium will destory most of this and flood much of the remainder. The idea that the club will rebuilt it is a fiction rejected by all wildlife bodies. Plus, the landowners still want to build housing on it.

        The residents of Asthon Vale are currently surroundeed on 3 sides by railway lines and fneced industrial estates. You are supporting their entire encirclement with fenced industry. Your position is illinformed and you are repeating propoganda.

      • kerrymccarthy  On October 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

        Actually I have – “i.e. made any attempt to find out the other side of the story”. I’ve spoken to lots of people, not just the club.

    • kerrymccarthy  On October 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      PS Mike – I’m a member of the Labour Party, not New Labour!

  • Mike  On October 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

    The fact that other Labour MPs are also backing this ecological vandalism just makes it worse! This is the usual case of the establishment backing big business. I am sure the developers sold you a lot of piffle as they always do.The fact is you are helping to displace wild animals and an important area for wading birds,bats and so forth.Society is going to hell in a basket when these precious areas are dumped on by hotels, restaurants and the football business.
    That so called ‘progressive’ MPs rubber stamp it shows what a merging we have at the poltical level of careerist MPs who put profits before the planet.Mind you you are a vegan who voted to replace Trident-something many of us who are also vegans find appalling.That you can profess to be ethical whilst voting for nuclear weapons is beyond words.You dismiss the Greens but I am afraid it is Labour and its policies which drove many people to support them and lost the party a lot of active support. You mention Dawn Primarolo (now pretending to be an aristocrat in the speakers chair I note) but she was another one who ditched her views when she became a Minister.

  • kerrymccarthy  On October 31, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Mike, let’s try sticking to the subject shall we? You’re as bad as the “Hitler was a vegetarian” brigade in introducing irrelevant points into the debate. There’s no reason why being a vegan means that someone must also be a unilateralist. The whole point of a nuclear deterrent is that it’s deterrent, i.e. It stop things happening, so if I was to accept your somewhat tortuous logic in trying to conflate the two issues, I’d have no problem at all justifying my stance. And as for Dawn joining the aristocracy – try telling that to Lindsay Hoyle, the Deputy Speaker!

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