The new Secretary of State for the Environment – Michael Gove – made a speech on Friday about his vision for delivering a green Brexit. Much has made of his comments on the unfairness of agricultural subsidies and the negative impact of certain agricultural policies. A review of policy is much-needed if we are to limit climate change, stop our destruction of the environment and create a greener and sustainable world.
Whether the aspirations will be translated into policy is another matter, time will tell.
There are two flaws in the speech – there is no mention of population growth – without a policy objective of a steady state population, other green policies, however well-intentioned will not succeed. The second flaw is that there is no recognition that economic growth in its current form is incompatible with safeguarding the environment. Again we need to aim for a steady state economy.
Unless we take the right environmental action we risk seeing more species die out, with potentially undreamt of consequences in terms of the health and balance of nature. We risk flood damage to the homes in which we live and devastation to the islands that others know as their only home. We will see the forward march of deserts compelling populations to be on the move and the growing shortage of water creating new conflicts and exacerbating old rivalries.
Indeed, ultimately, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers enterprise, are all threatened if we do not practice proper stewardship of the planet.
If we consider the fate of past societies and civilisations, it has been, again and again, environmental factors that have brought about collapse or crisis. The Pulitzer Prize-winning academic Jared Diamond has, brilliantly, anatomised the forces which led to past civilisational destruction – deforestation and habitat destruction; soil problems such as erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses; water management problems; overhunting; overfishing; and the effects of introduced species on native species.
For the full speech see: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-unfrozen-moment-delivering-a-green-brexit