Saturday, 26 November 2022

Back to Political Basics. One: The Environment

In the last couple of years, I have been taking a break from active politics. Unfortunately in life, politics does not return the favour. Predictably, following the hardest possible Brexit introduced by the Conservatives, people in the UK are getting poorer and standards, of regulations, of political ethics and accountability, and of living are getting lower and lower. 

This blog however is not intended to indulge in party politics. Sitting back and viewing the current field, I don’t think any of the UK’s political parties have covered themselves in glory recently. So, I am going to ask the big question: what should we be campaigning about? Both the global and UK contexts will be considered. 

This was meant to be a single blog post but, having started, I realise that it is going to be part of a series. There is too many areas to cover.  The aim though is to focus attention on the things that are the root issues. That is not to say that other things do not matter but in themselves are part of the bigger picture. For instance, when it comes to tackling poverty, education, healthcare, and housing are all part of the issue and solution. 

All the challenges that we face are interdependent but let’s start though with the environment. Without a healthy environment, it will be difficult to sustain human life and civilisation. You may ask why I don't lead with the rise of CO2. It is vital to reduce and reverse CO2 output but again, there is no simple solutions. Each section of these blogs will have this global problem interwoven with the issues being addressed. 

This year has seen the birth of the eighth billion person to be alive on this planet. As many has pointed out and for a long time, the human population of the planet continues to grow. The driving force for this is not increasing birth rates but the elderly lasting longer. None of this is controversial, go and look it up. So if we are as a global society are to preserve the health of the planet, and ultimately our societies and ourselves, biodiversity has to be cherished and the trend in species extinction to be reversed. While there is understandably a lot of focus on the melting ice sheets and warming of the Arctic and Antarctic, the causes are to be found elsewhere. 

  1. We must conserve the world’s forests. The major woodlands of the boreal and tropics are both major carbon syncs and the focus of biodiversity on the continents. They continue to be cut down globally. This must stop. In the British Isles, we have over the centuries all but destroyed our natural woodlands, resulting in some of the poorest biodiversity in Europe. There is talk of re-wilding projects and these should go ahead, at all scales. Whether it is the use of micro forests in urban parklands or the replanting of upland woods, long scalped by sheep grazing and grouse moors, these are necessary to returning these islands to environmental health. 
  1. Perhaps even more importantly, the global oceans are in deep trouble. Seventy percent of the world’s surface is covered by water and the oceans average a depth of five kilometres. As such, it is a far more important carbon sync than any forest on land, but still is less well understood. Of the global fisheries that have been studied, six percent are under-fished, sixty percent are fished to the maximum limits of sustainability, and the remaining thirty four percent are over-fished. There are studies suggesting that bottom fishing is disturbing carbon sedimentation, releasing CO2 back into the environment. What is worse, few seem to be asking the question how much fossil fuel is the global fishing fleet burning while fishing? For us in the UK, the relatively shallow waters of the North Sea and adjacent Atlantic are an important nursery for many species.

Both woodland and oceans are important carbon syncs and centres of biodiversity. With the UK being an island nation it is vital that we play a major part in regional conservation. Ironically enough, this means further restricting industrial fishing in the surrounding seas. Of the seventy six marine protected areas designated by the UK government, only four of them are currently protected from bottom trawling and dredging. Therefore it can be concluded that the other seventy two marine protected areas are in name only. 

I use the term ironic because the fishing industry was used as a political touchstone to justify Brexit. Sorry about this folks but Brexit probably means, along with restricting our ability to export UK seafood, that the necessary expansion of marine reserves will, in the short term at least, mean even more restrictions on the fishing industry than currently exist. The resetting of our fisheries will ultimately mean more healthy and sustainable fisheries in the longer term and a healthier planet. 

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